Freeing the voices in my head

Posts tagged ‘Home’

Vignettes

I love words and vignette is a favorite of mine.  “A short, graceful literary sketch.”  “A brief, appealing scene, as in a movie.”  I don’t know how graceful or appealing my blogs are; they usually aren’t short or brief, that’s for sure!  To me, a vignette is a glimpse or an anecdote of  mine or someone’s Life, a quick story told on the fly, usually at the dinner table, almost always resulting in laughter.

I’m outnumbered here, gender-wise, and men don’t tell stories the way women do.  A woman will go into great detail, she’ll add sub-plots and side-way tangents; she will regal you with rich observations that would fill a book.  A man will say three to five sentences and be done.

But, oh, my men have the most interesting stories, um, tidbit tales!  My brother hasn’t been able to write down his Woodstock adventures (he’s in a great deal of pain, barely managed by his pain meds).  We’re hoping he can get that Dragon program and just speak into his computer and have it type it for him!   The only parts of the Woodstock story I remember are that he smoked that funny stuff, camped out, played in the mud, and got the station wagon stuck in the mud.  Someday, I’ll get him to tell me the whole story again.

When they had the Woodstock reunion in the 90s, I was the manager of a Pizza Hut, just off the New York State Thruway.  We were mobbed and so not ready for it.  We had people five deep at the counter, starving, filthy campers, eagerly pressing forward, watching the ovens, hoping I was cutting their pizza to be boxed.  Amidst the chaos was one … woman.  Yes, I’m being polite.  She insisted that no meat, meat substance or meat oil touch her pizza.

We tried.  My main cook made her pizza on a clean board and used fresh gloves to place the garlic sauce (no tomato marinara sauce for her, no sirree, it might have meat products in it!  Gack!) and cheese on the dough.  She was right up front, and could see everything.  Before he placed her pizza in the oven, she saw the other cook grabbing cheese from the bin…”Wait!  That’s the cheese you ALL use?  It’s tainted with meat substance!”  Oh, god…

We apologized and Ted trotted to the walk-in, pulled out a new bag of cheese, and used it for her new pizza.  Good, pizza now in oven.  I was lifting pizzas out as fast as I could to keep the ovens from backing up and burning them.  The slightest pause meant disaster.  I grabbed her pizza, slid it out of the pan onto the cutting board… “Wait!  That board just had a sausage pizza on it!”  Oh, god (and the twenty people behind her groaned, too)…

I apologized and Ted made her another new pizza.  I swiftly dealt with a few more pizzas, making sure a clean cutting board was at hand for the vegan lady.  Her pizza rolled to the front, I expertly slipped it onto the clean board and sliced down… “Wait!  That’s MY pizza and you just used THAT slicer on a pepperoni pizza!”   Oh, god (and the thirty people behind her didn’t just groan.  They bitched, they told her to give up, they looked at her with murder in their eyes…but, wonder of wonders, they did NOT blame me and my crew!)…

We apologized, again, and started over.  Now, we had a backed up oven, pizzas burning, rhythm disrupted.  Hurry to box her pizza and cash her out, whirl back around and zip, zip, slice and box three more pizzas.  I turned to cash those people out and noticed the crowd was watching the front door.  When it shut on vegan lady’s exiting behind, the mob cheered, applauded, and thanked me and my crew for our patience!

We had a bunch of extra mistake pizzas and breadsticks.  I had my waitresses pass out slices to everyone and comped all sodas as my thank you to the crowd.  Ah, the Woodstock legacy of “Peace and Brotherly Love” blossomed again for the rest of the night!

Heh, see what I mean?  I’m sure my brother’s story is longer than the tiny bit I recall, but it took a whole page for me to tell my Woodstock reunion story!  🙂

Some of the funniest, oddest, best stories I’ve heard from my menfolk aren’t stories at all.  They are mere vignettes, a few sentences at most.  I have to pull more details out like a cat giving birth to an elephant…yeah, improbable at best, impossible most of the time!

For example:  Hubby’s ship went through a corner of the Bermuda Triangle.  I was fascinated and wanted to hear if anything weird happened.  His response?  “Well, it got foggy and the radio wouldn’t work for a few minutes, but everything cleared up on the other side.”

That’s IT?!  Really?!  Can you elaborate at all?  Nope, that really was it, delivered in a bored nothing-unusual-today tone of voice.  GACKKK!!!

Or this one, from my oldest son:  Walks in the house all sweaty, without his car (a 1967 Mustang, runs good, maybe, sorta, kinda…)…  I asked, “Where’s your car?”  Brian said, “Oh, the drive shaft for the tranny fell out.  I had to push it over to Midas.  I got a ride home with Matt.”  And heads for the shower.  “Wait!  What?” I frantically call out, instantly on the alert, knowing that the Midas shop he uses is at one of the busiest intersections in our part of Tucson, AZ.

He paused, returned to the kitchen and got a soda.  “I’m really hot, tired, and sweaty, Mom.”

“Please?”

So, here’s the REST of the story…  He was at the intersection of Ina and Thornydale, in the far left lane, got to the light and started through.  In the MIDDLE of the intersection, in the middle of his turn, in the middle of rush hour traffic, the Mustang drops her tranny (transmission), and comes to a dead stop.  With cars whizzing by in all directions, my son got out and single-handedly pushed that ton or so of car across a gazillion lanes of traffic, up a slight hill and into the parking lot of Midas.  He received assistance only at the end, when a mechanic saw him and came over.

Think on it:  a 1967 Mustang, weighs a lot, probably almost a thousand pounds because it’s made of METAL not fiberglass, no power anything — brakes or STEERING.  One guy pushing AND steering it…oh, good lord, my mind seized up.  Eh, Brian assured me, once he got her moving, it wasn’t so hard…and off he goes to the shower.  GACKK!!!

Then there’s the tale of the pallet of ammo that didn’t exist and the one bullet, “What bullet?”…but that’s a real tale to tell and not a vignette, so…

Later, my lovies!  heh heh… 😀

 

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A Sailor’s Wife Is Me, Yo-Ho!

When my love graduated from Maritime College, we set a date to be married in October of 1979.  It was my favorite month: my birthday month, crisp Autumn days, and Halloween — my favorite holiday, so it seemed fitting to add a wedding in there.  Since he graduated in May and was immediately headed to a ship on the Great Lakes, it was left to me to do all the stuff involving the wedding.  He would be home in September, in time to help with final details and bring a good amount of money to pay the bills.

I was working at the local mall and used my laughable paycheck for small items.  We weren’t planning a big wedding; just a few friends and family members.  Our guest list was about 25 people long.  I went to a local stationary slash art supply store and discovered I had to order at least 100 invitations.  Plain, cream-colored with pretty calligraphy and no extra fancy stuff; okay, fine, order ’em so they’ll get here in time to be given out or mailed out.

A small bridal shop just down the road was next.  Nothing fancy, the owner was the only employee, and I was left to browse the racks of dresses on my own.  I fell in love with the first one in my size that I tried on.  It was soft, flowing, with no itchy lace and, best of all, was only $250 dollars!  I put down a deposit and happily went off to work.

July rolled around and nothing else was done because of busy days at work and, well, I had lots of time still for flowers, a restaurant, a cake, finding a church or maybe just a justice of the peace…then, my mother and sisters hit town.  “Do you have the rings yet?”  Um, no, I don’t have that kind of money, but Randy will and we’ll go pick something out when he gets home.  “What church are you using?”  No idea, we aren’t into religion, and neither are you, Mom!  “Where’s the reception going to be?”  Um…and the questions kept coming.  But what sent Mom and older sister into tizzies was The Dress.

“You already got The Dress?  The FIRST Dress you tried on?  Did you try on any others?  Oh, no, this won’t do.  We have to go, now!”

Sigh…

We descended on the little shop and my domineering mother took over.  While I rolled my eyes and mouthed apologies to the shop owner, Mom and Big Sis attacked the dress racks.  The first ten gowns were piled into my arms and I was shoved into the fitting room.  Gack, lace, ruffles, bustles, a gazillion pearl buttons no bigger than a pinhead, mile long trains — they apparently forgot how clumsy I am — and prices I expected to see on new cars, not a dress I was only gonna wear once!  Thank god we were the only customers but I still refused to leave the dressing room in those “things.”  I let the enemy peek in, gratified to see their faces scrunch up in dismay at the sight of me in their choices.

I didn’t even try on the next ten dresses.  The owner, bless her, had taken pity on me and brought me MY Dress.  I slipped it on, she zipped it up, and pulled aside the curtain with a smile.  It fit perfectly, it flowed, it soothed my crumpled ego…and it made Big Sis smile while bringing Mom to tears.  Hey, I know what looks good on me!  Mom paid  it off and got me a pair of matching shoes and a veil.  Whew, done and no one got pissed off!

Smooth sailing for three more months?  Nope.  Randy came home, early, really early, in July, with only one paycheck and a tale that should have sent me running far away.  He was off watch, sleeping in his rack (bed) one night as the Captain navigated the ship across Lake Superior.  He woke up when his rack tilted 180 degrees and dumped him on the floor.  Yeah, the ship was tilting that far because the Captain had run it aground.  Brand new Third Mate Eldred made it to the bridge and was the one who finally got the ship free.  Then he packed his duffel and quit, unwilling to work on a vessel where he had more experience navigating the ship than the Captain did!

Well, he returned home to wedding chaos.  The guest list had jumped to 125 people, thanks, Mom, not.  I bought a generic package of somewhat sorta matching invitations at the local mall.  My soon-to-be mother-in-law offered to bake the wedding cake.  Randy and I picked out our rings; just two plain wedding bands but mine had to be sized down and would be ready in a week or so.  My bridesmaid and maid of honor had two dresses that matched my wedding gown in style, so no one had to buy a dress they’d never wear again.  Randy’s littlest sister was our flower girl and his mom sewed her a pretty little dress that matched.  (That lady had seven kids and little money; baking from scratch and sewing clothes was second nature to her!  Besides, she wanted to help and my mother wasn’t giving an inch!)

Progress was being made, so, of course, we had to have another crisis.  From the moment he got home, Randy was calling around to shipping companies, calling the job list offered by the college, calling, calling everyone he knew to get a new job.  And, yes!  A company wanted him!  But, no!  They wanted him for a four month cruise and he had to be on board the ship by the end of AUGUST!  Well, shit!  We had to make a choice: postpone the wedding until December or January (ugh, my two least favorite months, along with February) or move the wedding up to early August.

We set the date: August 3rd.  Bless our families and friends; they rallied forth, they called in favors, they helped us make it happen.  My parents reserved the banquet room of a lovely Italian restaurant.  They were friends with the owners and got a good discount.  Getting my bouquet and the other flowers is a blur — my mom took me somewhere and the florist came up with the design.  All I was asked to do was pick my favorite flowers and colors: irises and roses, purple, blue, and green.

As for the church… We drove by a little church a lot.  It was one of the oldest churches in town, barely more than a chapel, but it was cute and although we’d never gone to a service there, we liked it.  With time restraints pushing us, we stopped in and convinced the pastor to marry us there.  Randy’s sister was hoping to pursue a career in photography and we contracted her to take photos of our day.  The only tux we needed was Randy’s; the other guys all had gray suits in the same style.

On the morning of our afternoon wedding, Big Sis woke up with an abscessed tooth.  It was a Friday and Mom called her dentist friend from when we were kids and our family lived three houses down from him (his office was in his home).  He would see her, if we could get her there immediately.  Panic, though, because who could take M.L. to the dentist?  Everyone was busy, busy, busy!  Except for…the bride.

Yeah, well, I had nothing to do until a half hour before the wedding.  My dress was simple, my hair would just be loose and flowing, the way I liked it, I was showered, shaved, and bored with sitting in a corner watching my drama queen family freak out over tiny details.  So I took Big Sis to the dentist.  I sat in the waiting room with my book, perfectly calm and content, and laughed out loud when I overheard this:

Dr. Glenn: “Well, what a way to start your big day, eh?  Don’t worry, we’ll get you fixed up in no time and you’ll be a smiling bride.”

Grunts from Big Sis.

Dr. Glenn: “Oh, you aren’t the bride?”

More grunts.

“Really?”  And sweet ol’ Dr. Glenn actually stepped into the waiting room and stared at me.  I smiled and waved.  “Well, aren’t you nervous at all?”

Me:  “Nope.  I’m just happy this day is here.”

In fact, I didn’t get nervous until everyone had dashed off to the church and I put on The Dress.  My dad was the only one left at the apartment — he was the manager of a car dealership and was driving me to the church in a dealer’s demo car, a brand new Lincoln!

After all the agonizing over music, and the lovely gift of our talented friend Holly playing the organ and singing, I don’t remember any of the music.  Randy says all he remembers is his knees shaking and his dad holding him up (or keeping him from running away).

It was a wonderful day, pulled together in a few wild weeks because of so many people.  And it set the course for much of our life together — adventures done on the fly, on impulse, with pieces of what was needed appearing at the last minute.   There have been storms and calm waters, floods (for real!) and dry stretches, but we keep going, sailing along and hoping we won’t sink.

We just celebrated our 33rd anniversary.  If I had known a sailor’s wife must brave Life’s storms alone for months, would I have married my Merchant Marine?  I like to think so, because, yes, when he gets home, everything is worth it.  🙂

Terror Alert: RED!

No, not “terrorist,” no one is attacking the USA.  It’s just Life attacking me and the people I love.  What is the most terrifying thing that can happen?  Well, if you’re a parent, it’s anything regarding your child.  Doesn’t matter how old they are, when something bad approaches or happens to your kid, you feel it – that heart-wrenching, gut-twisting, knee-buckling sensation: Terror.  At the same time, because you are the parent, you are not allowed to collapse screaming on the floor (which is what part of you wants to do).  Nope, you must act strong, calm, and deal with the situation.

About two weeks ago, we got a phone call late in the afternoon from our daughter’s ex-boyfriend.  She had been in a lot of pain in June from a pinched nerve in her shoulder that numbed her right hand and left her with fumbling fingers — yes, you can have pain and numbness at the same time; it’s happened to me.  She did go to a clinic, but not a chiropractor.  She has no insurance and little income because she only has a part time job.  By July 4th, she was better, but her hand was still kind of numb and tingly.

For the next two weeks, unknown to us, she battled a painful infection.  She did go to Urgent Care and took the antibiotic and pain meds they gave her.  The next day, she tried to call her friend for help.  By the time he could get to her, she was incoherent and having seizures.

We have a number of wonderful angels in our lives, most of them are our adult children’s friends.  Her ex-boyfriend has been through so much with her and she can trust him with some frightening issues, so she called him.  Then, he (thank you, son), called us.  When he got her to the hospital, two more angels went into action: our “other” son and his partner – paramedics.  They called us, too.  And then, the one angel I am most grateful for: the sweet wife of our “other” son, who works at the hospital, called.

Now, fed regulations protect private patient info so the hospital couldn’t tell me anything over the phone, but from the little info our friends gave us and the tone of their voices, we knew a parent had to go be with our girl.  When you hear that one piece of info – “They’re sending her to the ICU.” – you jump in the car and drive.

Now, we got lucky in a few ways and unlucky in others.  The bad part was her dad HAD to leave for South America the next day for work and would be gone for an unknown length of time.  There was no money for a plane ticket and no way to get one at 9 pm, plus, no one to pick me up at the airport and no money for a rental car.  We live in the middle of Texas (bum-f@ck Houston), daughter is in Arizona – it’s a 15 to 17 hour drive.  And I suck at long drives…and dealing with authority figures like doctors…

But…I’m retired and could go to her.  Our younger son is here with us, still getting all his papers together for his job, so he isn’t working yet, and we could do the drive together in a really good car.  Hubby has a good friend who took the dogs, the cats were left with a huge bowl of food…and we all headed out to our assignments.

Once in Arizona, in the hospital, I learned more – they will tell a parent things in person, thank goodness, maybe, sorta…It is terrifying to hear your child (I don’t care if she’s an adult, she’s still my baby!) was “Code Yellow” – which is just a step below “critical.”  Terrifying to learn she continued having seizures and stopped breathing at one point, terrifying to see her hooked up to a breathing tube and in a chemically-induced coma…looking like she’s 12 yrs old…and weighing under 100 pounds when she’s 5’6″ and should have at least 20 more pounds on her.

We can joke about it now (ah, morbid humor  it’s the only thing that keeps us sane), but it took a four-point restraint and two burly staff to hold her down to keep tests done before they doped her.  The boys related how the ER staff was talking about the 90 pound girl throwing all the men around the room.  Our paramedic boys also told off the people who were speculating with disrespect regarding our girl’s behavior because she’s “our sister-friend.”

Ah, validation when the test results came back clean – no drugs or alcohol, but very low potassium level, electrolytes, nutrition values, etc.  Perhaps a reaction to the antibiotic or previous pain meds?  No one knew for sure, but she did, indeed, have a nasty raging infection in her body.

It took a few days before they allowed her to awaken.  And, of course, we all wanted to know what had happened, what she could tell us.  But her first words were “What the hell happened?”    She doesn’t know, either.  She took the proper doses of meds and went to bed, then woke up unable to control her body and fingers and frantically tried calling her friend.

We may never know what happened.  I believe it was a combination of everything.  I have seen a low potassium episode before – my mom was found wandering around her yard late one night in her pjs, yelling for my dad – who had been dead for six months.  She was confused and didn’t know me or my brother (this was way before she slipped into dementia).  She fought the paramedics, then flirted with them (75 yrs old and still feisty!).  An infusion of potassium and voila!  All better.

Our girl is also allergic to penicillin and some of its derivatives.  It’s possible the antibiotic – one she had never taken before – is another one she is allergic to; she did have trouble breathing.

Then, there was the infection and the fact that she hadn’t been eating much for almost two months…

Well, I took care of her once they released her, feeding her, fussing over her, and left her with lots of proper food, juices, and a clean apartment (!).  I’m back in Texas now, but I’m still gonna worry, that’s a given, that never ends.

Is the terror over?  Can I lower the alert from red to green?  Nope, never.  Maybe yellow?  No, I’m Mom – the terror alert remains at Orange, a constant gnawing bug I hide deep inside and try to ignore.

So please remember – if you have a friend who is a parent, no matter what age their child is, don’t ever call them late at night.  Because before she/he sees who is calling, the Terror Alert jumps to Red: “My child is in trouble!”

Hey, it’s a parent thing…  🙂

 

The Buzz-Buzz Monster

“Here it comes again!”  “Outta my way!”  Shrieking, jumping, laughing… My little sister and I clambered up to the top of the couch.  From there, we plotted out separate routes across the living room.  Pixie claimed the easy road; down to the arm of the couch, across the side table to the back of the big armchair and then jump onto the dining room table.  I was more daring.  If I timed it right, I could jump down to the middle of the living room floor, run to the stairs and perch on the table sitting on the stairway landing.  Risky, but the monster might go after Pix and give me time to escape.

“Buzz, buzz!”

“Aarrgghhh!”  The monster had a long reach; if we slipped, he’d get us!  Pix took her chance and I jumped.  Strong arms grabbed me, “Buzz, buzz!” And the tickling commenced.  I rolled in Daddy’s arms, laughing and kicking.  Pix jumped on his back, trying to help me, but Daddies aren’t ticklish, especially when they are Buzz Buzz Monsters.

Her little legs pummeled his sides.  “Horsie! Horsie!  Gi-pa!”  And the game changed.  With a rear and a whinny, the Gi-pa took off across the living room, Pixie shrieking with joy, her hands fisted in his thick black hair.  I sat up, trying to catch my breath and waited for my turn.

Every family, I hope, has games.  Silly fun games.  I’m pretty sure Jim Carrey (in “Liar, Liar”, I think was the movie’s name) does not have the exclusive rights to “The Claw!”  Hey, my daddy was “The Claw” before the actor was born!  Daddy was the big sneaky shark before anyone ever heard of “Jaws!”  He would swim underwater to us and one hand would rise up.  He would corner us in the shallow end of the pool, hands crooked, reaching for us, and ominously announce, “It’s The Claw!  The Claw!” in a twisted accent.  If caught, more tickling…  I learned how to swim just to escape into the deep end.

That was a rule.  “The Claw” couldn’t get you if you were on dry land or in the deep end of the pool.  Same with the Buzz Buzz Monster – it couldn’t climb on the furniture to get us, but if we touched the floor, we were fair game.  We didn’t play these games with Mom.  I don’t remember a single tickle session with my mom.  She did come outside and push me nice and high on my swing, though.

Maybe they were Daddy games because he was home.  We were “latch-key” kids long before the phrase was coined.  We’d walk home from school or the bus stop, enter the unlocked house, and do whatever.  Our older brother and older sister were supposed to be our baby-sitters, but, honestly?  Between the time we left school until my Dad got home from work, we were out in the neighborhood playing.

Dad had the typical 8 to 5 job; Mom, as a Registered Nurse, tried to work only the 7am to 3pm shift so she could be home with us in the afternoon, but she sometimes worked doubles or she’d be sleeping because she had to work 3pm to 11pm or 11pm to 7am.  If she was home, sleeping or not, we’d grab our bikes and take off.  We didn’t want to bother her – that woke up a whole different kind of monster.

But once she left for work and Daddy was in charge, ah, the games commenced.  Did she know we climbed all over the furniture?  Did she find out Daddy let us sit in his big chair with him to watch “The Twilight Zone” and “The Outer Limits” late at night?  Did she ever come outside and catch fireflies with us?  She did love to swim and I remember playing “The Claw” with her in the pool.  Mom made a good “Claw.”  She had long slender fingers and could cackle like a witch.

I have my dad’s hands – small with short chubby fingers.  But my fingers have Mom’s agility.  I played a variation of “The Claw” with my kids when they were little.  “The Spider” would creep across the table toward their highchair, creeping, “legs” extending up and out, wriggling forward…ooo, the suspense, the wide-eyed happy fear as “The Spider” advanced.  And then…Pounce!  Tickle, tickle!  If my baby swatted at it, “The Spider” would dash away.  If my child landed a hit, my hand would flop over, palm up, the “legs” curled in defeat.  Ah, but maybe the monster was just playing dead.  Maybe, if you poke it with your baby spoon (never your soft meaty little finger, oh no!), it will move and jump at you again!  Cats love “The Spider” game, too!

My husband makes an awesome “Claw.”  He has big strong hands with long slender fingers.  Back when we were first “going steady” in high school, I taught him how to swim properly.  Oh, he knew the basics from swimming in the river or streams, but he had few opportunities to swim in a real pool.  I took him to our housing development’s pool or up to Saratoga Springs Park – for a dollar, you could spend all day at the two big pools there, swimming and diving.  I taught that boy the crawl, the backstroke, the side stroke, taught him proper form for a simple racing dive, beat him in lap races the length of the pool…then he went to SUNY Maritime College.  My aspiring sailor came home, challenged me to a race, and was halfway across the pool before I’d hit the water!  College had taught him better than I and I stood in the shallow end, watching a man shoot through the water with clean strokes from powerful arms and efficient kicks from those nicely muscled legs.  Then, he disappeared in the deep end…moments later, something grabbed my legs.  “The Claw” broke the surface and, well, that game didn’t end in a tickle session!  Maritime instructors taught him how to hold his breath for a long time, too.  I hope I’m the one who taught him how to kiss like that!  😀

I also introduced my love to “Scrabble,” gin rummy and poker.  Just a few games later, he was winning every time.  Hard to win against a guy with genius IQ once he learns something!  I took him horseback riding.  I had years of training and experience; he settled in the saddle, picked up the reins, tucked his feet in the stirrups – heels down, toes out – and, yeah, a natural, no more lessons required.  He had the “seat” and the “soft” hands, and horses responded beautifully for him.

Men and games.  Kids and games.  Family games are necessary, made up games are the best.  Imperfect and dysfunctional as my birth family was, we had some fun times.  I worry that I’m the only one who remembers, that I’m the Keeper of the Good Memories.  They’re gone now, those two beautiful, talented walking wrecks of people, but, sometimes, I miss them.  My brother battles intense pain and struggles with a mind fogged by powerful pain-killer drugs.  My older sister is lost to us, buried in mental illness.  My little sister, Pixie to my Trixie (Daddy’s nicknames for us), is raising her family, working, living through the grief of having her oldest son die at the age of twenty.  So I frantically type, attempting to organize the memories and get the family stories out of my own failing brain.

Don’t be my mom; go catch some fireflies with your kids or point out the stars in the sky.  Better yet, let your children climb on the furniture while you, the Buzz Buzz Monster, crawl on the floor below.  Make the good memories now and they’ll help you fight off the Dark.

Knee-Deep In Ectoplasm

Not exactly ectoplasm, a substance alleged to emanate from a medium and produce living forms.  (I read the dictionary for fun.  Where did Webster’s get this definition from?)  I’ve sensed plenty of spirits and energy entities, even seen a few ghosts, ahem, apparitions, and not one of them ever produced a substance or manifested a living form from pink goo (Ghostbusters, baby!).  They can appear solid and do have visible shapes, but they can’t emanate anything but their presence, soul, energy, whatever.  But it sounds cool as a title, so…there ya go.

Mostly I sense energy forms.  My karaoke friends and spirit circle used to like to play a game with me.  We’d be in the bar and one of them would say, “Close your eyes, Eileen.”  Or one of them would clap their hands over my eyes.  “Okay, now point us all out.”  I could sense them, “see” their energy forms, pulsing at different rates, strengths, sometimes with colors.  So I’d identify each friend.  Then, the fun part – they’d shift positions, scurrying across the bar to the crowded dance floor, hiding in the rest room, ducking down behind the pool players.  I would scan the area (eyes still closed or shielded by the non-participant), pinpointing each one, and wait for them to return to me.  As they sat down again, often giggling, I’d tell them where each had tried to hide.  I would almost always be right.  They thought it was cool, I thought it was normal.

A few years before I met those friends, I was working as a waitress.  I came back from serving a customer and remarked, “Oh, he is so nice.  And he shines!”  I hadn’t quite learned to keep my mouth shut around people who didn’t know me very well.  My snippy and somewhat prejudiced co-worker whispered, “What?  People don’t shine.  And, and, he’s…black!”  She sounded so angry.  I turned around and looked at my customer again.  “Oh, so he is.  He’s still nice and has a shining soul.”  Apparently, I don’t notice things like skin color, race, so-called handicaps, even gender or sexual orientation.  I see energy first, then the normal human stuff.

In grade school and high school, I had a friend named Peter.  He taught me how to leave my body and hang out near the ceiling, usually during lunch, so we could watch everybody below us.  I worried about getting food stuck in my hair or being poked by a fork (do kids still throw stuff up into the ceilings of cafeterias?).  Peter laughed and said I’d be fine.  No one noticed us up there, and since I had a tendency to sleep during lunch (eat that food?  No way!), no one noticed me slumped in my chair.  ‘Course, no one noticed Peter – I was the only one who could see and hear him.  He was such a sweet spirit.  He stopped hanging around when I started tenth grade and was suicidal.  I think that drove him away and I’m sorry about it.  I missed him.  But I did make new (flesh) friends and school was a wonderful place; I made sure I signed up for things that let me stay until long after dinnertime over at the house of Hell….I so wanted to live at school full-time…

Anyway, sometimes, it was hard to differentiate between my energy friends and my flesh friends – to me, they all looked like they belonged in this world.  I never talked about my spirit friends, though; I must have mentioned it when I was little and got beaten for “lying.”  That’s a “black hole” memory – one of many black chunks in my memory and if my siblings’ stories are true, then I really don’t want to open those black holes, thank you very much.

It was nice to meet like-minded people, form our circle, practice with our meta abilities.  I’d been a solitary for too long.  It was great to discover I wasn’t completely crazy!

Then, things happened when we lived in Arizona that really made me feel good.  They didn’t start happening until the boys were in their teens.  Our oldest son came bounding in from school one day and said, “Hey, Mom!  My favorite teacher is surrounded by blue light!  Is that her aura?  What is an aura?  Does that mean I can see auras?”

They wanted me to give them Tarot Card readings.  Then, they wanted their own Tarot decks.  We started basic energy lessons and discovered the younger son had an affinity with EVERY element.  My strongest affinity is with Air.  Sister Air and I have a playful and refreshing relationship.  When I’m sad, when I feel blocked, when I need Her, I can step outside and She’ll blow through me, a gentle greeting, a breezy tug, a cleansing that soothes and invigorates me.  Because of years of training, I can get every element to respond to me, but no newbie just steps up and gets Them ALL to respond in the first lesson.  My youngest boy did.

Brother Fire is the most willing to respond, and also the most unpredictable.  You can’t, and don’t, want to control the elements; just get them to play a bit, respond, and help you if needed, when asked.  That’s Rule Number One:  Always ASK, Never Command.  So, there we were, trying to make a candle flame respond to our wills.  And JR’s danced beautifully for him.  “Oh, cool, you have a Fire affinity,” I said.

Then, it was Water.  Ask the water in the glass to go from cold to warm to cold again, then ask Sister Water to bubble for you.  Sure enough, Water played with JR almost immediately.  Okay, people can have a strong affinity to more than one element…

I had to go stand across the room, nearly out of sight for Sister Air to respond to him; we had to make sure She wasn’t coming to my call.  Goosebumps rose on his skin and his older brother watched the fan start slowly spinning (windows and doors closed, no one moving; we were barely breathing!).  JR said he could feel his hair moving and smelled fresh rain. (Note here: It was clear and hot that night with no wind, and while it DOES rain in Tucson, it has to be a long rainstorm going for almost a full day before it smells like rain or smells fresh.  When it rains in Tucson, it smells like dust or mud.)

By now, older son had given up and was perfectly happy to watch his brother.  I sat back down and didn’t have to hand JR the stones representing Earth.  He picked them up and described the sensations, let us feel them warming to his slightest touch…

I grinned.  “Well now, I’ve never heard of this.  I’ll ask around if you want more training or a different mentor.”  A few days later, we discovered I was probably the best teacher for him at that time.  We were doing something at the kitchen table (I think reading the Tarot), and hubby walked by.  One glance and he grumped, “Great, you turned my son into a witch.”  Then he smiled to let us know he was joking and it was okay.  He’s good like that, even though he doesn’t want to know anything more about our “woo-woo” stuff!  🙂

My two favorite stories…I was in drum journey one day, having a lovely time with very interesting visions, when a door slammed downstairs.  A second later, Brian shouted, “Mom!”  Now, it doesn’t matter how deep a trance I’m in or how far of a journey I’m on, my child’s call will snap me back instantly. I sat up and said, “Up here!”

Feet pounded upstairs and both boys were staring at me.  “What were you doing?  A tornado just touched down on Ina!”  Tornadoes are VERY rare in Tucson and they just do NOT touch down on a busy road in the middle of a clear day.  Dust devils might swirl through, but a real tornado, nope, not the climate for it.  I was flattered that they thought I, or rather, the Energy that works through me, could be so powerful, but had to correct them.  “No, no, I don’t play with, manipulate or control the weather.  In fact, any human who thinks they have such power over Mother Nature is an arrogant idiot.”  And we went on another lesson regarding the elements.

But, they would give me a look, sometimes, when they knew I was wishing for rain when there was absolutely no chance of rain…and it would rain.  Hey, it wasn’t me!  But, yeah, Sister Air likes to make me happy…

The other story…I was sitting in the office one day, playing on the computer.  The office shared a wall with the garage.  Brian was out there, working on his Mustang.  I noticed a ripple in the air to the side of the desk and our black cat, our DEAD black cat, Sunshine, sauntered through the wall and walked past me into the living room.  He twitched his tail at me and disappeared when he reached the couch.  Barely a breath later, Brian slammed into the house from the garage (yes, he likes to slam doors).

“Mom!  Sunshine just walked across the garage and disappeared through the wall!”

“I know, honey, he’s hiding IN the couch.”

“Holy shit! I guess this means I really can see ghosts!  Cool!”

“Wait, what?  When have you seen ghosts before?”

“In New York, in the Fort Plain house.  There was an old guy who would stand at the top of the stairs and yell silently at us.  Oh, and the dark Thing in the cellar behind the old cistern.”  He glanced around.  “But they aren’t here.  Did you know this house is alive, too?”

“Yes, sweetie, the House’s Heart is in your sister’s room.  That’s why it’s always so comforting in there.”

At that point, his sister (who, like her father, wants nothing to do with our “woo-woo” stuff, but I know is a strong psychic who has blocked her gift) was coming down the stairs and calmly said, “No, Mom, it moved.  It’s in your bathtub now, where you do your meditations.”  She promptly left the house to meet her boyfriend, leaving us wondering how much of our conversation she had heard with her physical ears and how much she had just “picked up on.”

I love my kids.  They are just THE coolest people!  Why were they so accepting, calm, curious, about all this beyond-real-world stuff?  Maybe because, to their mother, it was normal to see ghosts, talk to energy beings, play with the elemental entities, sense the Presence of a loving Divine…I treated everything like it was normal because, to me, it IS normal, just part of Life.  They never got yelled at or slapped for sensing otherworldly things or talking about them.  No one freaked out, it was all fine.  Even their non-believing father accepted that his wife was a bit weird, so it was all good.  And yep, while hubby jokes we are knee-deep in shit, I prefer to call it ectoplasm; it’s easier to clean up and doesn’t smell.  Hey, it’s three (possibly four) ectoplasm believers against Capt’n Poopy-head!  We win!   😀

 

My Best Christmas Gift

Kinda sounds like one of those “What I did on My Christmas Vacation” reports we used to be forced to do in school, right?  Do they torment kids like that these days?  I could rehash a few for you.  “I got phew-ammonia and puked in the hamster cage.”  No?  Okay, how about the time we drove home from Endicott, NY to Schenectady, NY inna blizzard and Daddy hit a deer?  The deer was fine, got up and walked away, but we spent Christmas night inna ditch?  Mmm, nope…ooo, I know!  We survived the Ice Storm of ’63!  Or was it ’68?  Anyway, we went sledding on cookie sheets down the frozen drift – from my brother’s second-story bedroom window to the street!

And no, I didn’t see the Christmas Star or an angel…  My Christmas Star is a man.  He’s a Merchant Marine – civilian sailors, the guys on oil tankers, dredges, tug boats, non-military (most of the time) – and my husband.  His work schedule was often unpredictable.  He could be out for three months, home for one, or be called back to the ship after only a week home.  Holidays had to be as fluid as the ocean.  Quite often, our kids’ best Christmas gift was a phone call from Daddy, full of static and short because ship to shore calls were extremely expensive.  (This was twenty-plus years ago – long before computers, cell phones, all the toys that we take for granted today.)

Yet, somehow, Randy managed to make Christmas special.  His voice lifted our spirits and reminded us we were loved.  When he could, he would mail a letter or card.  A few times, he shopped early and hid the presents, just in case he wouldn’t be home on Christmas morning.  He once hid them under a huge pile of clothes I was supposed to wash and then take to the Salvation Army store.  He forgot to tell me they were there.  I was busy and never got around to doing that laundry.  We found those gifts three months after Christmas.

One year, when we lived in upstate New York near Syracuse, Randy’s ship was dredging sand along the East Coast.  Normal people would ask why we didn’t go visit for a day or why he couldn’t drive home for a weekend.  “New York City’s only four hours away.  Why don’t you take the kids down to the Port there and visit him?”  Hmm, sorry, no, it doesn’t work that way.  Merchant mariners may not be military, but they operate along the same guidelines.  I could explain it to you, but this is a blog, not a book.

And, yes, it was depressing knowing he was that close and we couldn’t be together.  My little sister and her husband visited us that year.  I had people I loved in my house, their sweet toddler was a living doll our little girl was enjoying babying and our boys were teaching naughty tricks to, we had laughter, presents, good food, and, I was lonely.  My husband wasn’t overseas that year, he was in the same state, and we couldn’t have him with us.  He hadn’t even been able to call us, which pissed me off because he could have used normal phone connections instead of a marine operator.

The weather was lovely – fresh snow, cold but not frigid, and a sunny Christmas morning.  My sister and I were making French toast for breakfast, still in our pajamas and robes because in my house, no one gets dressed in real clothes until noon on Christmas Day.  Christine’s husband looked out the window and asked, “Do you know anyone who drives a white van?”

“No.  Why?”

Jeff pointed outside.  “He’s in your driveway.”

At eight o’clock on Christmas morning, after being up until dawn wrapping gifts, I had the brain function and curiosity of a dust bunny.  Christine had helped me, but managed to be a chirping chickadee – god, how I hate morning people.  She was also more of a city girl than I and instantly alarmed at the sight of a plain, unmarked, paneled white van skulking up my driveway (visions of kidnappers dancing in her head).  “Where are the kids?  Call the police.  Jeff,” she prodded her husband, “is your gun in the car?  Put on your boots, chase him away!”

I yawned.  “Sweetie, Chief Willy lives two houses down and is probably still asleep.  It’s a small town, everybody knows everybody else.  They’re someone’s relatives, using my driveway to turn around.”  I flipped the bread in the pan and heard Jeff say, “Huh, he parked.  He’s getting out!”  Dear Jeff, the most open, honest, heart-on-his-sleeve guy, and I heard the lift in his voice.  Something had just made him very happy and Christine squealed with joy.

I whipped around and ran to the window.  By that time, the driver had the back of the van open.  Jeff scrambled to shove his feet in his boots as the driver unloaded boxes and bags.  I knew the curve of that strong back, the tilt of that beloved head…I beat Jeff out the door, dashing through the snow in my slippers, and was caught up in a hug that nearly crushed my ribs before I crashed into the side of the van.  I have no memory of going back inside the house, I think he carried me because my feet were turning blue and Jeff carried all the gifts.  I do remember that kiss – one that hurls fireworks down into your stomach and buckles your knees, a kiss that requires your love to hold you upright because you no longer have any bones in your body.

The ship had been put in dry-dock for a quick repair at New York City Harbor.  The captain gave Randy 24 hours off the clock, just enough time…  Randy asked if he could borrow the port captain’s van to make a trip home.  He stopped at a 24-hour Kmart outside the city and bought what he could with the cash he had.

After the excitement of kids climbing all over Daddy and ripping into the gifts he’d brought, we settled into the rest of the day and enjoyed our Christmas feast.  In the afternoon, my sweet sister and her dear hubby giggled and winked and bundled up children.  “We’re taking them to the park to go sledding!” they called out.  I think Randy and I were upstairs before the back door slammed shut.

Cuddled together, beginning to hear the happy voices of our loved ones returning home, Randy whispered, “I didn’t get you a gift.  I’m sorry.”

“Silly man, I have the best gift of all, right here.”

 

 

 

 

 

Eating Alien Breastoids

I can’t sleep, I’m hungry, I miss the kids (I don’t care if they’re all grown into adults, they’re still our kids and I miss them), which woke up memories…including the one where Brian gave a particular vegetable a new name.  Our oldest son is a bit of a clown, fine, a lot of  a clown.  Goofy, charming, generous…wait, this blog is about food.

There are some foods hubby and I don’t like and will not cook.  We refused to be proper parents and force our children to eat such foods.  We were pretty lenient parents and had only a few rules:  Everyone sits at the table as a family for dinner, no phone calls (Telemarketers who often called during dinner were subjected to verbal repartee, depending on who answered the phone and how far dinner had progressed.  Let me mention here, we do not drink alcohol.  The best way to avoid a second call from any telemarketer was to have Brian take over.  He had two spiels: He would ask personal questions, starting with “Hi, how are you?  Do you live in America?  Did you have a bowel movement today?  Did it float or sink before you flushed it…Hello, hello?”  Or, he would simply say, with a trembling voice, “My daddy/mommy is DEAD!  Thank you SO much for reminding me!” Click.), and – where was I?  Oh yeah, the rules: You must at least taste one bite of something before announcing you don’t like it.  We ended up having some interesting times involving food.  And some odd conversations, usually instigated by one of the kids.  Here are some foods I’ve tasted and refuse to allow in my house…

Brussels Sprouts: Who decided these weird green balls were food?  They’re innocent enough until you plop them in water and start to cook ’em.  I’m sorry, but I will not eat something that smells like month-old rancid gym socks that the dog pooped on!

Cabbage:  Fine eaten raw, but when cooked, see reference to Brussels Sprouts.

Escargot: Nope, you can’t fool me with a fancy French name and lots of garlic.  Those are snails, probably the same ones that were crawling on the Cabbage…

Calamari:  Another fancy name – Italian, this time, but these are small squids, dipped in batter so they can be disguised as fried clams.  Strange rubbery texture and I always think those tiny sucker pads are gonna attach themselves to my throat on the way down.  And, of course, I always flash on Kirk Douglas battling the giant squid in that movie…and you wonder why I dislike swimming in murky water?

Liver:  My mother, aunt and older sister were Registered Nurses, yet they ate Liver.  Bile and other nasty body shit passes through or is stored in the Liver (that’s what the child-me believed – I think I spent most of Biology class trying to save the frogs from being dissected and didn’t really absorb much else – anyway, I still believe the Liver is a poop organ).  Pile on all the onions you want, I know there’s liver in there somewhere, nope, never, not gonna eat some critter’s stored poop, thank you very much!

Um, gee, I’m no longer hungry.  There were some strange-looking foods I liked and inflicted upon, er, cooked for my family.  Fried pizza dough – yeah, I know most people call them fritters, but in my birth family (mostly Italian), it was fried pizza dough.  Pull chunks of dough off the main ball and plop them in a deep pan half full of hot oil (We didn’t have deep fryers back then).  When one side was golden brown and the dough had puffed up, you carefully turned it over with tongs to fry the other side.  Only took a minute or so, then you drained them on paper towels, tossed one or two into a paper bag half full of confectioner’s sugar, shake a few times, remove, eat.  Oh, heaven!  Sunday mornings, often at Aunt Harriet and Uncle Fred’s house, eating his homemade bread and her fried pizza dough…odd, I don’t remember eating anything else on those mornings…like eggs or bacon…  Imagine my shock to get a fritter at the state fair, with a tiny bit of butter melting on it?  I was offended and asked, “Where’s the confectioner’s sugar?  It HAS to be covered in it!”  Sacrilege!  I promptly threw it away, uneaten.

There was a dish I loved and it was fun to eat, too!  Stuffed Artichokes.  I decided to introduce my meat-potatoes-and-salad family to this wonderful dish.  Yes, our children ate salad.  When we’d go to Mickey D’s for lunch, they’d get Harpy, erm, happy Meals and I’d get a salad.  Guess who ended up nibbling on fake fried chicken bits (I know they’re fake – even the dog won’t eat ’em!) while the kids chowed down on greens?

I took the artichokes out of the fridge and set them on the counter.  I chopped off the stems as straight as possible so they’d sit nicely upright in the pot.  Across the counter, in the dining area, our two adorable elementary school children and their demonic preteen brother were attempting to finish their homework before clearing the table for dinner.  Brian jumped up and asked, “What are those things?”

“Artichokes.  They’re a vegetable.”  I’m sure some eye-rolling occurred because, like, duh, yeah, they’re GREEN, Mom!

With a gleam in his eyes, Brian grabbed two of them and placed them in strategic positions on his chest.  He danced around the kitchen, singing, “Look, we’re eating Alien Breastoids!”  I hung my head, wondering why I married the class clown, who then imparted HIS weird genes to our oldest son…

That first experiment didn’t go well.  The kids liked the stuffing, but not the whole pull the leaf free, bite down, scrape the surface with your teeth, chew, swallow routine  (You don’t eat the entire leaf, at least not with this dish.).  To them, it was a tedious way to receive a bit of a part of the artichoke, and they refused to touch the heart.  I got to enjoy four artichokes that night, and the kids did at least TASTE the dish, so it was a small success.

Many years later, I decided to cook artichokes again.  Almost adults, the kids now had tasted them elsewhere – in restaurants, at friends’ homes – and liked them.  I giggled and said, “We’re eating Alien Breastoids tonight!”  Silence, blank or mortified stares…not one of them remembered that first experience with artichokes…

I don’t cook much anymore, it’s too embarrassing…

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Stuffed Artichokes

6 whole artichokes
1-2 cups Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
1 clove garlic, minced
1 pound mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup grated Romano cheese
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
5 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Snip off the pointed tips of artichoke leaves, and cut off the stems.  Wash and drain.  Holding artichoke firmly by base, firmly rap the top of it on a hard surface; this will open it so it can be stuffed.
In a medium bowl combine breadcrumbs, garlic, parsley, cheeses, oregano, 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, salt and pepper; mix well.
Press about 1/2 cup of stuffing into each artichoke, trying to fill in each leaf.  Tightly pack stuffed artichokes together in a large heavy pot or Dutch oven.  Add enough water to reach half way up artichokes and add 3 tablespoons oil.
Bring to a boil over high heat; reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 1 hour, or until leaves pull out easily.