Saturday, December 12, 2009

Money For Nothin'

Yesterday, I had occasion to drive my Dad to the VA clinic in Galveston for a follow-up visit from last Monday, when he saw a doctor for inflammation in his lungs. They wanted listen to his lungs again, just to be sure the treatments were working. Since I watch Brennan before school at 12:30pm, I dragged him up there with us. We were running late, of course, so Brennan didn't have time to find a Nintendo or anything with which to occupy himself. He was so patient during the hour-plus trip up, but was getting bored after another hour or so of waiting for Grandpa's turn to go in. We hit the vending machines and plied him with adequate amounts of chocolate and Dr Pepper. He was a happy, happy little man.

I mentioned to my Dad that Brennan could count to 100 without help and that I thought it was pretty good for a four year old. Out of character and to my surprise, Dad dug in his pocket for loose change and gave it to Brennan. I chuckled to myself when he did, thinking "what is he doing?maybe rewarding Brennan for knowing how to count?" Then he proceeded to explain to him how the pennies were worth only one, but a nickel was worth 5 pennies and so on up to a dollar, until I could see Bren, while being respectful, was totally confused. I reminded Daddy that Brennan was only four and was about to rescue him from his Greatgrandpa, when he seemed to be quite content playing with the coins. Next thing I knew, Brennan laid all the coins onto the seat of the chair and was making shapes and letters with the coins. Daddy's appointment was for 8:40am and we finally left the clinic about 11:15am and the majority of the time, Brennan was happily playing with money. Just before we left, Daddy traded him all the dollar's worth of change for currency. I figured Brennan would rather have all the coins to jingle around but when Dad showed him a dollar bill, his face lit up like a pin-ball machine! He spent it wisely. One more trip directly to the fascinating vending machine and he was the proud owner of yet another piece of chocolate for later in the day. We don't need no stinkin' Nintendo!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

I'm At That Point In My Life

I had a chance to yet again watch one of the Indiana Jones movies last night and a quote from a professor caught my attention. "I'm at that point where life seems to stop giving and instead, starts taking away." The question is, why didn't I ever hear it the several times before when I saw the movie? Because it wasn't talking about me before. Now it might be. I've lost my husband, a former husband, my mother, a treasured son-in-law, a young nephew, my step-father, both my parents-in-law, countless friends and other relatives. Many of the activities I used to enjoy are no longer an option for me, due to chronic idiopathic pain in both feet.

That said, I live a relatively comfortable life. My children and grandchildren continue to fill my days with happiness, making me grateful that I am still around. And they help me stay busy. But not as busy as my dad helps me stay. This morning, he came by to enlist me in helping him pick some of the Japanese persimmons he so loves to eat. It turns out that one of my nearby neighbors has a tree which was loaded with fruit that they were not interested in and gave him the go-ahead to pick the tree clean.

When Dad was growing up, those in his family were migrant workers, going from field to field, harvesting fruit trees so, that upbringing, coupled with the passionate disdain that he and I share for wasting anything, explains why we just had to do it. But we are a pair. Picture this . . . he is 87 years old and suffers from macular degeneration (so he can't see), almost total hearing loss and serious arthritis, too serious to consider climbing a ladder, so he picked from the ground. I too experience the delights of arthritis and said foot pain, but to that equation, add vertigo and the intense dislike I have for heights, even an eight foot ladder. However, I'm on it ~ precariously reaching for the fruit above and to either side of me.

It is imperative that you "leave the stem on the fruit" (that's a hilarious story for another day) and scissors are not adequate to cut the woody stems. All I could find was a pair of needle-nose pliers, so I'm looking very proficient up on that ladder, when Dad mentions what we really need is a 22' ladder to get the fruit in the tops of the tree. There is no way. "We need to leave some for the birds, Dad, and I'm not sure it's worth the effort for the 3 or 4 dozen persimmons left." "You may be right" he said. I knew full well at the time that was too easy. Without saying a word, he went to his truck and drove off. I was guessing nature called. When he didn't come back right away, I began to imagine him scouting for a longer ladder, but I was right the first time. Right and relieved. Daddy was too. Anyway, we made a haul and I'm grateful we have a plentiful number of persimmons to eat and share. As he drove away, he did mention that he knows someone with a tall ladder that would be glad to come and get those few surviving persimmons. I knew it was too easy!

The whole time we're picking, my thoughts drift to the many occasions Daddy has kept me busy. One year, he brought to me 60 freakishly large dead chickens that he had raised, and dressed out. Four extremely long days I spent canning chicken, but before I could can them, I had to cook and bone them because they were too large and tough to cut up raw. Imagine though, how thankful I was for the next long while, to simply open a quart jar of cooked, boned chicken for pot pie, noodles, chicken & rice, stew, or any other chicken meal I was preparing.

One year, Dad backed his truck up in my driveway, loaded with his first harvest of beets. The finished product was 90 quarts, not pints, but quarts of the best pickled beets I have ever tasted. I had never pickled beets before, nor canned chicken for that matter, but look how much I have learned, thanks to my Dad!

Most years, we've picked figs around the 4th of July. They are so yummy fresh, but we're like the Blue Bell ice cream people who "eat all we can and sell the rest." We eat all we can and preserve the rest. Figs, especially if they've had much rain just before harvest time, spoil rapidly, like in hours, not days. So, if Daddy brings me figs, I've got my work cut out for me, immediately. I try to keep plenty of sugar and strawberry jello on hand during fig season because I never know when he might show up with 5 gallon buckets of the sweet little things. (Just 3 cups of trimmed figs, 3 ounces of strawberry jello and 3 cups of sugar makes great strawberry fig preserves. Bring those ingredients to a boil for 20 minutes and ladle in hot jars. Viola!)

Daddy's always bringing us stuff to share with my siblings that 1) he bought on the side of the road 2) someone gave him 3) he produced himself 4) is enough to feed a small army. Fish, sweet potatoes, plums, citrus, to name just a few. It is part of his legacy. Most of the time, I am happy to receive it. Years ago, when he had a garden and chickens, he'd gather and head my way. In the 5 gallon bucket, I'd find eggs, tomatoes, cucumbers, squash and cantaloupe, in that order from bottom to top. Yep. Eggs on the bottom, etc. So we weren't always able to use everything he brought, or we might have to clean stuff up before we start working with it, but his heart is always in the right place.

I miss my Mom. She could "make a silk purse out of a sow's ear." She was a wizard with box cake mixes and could cook fish and wild game as well as anything from the grocery store. She was good at improvising because with having had six kids within 10 years, she had to be. Her penmanship was impeccable and she really knew how to squeeze the last drop out of a dollar.

I remember when she went to buy a used car, she wore a pair of white dress gloves. The salesman made an offer, too much in Mother's opinion, so she said nothing, just began to put her gloves on. The salesman, fearful of losing a customer, enthusiastically began to come down in price, so she took her gloves off and laid them in her lap to listen to his offer. This process was repeated several times until my mother was satisfied that it was a fair price.

My parents divorced when I was 18, and Mother took all 6 of her children and bought a small home in Lake Jackson, not far from where I've lived for 32 years. Gutsy. Talk about tenacity! I think of all the women who stay in contentious relationships because they are fearful they cannot make it on their own. Mom was afraid of June bugs, but that's about all.

With reflection comes much gratitude for all that life has given me.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

It's Nice To Share/Are We There Yet?

"We have got to stop meeting like this", I told the receptionist/cashier at the pediatrician's office when Ella, Brennan and I left for the fourth time in less than a week.  Ella had what the doctor referred to as "a nasty ear infection".  Antibiotics.  Next, Brennan was diagnosed with the flu.  His appointment was for 4:40pm and we finally got home about 7pm, after chasing from one pharmacy to the other, trying to fill the prescription for Tamiflu, which everybody seems to be out of.  When we opened the package, there were pills for our four year old Brennan to swallow.  We swapped it for liquid and within 10 hours, he was like brand new.  It actually took longer to GET the correct meds than it did for the meds to take effect. Then, the day after, Ella complained with her throat, as it turned out, because she had strep throat. Different antibiotics. The day after that, Brennan spiked a high fever and we learned he also had strep.  More antibiotics.  If they could only learn to share everything else as well as they do their germs!

Naturally, they recovered in plenty of time to attend Maddie's birthday party in Pearland on Friday evening, but were completely spent, weakened, I suppose after a week in the infirmary and on the way home, expressed that they were tired of being in the car and "how much longer" was it going to take.  Anna and Ella fell asleep, but Brennan was awake and as we drove into Lake Jackson, he began to recognize a few familiar buildings and businesses.  "Mama, what land are we in?" he asked, wanting to know if we were close to home.  We tried not to laugh, but didn't have much luck.  The kids keep us in stitches with their innocent vocabulary as their minds develop.   I could share much more, but the censors would be all over us.

God's Country

He's gone.  My Daddy-in-law quietly passed away this evening and I will be forever grateful that yesterday afternoon, Chelle and I had an opportunity to visit him in Houston one last time.  

I wish you could have known him.  The quintessential gentleman, always impeccably groomed, a good dancer with the social proficiency of a diplomat.  In later years, when his sweetheart and wife was ailing, he took impeccably good care of her, without so much as a single complaint, and nothing else put the light in his eyes like talking about his children and grandchildren.

Knowing how intelligent and friendly he is, it saddened me to see him trapped in a phase void of memories.  Because he lived a full life, Dad now has countless wonderful experiences to remember again.  

I will miss him terribly until I follow, not only because I feel like I have lost another little part of my husband, but because Dad was always kind and made me feel loved.  But it does make me smile to think that now, he is literally in God's country.  Love you, Dad.  


Friday, September 18, 2009

This Birth That We Call Death

Earlier today I received a call from my late husband's sweet sister, Marsha, to inform me that my beloved Daddy-in-law is rapidly failing, both mentally and physically.  We've known for some time that he was easing away from us with Alzheimer's and now, his body is catching up with his mind. I tell you this, because I have already begun the grieving process.  

When I returned home from my granddaughter, Maddie's birthday party tonight, I had a message on my machine from Marsha's Jon, letting us know that Dad has taken a turn for the worse, that they don't expect him to live much past the weekend, if that long. My heart is so heavy and yet, I am buoyed up when I visualize the joyful reunion with his wife, whom he adores, his son Michael who adores him, and others that have gone before. 

My wise friend, Virgie, once confided in me that she thinks of death with parallels of the birthing process.  Some departures from this frail existence happen slowly and methodically, while others can be so untimely and quick that there is little time to take it all in. Her husband, for instance, passed away suddenly and unexpectedly, in the middle of the night, just as many babies have come into this world.  But I think of my mother's passing; gradual and predictable, not unlike an infant, making that difficult passage through the birth canal, with our knowledge that a grand event is eminent.  Now, I never fail to think about the comparison of childbirth, when faced with the parting of a loved one.

The irony is, today we celebrate several birthdays other than Maddie's.  My brother-in law, John, was born on this day and more recently, my beautiful granddaughter, Amelia Grace. Our friends, the Ashtons, presented us with a brand new baby girl this week.  My husband, Mike died on his daughter Tracie's birthday and I lost a cousin yesterday to cancer. It is no wonder that in preparation for death, our thoughts are appropriately drawn toward the connection with new life.   

Tonight, I savor the cherished memories I have of this extraordinary man that I have loved and admired from the very first introduction.  Dad would be 90 years old in November and I am aware that nobody is getting out of this world alive, but I often find comfort in the following quote I'll have to paraphrase . . .

"Aren't we grateful that God doesn't leave the details up to us?  When, oh when, would we ever be willing to let go of those we love?"  I am hoping I will have time to visit Dad once more, even though he no longer knows me or will even know that anyone is there at all.  This, I do for me.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Sometimes They Call Me Aaron

Now that the dust has settled, I can relate MY first day of school.  Monday, we stood outside the door of the Pre-K class, waiting for the "gate" to open, allowing little ones inside for a brand new world of experiences.  In anticipation, Brennan was balancing on the hand rail while we spoke to a fellow classmate, AJ, who has a hearing loss and was slightly difficult to understand, so I thought he might have trouble with Brennan's name, since it is not common.  I told AJ that my grandson's name was Brennan, or sometimes we call him Bren or even Brenny. Without even looking up, Brennan said, ". . . and sometimes they call me Aaron".  So very true.  AJ's mother looked a tad confused ~ was Aaron a middle name? A nickname? When I explained it is my youngest child's name, she gave me an immediate knowing look.  To be fair, I call my son Aaron, "Brennan" just as often. Seems it happens in most families.  I know my own mother, on a regular basis,  used to go down the list of six children, ignoring gender differences and surrendering to "oh well, whatever your name is!"  My sisters and I were also often called by our aunts' names, according to their birth order and ours. I am hoping it is not necessarily because we have similar characteristics or personalities, but more about how the human mind works ~ or in the case of mothers, how it is OVERworked.

Ella has been ready for Kindergarten for at least a year, so her excitement was palpable. She is the most animated member of Jen's family, and her dancing around with an indelible smile on her face was not surprising.  Anna, who shares her uncle Aaron's motto regarding school ~ "it takes up all your time", was even ready and willing to begin. Typically, she'd much rather be outside looking for critters or riding her bike but she's experienced a major metamorphosis this summer and is now quite the young lady (yet still likes to ride her bike to the ditch to forage for varmints).  The thing I am most grateful for this year is that all three of Jen's kids attend the school where Jen teaches.  I can't help but feel it is a huge blessing, like an emotional umbrella or security blanket for the children to sense, in their current circumstance, that their mother is always nearby. For a short time, Anna attended a school other than the one where her mother was working, and I don't think even Jen liked it.  Next year, Anna will advance to a different campus, but for now, all the planets are aligned.

Perhaps its the new school clothes that make the older girls' attitudes seem agreeable, but for whatever reason, even Ciara and Cheyenne appeared ready for all the new challenges that lay ahead. Ciara's a new cheerleader this year and is already staying late for volleyball.  Chey knows this will be a difficult year with taking dual college courses and continuing to work part time, but is braced and planning to pace herself for the whole of it.  Bright and beautiful people all around me.

Chelle said Graham, Zach and Maddie were all appropriately cheerful about the beginning of the new school year too.  I racked my brain for a memory of a time that any of my children or grandchildren were less than excited about a first day at school, and I can't recall a single tear, unless you count my own personal tears of joy.  At a young age, I found it disheartening when I'd hear parents count down the days until the first day of school, thinking to myself, "if you'd raise your children with love, they would be a joy to you instead of a nuisance". Call it foolishness. Call it being naive . . . heck, call it Karma!  Now I'm one of 'em! Only I've been counting the hours instead of the days!!  I just don't understand it ~ we DID raise ours with love and they ARE a joy to us. I love cheesecake too, but I don't want it 3 times a day, every day without a break!  So all is right with the world.  School is back in session.

It goes back to the adage, "Always leave 'em wanting more".  I can hardly get through a day without the grandkids, but I have been known to say that "sometimes, the best part of the visit is the tail lights of the car!"  I told Jennifer, our resident teacher, that in my humble opinion, year-round school would be better than having to spend the first two months every new year reviewing all that was forgotten during the summer from last year. Think of it!  Families could even camp out when its cooler or take winter vacations to someplace that actually gets snow more frequently than once every decade or two.  The teacher said no.  Asked and answered.


Friday, August 7, 2009

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Repairman

I have a five burner gas Jenn Air stove top that I was deep cleaning in honor of my sister Stacey's impending visit.  Having removed the knobs, I was wiping down the surface of the controls when somehow I must have triggered the electric starter, as the right front burner began to "click" like it was trying to turn on. Regardless of what I tried to do, nothing worked and the clicking would not stop. I called the appliance store where it was purchased and spoke to a woman in the service department who quickly informed me that I must have gotten it wet and I'd just have to let it dry out.  Sounded logical, but that clicking was really getting to me so I took a hair dryer to it for longer than it should have needed and no luck. Still clicking.  After 30 minutes, I called her back and told her I did not think that was the problem. She said it might take several hours. Inquiring what time they closed, I began to think I might need to throw in the towel and have a repairman come out and take a look at it before business hours were over.  She had a snide, pompous laugh when she assured me there was no way anyone could come before Wednesday.  This was Monday morning.  I'm committed to be in Houston all day on Wednesdays, so it would have to be at least Thursday. Not so much was I impatient, as I was irritated that she was totally indifferent to my cause, so I confidently announced I'd simply call someone else!  (Here in these parts we refer to that as "cutting off your nose to spite your face".)

While I was pondering what to do next, I made a not-very-hopeful phone call to my brother Dan and asked if he had any suggestions. He instructed me to locate the outlet that the stove top is plugged into (under the countertop, in the cabinet) and unplug it. I did.  Problem solved.
The only inconvenience was that I had to use a match to light a burner.  Big deal. Next day I plugged it in and it started clicking, but by Thursday, it no longer clicked when plugged in!

There are several lessons to be learned from this experience: 

1) What does it say about their appliances that there are so many calls, they can't schedule you for over 48 hours? Are that many of their appliances needing repair?
2) If an appliance is working properly, do not, under any circumstance, deep clean it.
3) If you wait long enough, a broken appliance will repair itself.

A Tale of Two Cities Vacation

"It was the best of times.  It was the worst of times." (from Charles Dicken's " Tale of Two Cities") My sister, Stacey, from Yorba Linda, CA is here for a visit. She tries her best to come three or four times a year and while she is here, it is much like a circus in an elevator. All 6 of us siblings (and spouses and children, etc) and our Dad gather to join in the festivities every day and night. There is little sleeping, but a lot of eating, racquetball, shopping, grooming & pampering, movies, old stories to retell and enough belly laughs to sustain us until the next trip.  In the process, new memories are made to retell another day. It ain't over yet, as Stacey doesn't fly out until Monday early.

After a fun-filled girls' day out today, we had a fish fry at my sister, Dawn's.  The cousins were running and squealing through the house when 3 year Juliett took a hard spill onto the tile floor and split her head open. ( They really know how to shut down a party.)  A scary amount of blood. Emergency Room. A miserable "all nighter" at the hospital, since it is not only summer, but also the start of the weekend, resulting in an increased number of patients. 

I remember a couple years ago when Jon took Brennan to the ER with a gash in his chin from a nasty fall in the bathtub.  After four hours into the late night, they gave up and went home, never having seen a doctor at all.  They cleaned the wound and put a butterfly closure on it. 

Do-it-yourself healthcare.  We're gonna be seeing a lot more of it.

Post Script:  Juliett finally had a half-dozen stitches after waiting from 9:30 pm until about 3:30 am.  She was extremely patient and brave in the ER with no sign of any residual problems. In fact, she was over tonight for a few minutes and enjoyed romping with her cousins again.

Friday, July 17, 2009

A Sign of the Times

Some years ago when my children were of a tender age, one of the house rules was, if they wanted to see a new movie, it had to be previewed by me before they had permission to watch it.  I learned to LOVE that rule because it afforded me with lots of opportunities to catch "Dollar Night" on Tuesdays at the theater alone, while Mike took care of business at home.  It was, of course, a hard job, but something I was willing to bear up under for the sake and safety of my little ones.

Recently, a couple girlfriends and I have been enjoying frequent movie nights in my home. After watching Ryan Gosling in "Lars and the Real Girl" and "The Notebook" for the umpteenth time, I researched additional movies he starred in and found several, but none of them appeared to be the type of movie I would prefer.  I told Jen that I'm tempted to see them anyway but was concerned that if they were a disappointment, it could possibly mar the affection I feel for Lars and Noah  (characters in his movies).  "Don't worry," Jen said to me, "I'll watch them and let you know if they are appropriate for you."  

Ah, the comforts of my newly- acquired role reversal!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Drowning in Tomatoes

What is it about me that makes me forget I am not a 25 year old pioneer woman??

We had the opportunity to order fresh and reasonably priced produce from a local farmer through the church, so I did.  I know my limitations physically so I paced myself, but the more I ordered, the more I decided I'd just share with my family and friends.  I gave away corn on the cob, squash, cucumbers, watermelons, and cantaloupes, but kept all the tomatoes. 

A friend of mine had ordered tomatoes and bell peppers, but when the produce arrived, she realized they were going to be moving and she would be unable to work with it, so I bought her portion.  What was I thinking!?!  I was already swimming in lycopene!

As usual, one of my kids had to bail me out.  Chelle came down and we made 3 different recipes of salsa retrieved from Google and finally determined which was our favorite.  The first day we turned out 36 quarts, not pints, but quarts of yummy salsa.  We scheduled a second canning day before the vegetables went bad and produced yet another 18 quarts for a grand total of 54!! It worked out okay because some time ago, Chelle had expressed a desire to learn how to can something.  Talk about baptism by fire!  See, you have to be so careful about what you ask for.

I am so like my dad in this respect.  He thinks he is still 30 years old, 12 ft tall and bullet-proof! His frustration peaks when he gets into a project that he is unable to complete because it is usually a job for Superman.  Daddy is only 87, but becomes short of breath when he tries to do too much.  So, like me, he calls in reinforcements . . . usually my brother, Dan.  I guess neither of us are ready to throw in the towel on life.  We always imagine we can handle it ourselves. I'm just grateful we still have others around that are there for us when we get in a bind.  "It's not that I'm old, it's just my age."  

Monday, July 13, 2009


(If the title puts Gomer Pyle in your head, mission accomplished.)  

A week ago last Thursday afternoon (July 2nd), Chelle came down from Pearland to "help" me clean and organize.  (Remember the old adage, "Me and Daddy killed a bear, Daddy shot it"?) That's Chelle doing all the work.  Anyway, in a frenzy, she made the house presentable for guests and just as she sat down for a well-deserved break, there was a knock at the door.  

My Aaron, Lisa and their 22 month old daughter, Amelia (aka Millie) from Utah were on my doorstep.  I had no idea they were coming.  Aaron is really big on surprises.  Chelle and Jen knew about the visit, but no one else.  We were all surprised.  That's the way he likes it.

It's been a whirlwind nine days of plenteous laughter and loving, not to be outdone by eating. We even managed to have some family photos taken by a sweet friend of ours.  Aaron did several much-needed honey-do jobs for me and demonstrated his cooking prowess a couple of times.  Lisa treated us to some beautiful piano music and kept my kitchen clean, in spite of our constant efforts to leave it in a mess.  We were all entertained by Amelia's antics.  Her mother is good to share Millie with us on her blog, but sadly, it is not the same as being able to love on her in person.  What a precious little thing!

When any one of my kids is out of pocket, I go to sleep with a nagging feeling that something is slightly amiss.  I know that all is well enough with them, but somehow, my world seems incomplete.  For nine days, my life was whole again.  I will admit that in an era when most families are scattered in order to go where the work is, I am fortunate to have the majority of my family nearby.

So they left last Saturday (July 11th) and I tried to be brave but alas, I am not very proficient at it.  When I was a child and we left from a visit to my grandmother's house, I remember thinking it was foolish that she would always cry.  After all, we had stayed a whole two weeks, and we'd be coming back again the next summer!  Not only have I become my mother, I've apparently become my grandmother.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

Officially, I am a wimp.  For more than a few years, I used to go as a leader, to girls' camp with church, for 6 days in seemingly unbearable heat and humidity, but always leaving camp with a sense of accomplishment for surviving and with the knowledge that I'd do just fine in the event of disaster, etc.  The first 3 days were always miserable, while my body attempted to physically adjust to the elements.  Irritable, too hot to eat (or to be very happy about having to build a fire and cook over it), couldn't drink enough water and sleeping (or not) on sheets that were completely wet from humidity. Then, magically as the 4th day was born,  I felt I would live to enjoy camping once again. Absolutely nothing had changed except me.  I had somehow become "climatized".  

However, when we came back from hurricane evacuation last year, we were 12 days without power and I did not experience a positive change in myself on the 4th day. In fact, I was growing less comfortable with each passing day!   What happened to all that resilience I was so proud of?  Age?  Infirmity?  Impatience? Entitlement?  A combination of the above?

All I know is, a couple weeks ago I had an offer from an A/C company to "check out" my cooling system for a fee and it sounded like a good idea to me . . . sort of a proactive approach to a hot summer.  Happy with their services, I felt confident I was in good shape ( a/c wise).  That was my first mistake.  Yesterday I spent the day in Houston and when I got home about 8pm last night, I found my thermostat registered at 85 degrees inside the house and the motor running like crazy for who knows how long.  

Being the sceptic I am, my initial thought was "have I been sabotaged?"   The a/c company was the first to know about it, so they came late this afternoon, replaced the culprit, waived the call out fee and for a mere total of  $300 or so for both visits, I was back in business!  I've gotta believe it was just one of life's little coincidences.  Hence, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it!"

During the wait though, I was reminded slightly of camp and hurricane season.   Too hot to care about much of anything except parking myself under a ceiling fan and being grateful that at least I have electricity.  It's amazing how energized I became two minutes after it began to cool off in the house.  Visions of cleaning house, laundry and the various details of homemaking made me almost giddy enough to get busy.  Almost.   

Saturday, June 13, 2009

New Favorite Movie

Being the self-professed movie enthusiast that I am, I've seen quite a few movies since school let out for the summer, as I have more time now to waste, I mean, to expand my mind.

Of late, a new favorite has surfaced. My Chelle innocently saw it by chance and because she knows me and my taste in films, recommended it to me. It was already on my Netflix queue, but she went as far as to bump it up for me so it would come quicker. I am so happy she did. I've seen it twice and tomorrow I'm gonna put everybody in straightjackets if need be so my other two daughters can see it (and I can watch it again)!

Lars and the Real Girl, starring Ryan Gosling (of The Notebook and Remember the Titans, among others) is NOTHING like I thought it would be and after a slow start, had me hanging on every word. It was an amazing observation of psychology with a combination of sweet humor, love and sorrow, all at the same time. Gosling is the master of facial expressions, proving that one picture is indeed worth a thousand words. The supportive roles, especially by Lars'  brother, sister-in-law and female co-worker were amazing. The script is much deeper than seems at first glance. I am reminded that "slow but sure, wins the race." 

It surpassed "Dan In Real Life" as my all-time favorite movie. There was only one noticeable inappropriate word in the whole story, (I know, Jen, only a little garbage in the brownies) but it was pure human interest, my favorite!

When I especially enjoy a film, I like to watch the Selected Features afterward. Learning all about the making of a movie endears it to me even more. Lars and the Real Girl will be the very next purchase for my limited collection. I buy few movies because they are so easy and inexpensive to rent, but the thought-provoking ones, I must own. My counsel would be to run, do not walk, to the nearest rental and if you don't like it, well then, we just don't have the same taste in movies. But I loved it enough that it continues to randomly occupy my idle thoughts.

P.S. We all watched it again today. Still love it, but apparently there are several more than the one inappropriate word in the movie. Didn't notice it so much when there were no children around to protect. Guess I'm not the best critic unless you count double standards.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Dreams Can Come True

My brother Dan's employer requires him to travel to the Dallas area monthly for meetings and I am always invited to ride along to visit friends, or the many family members on our Dad's side that live there.  

This time, I made arrangements for someone to teach my adult Sunday School class and  jumped at the chance to go.  As you may remember, my previous blog entry described a dream that brought on a persistent pining for my friend Dave and his family.  

Dan and I left about noon on Sunday and met Dave at an agreed upon destination where he scooped me up.   Like a tall drink of water on a scorching day, the long overdue visit was every bit as pleasant as I had imagined it would be.  

Sadly, Dave and I did not find ourselves participating in any garage band performances as my dream had implied, but their home is lovely, beautifully decorated as only Gil could, and their children were so delightful, it made me miss my own little ones that I left behind for all of 36 hours.  I stayed in an amazingly comfortable guest room and even slipped in a nap today!  We did what friends do . . . we hugged, we ate, we chatted about nothing of any significance and yet, it was exactly what I needed to make my dream come true.

Dan and I safely arrived back home tonight at 9pm (as he predicted) and I am now content to carry on with my abundantly blessed life.  Thank you one and all!!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Uplifting Conversations

If it weren't for the daily trips in the car, where one is a captive audience, I would rarely be privileged to know what goes on in the deep recesses of my grandchildren's minds.  Case in point:  While I was driving, one of them (they sound identical sometimes and I was so blown away, I didn't think to care which one it was) asked me, "How old is Mr. Moreno?  Is he younger than you or older?  Who is the oldest of you and him?"  Please be advised that Zeke Moreno is the gentleman who mows my yard for me.  He retired from Dow Chemical as a bus driver where he picked up employees from the gate and drove them to their destinations inside the plant.  He knows my dad from Dow and also my late husband, Michael.

Back in 1997 when the effects of simultaneous chemo and radiation rendered Mike unable to do yard work, he refused to let me or my daughters do it but finally relented when I asked him if Mr. Moreno could start mowing for us on a regular basis so he's been doing it ever since.  Zeke wears a mask when he works, because he has allergies that have developed into pneumonia more than once, but it isn't like the kids have never seen him without it!  He is 87 years old, wears hearing aids in both ears and works circles around most individuals, especially me.  As if keeping my yard looking good isn't enough, Zeke brings me vegetables from his garden!
Although I get around like I'm at least 90, I definitely am the younger.  In fact, he is the kind of person I aspire to be when I grow up, which apparently, from the looks of things, won't be long. It's a good thing that I love my grandchildren unconditionally.  

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

I Had A Dream

Growing up, I seldom dreamed anything I could remember but since I have "matured", I find the need to swallow half a Benadryl at night to sleep and a pleasant side benefit is that I have memorable dreams almost every night.

This time it was about my good friend, Dave.  You see, he served an honorable mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in this area some time ago and immediately became one of my favorite people.  Dave then carried a photograph of his exquisite girlfriend waiting back home, Gillian (who he referred to as his "Babalicious").  Upon his return, they married, had a gaggle of children and are presently living the dream (not this one, but their's).  Dave has a great job, they have literally tons of friends, absolutely beautiful children and Gillian, an extraordinary individual in her own right, is the quintessential woman behind the man.

So, you know how bizarre dreams can get . . . apparently I went to see Dave's family and he and I wound up playing in a garage band.  I was on the drums (see addendum to this blog) and Dave had an electric guitar, sort of crouched down, hiding behind someone, acting all shy.  If you knew Dave like I know Dave, you'd acknowledge how weird THAT is.  Dave may be many things to many people, but none of them include his being shy.  He leans more toward gregariousness. There he was, looking as handsome as ever.  In contrast to most of us who actually age, Dave is more like Benjamin Button, seeming to grow younger every year.  

Alas, in the time it has taken me to post this entry, I have forgotten the remainder of the dream.  But as we so often ask ourselves after a dream, " what does it mean?"  I have decided that I must be missing them and should make arrangements to go visit sometime when I am awake.  That explains why someone shows up in my dreams that I may or may not have seen in the last few decades.  Out of nowhere, the strangest of acquaintances appear in my slumber when I least expect them. 

There are so many of those neglected visits that come to mind.  I am sure hoping that in the hereafter, it will somehow be the standard to be able to mingle with all those we love . . . that missing someone will no longer be an affliction like it is in this life. 

Addendum:  Once upon a time, long long ago, I had been riding in the sweltering heat, suffocating humidity and relentless mosquitos on a trail ride.  Usually there was a wagon adjoining us that carried cold water and soft drinks, but this particular year, they were out of everything but beer, a staple on trail rides.  

 At one point we stopped to rest when my dad drove up to check on me and my horse.  I shared my pitiful story with him and even though there was little he could do about the elements, he could surely get me something to quench my thirst. Off he went and I assumed he would find the nearest convenience store, but he quickly returned with a HUGE container of ice cold beer from said wagon.  Sorely underage, I questioned it about two seconds and sitting down, I chugalugged the beer, which contained ice crystals, something I had never enjoyed so much before (nor since).  When I stood up, it was clear to me that I was much more than rehydrated.

Very shortly after, we stopped at our destination for the night and the typical festivities began, to include a small band on a stage set up high, nearly in the trees.  Feeling "enlightened" from my previous beverage, somehow I managed to find myself talking to the drummer, who convinced me it was so easy to play the drums for slow country music, kind of an oom-pa-pa beat and he showed me how to do it.  It WAS easy!

When Daddy came to pick me up, he looked all around, but finally found me up on the stage, pounding out the heartbeat for some slow country song and he was so excited, he immediately bought a second-hand trap set.  Hoping I was a child prodigy (or an organ-grinder monkey), he would implore me to play for company who might drop by.  With no obvious talent, not having had the benefit of lessons,  or even some background music to accompany me, I just froze.  I'm sure it's not the only time he's ever been disappointed in me, but I'd bet it's right up there at the top.

Good parents know the importance of exposing their children to an eclectic assortment of activities to learn what they may be naturally good at.  Apparently, without the influence of a huge bucket of ale, I cannot play the drums.  At all.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Angels In The Produce Department

It isn't a huge news flash, but I feel it needs to be shared.  There are still really good people out there who do small random acts of kindness that restore one's faith in humanity.  

Saturday evening, Jennifer bravely took all three of her children to a local grocery store with her. (She had offers to watch the kids but gracefully declined, determined to take the whole bunch.) While they were in the produce area, one of the children spotted some yummy-looking cherries and asked if they could get some.  Wise shopper that she is, Jen noticed them priced at a whopping $8 per pound and told her they "could not afford those" and moved along. But before they got too far away, an employee who obviously overheard their conversation, came over with a bag of cherries that had a big orange neon sticker on it, showing they were on sale for only $1 a pound.

I've heard that LIFE itself is just a bowl of cherries, but I sincerely hope that sweet person receives a star in their crown (on judgement day) for the small, thoughtful gestures that make such a difference.  On the outside chance that you might feel sorry for the store because they failed to make a profit on that "sale", rest assured. . . even though they are not the cheapest store in town, I will be doing a great deal more of my shopping there to make up the difference.

When Jen told me about it, a smile came into my mind.  Years ago, when I had her at the grocery store and she asked for something that I was about to explain to her we couldn't get because we weren't going right home and it would spoil in the car, before I could get the explanation out she said with a sigh, "I know, it's too expendable!" (meaning too expensive) Sounds like Jennifer may have also been disappointed a time or two before.  Sorry folks, some items are simply not worth the money they are asking us to fork over.  The sooner we can come to terms with that, the better off we will be.  However, I am happy my grandchildren got to have some yummy cherries.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


We are a happy family. We have fun. In fact, we have so much fun that we never want to go to bed and risk missing something exciting. Sleep deprivation is a serious problem in our nation but particularly in our family. It can cause all kinds of problems, but most noticeable is the irritability. Melissa's kids can fall asleep on cue and sleep 'round the clock if time permits. Chelle's kids are asleep in a timely manner night after night.

But Jen and Jon have NEVER had early-to-bed-early-to rise children. They are better described as late-to-bed-early-to-rise children. With so much energy to burn, they are like Apache horses, they run and run until they fall over from complete exhaustion, unless they begin the Battle of the Bed . After the typical playing hard outside, supper, homework, bathes, reading, etc., the trouble starts with the gambit of excuses after they are put to bed, i.e. "thirsty, hungry, dizzy, sore throat, scared, itchy, headache, the others are bothering me, ( and the heart-rendering) I just want to give you one more kiss and a hug". I've spent the night there enough times to witness Jen trying all the right things. The Supernanny techniques, withholding privileges, substantial rewards for good behavior, and good ol' corporal punishment. The little ones just don't want to give it up.

So, this morning, I scraped the bottom of the barrel of grand parenting for something that might make a difference. Since all their middle names should have been "go", we are grounded until further notice. . . no pre-school today, which resulted in broken hearts. These kids are extremely social and would much rather have a beating. Since I love the three free hours to run errands or clean house, I'D almost rather have a beating, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

Not only no pre-school today, but if tonight is a repeat, there will be no play group tomorrow. Thursday is not only pre-school again, but a field trip to the fire department! Often on Friday, I try to take them to the mall to play on the Dow furniture, but oh well, if they can't go to sleep without being put in restraints or being heavily sedated (just kidding, CPS), they will not get to partake of said festivities. And I will be sad too. Keep your fingers crossed for us!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Another Milestone

Friday afternoon on April 24, 2009, a few of us were able to attend the Commencement for UTMB in Galveston for Melissa Dawn McCauley.  In December, she received her Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing, but we wanted to enjoy the entire pomp and circumstance at the graduation ceremony. 

 Jen couldn't get off work, but Chelle and I took Ella and Brennan.   Cheyenne and Ciara saved seats for us so we were able to sit together and it was a proud time for all of us. Chelle even had an opportunity to poke fun at me for tearing up when the music for the processional started. That stinkin' music has the same affect on me as the wedding march, auld lang syne, Silent Night or any other notable piece that rings in a momentous occasion.  It brings me to tears every time. 

Shortly after Melissa's name was called and she walked across the stage, the youngest two became restless so Chelle took them outside and next door to shake their wiggles out (thank goodness for her)!   Ciara and Cheyenne looked just beautiful and are always so well-behaved that we enjoy being with them.   Often they can be hilarious.  For instance . .  

There was a gathering Saturday evening in my home to celebrate my aging and becoming  and more feeble.  All three of my girls were there with 5 of my grandchildren.  It was Ciara's turn to shine. Melissa told the story of Chey's trip to the dentist recently. . . an outing that Cheyenne used to hate with a passion.  Then, they discovered nitrous oxide.  Well, it was already discovered, but Dr. Bell offered to use it with Cheyenne, who has found new joy in having dental work done.  The thing you should know about Dr. Bell is that he is absolutely determined none of his patients will have the slightest bit of pain, so he deadened her up really well.  She resembled something between Popeye and  a stroke victim.  

It reminded Ciara of the comedy routine that Bill Engvall does where a man was asked what he did for a living, when he arched his eyebrow and says, "What do you THINK I do for a living?Look at my face.  I'm a pilot!"   So, Ciara quipped that if someone asks Cheyenne the same question, she will have to say, (with one side of her face all scrunched), "What do you THINK I do for a living? Look at my face.  I sell snow cones!"   It was one of those local jokes (you woulda had to have been there, because I have not the words to describe what we saw).  We laughed a long time over that.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Ah, The Still Small Voice

My daughter, Melissa has always been a good listener. Even if she might not see the need to act on it, there was never any question that she heard, understood, and retained what was said.

A couple days ago an employee at BASF, and personal friend of Melissa's, called the health clinic and said she was concerned about a co-worker who was diabetic and wasn't "doing well". She asked if Melissa could come over there and just check on her. Since Melissa knew this person well, she might have been tempted, but was inspired to tell her right away to officially call the ambulance and she'd come with it.

When she arrived, the patient was in insulin shock and completely unresponsive. Melissa tried to give her some glucose orally but wasn't even able to do that. They put her in the ambulance and headed for the hospital. It has been a lot of years since Melissa started an IV (since that isn't done in the health clinic), but she was able to get it on the first "stick" . . . in a moving ambulance, no less! A short time later, she left the woman feeling much better. The moral of the story here is, even when it's a personal friend calling for a favor, it is far more professional to stay within policy and try to focus on the matter at hand. It also doesn't hurt to be in tune with that all-important "still, small voice". Good listening, Missy!!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

It's The Little Things

Linens beg to be out on a clothesline to dry. Years ago, my Mike set in concrete, an umbrella clothesline for me so it wouldn't take up too much room in the back yard, but I could hang my sheets out to dry and I LOVED it. After a number of years, it fell apart. Couldn't have anything to do with the fact that my older grandchildren loved climbing up and hanging from it.

It brings to mind the scripture (from Latter-day Saint revelation in the Doctrine and Covenants), in 3 Nephi 13:19-21, "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and thieves break through and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." On more than one occasion, I have admitted to myself that I love a particular inanimate object more than I should. I have lived long enough to see that very object rust, tarnish, corrode or as in the case of my clothesline, fall apart.

But I missed my clothesline! One of my fondest memories is of my sister-in-law (Mike's sister), Marsha, who visited us and took a nap in front of an open window with a breeze, on a bed made with freshly dried linens from my clothesline and remarked at what a pleasant experience it was. That made me so happy, not to mention all the money I've saved over the years by not using an electric dryer. So, recently, my brother-in-law, Brad (my sister Kat's hubby) ordered me a replacement clothesline. I am a whole woman again!

Fast forward to last week, when I put my grandchildren down for a nap, my 4 year old Brennan pulled the fresh sheet up to his face and said, "Nana, this smells really good!" It made me smile, I thought of Marsha and thanked him. He said it several more times. Not only a young child, but a male child! Who woulda thought he'd even notice? It's not a big thing, but it's the little things in life that seem to always put a smile in your heart. My Mike used to leave me lots of little notes written on whatever scrap of paper he had close by. Like I found one in his dresser drawer thanking me for the clean, folded clothes he was always grateful to find there. If it was beans and cornbread for supper, he described it as "a meal fit for a king!" I could go on forever because today marks the 9th year since his death (Friday, April 14, 2000) and I miss him. Not because he was a good provider or because he single-handedly remodeled our home or helped me be a better person, but I miss the little things. He made me feel pretty, even when I knew I looked frumpy. He had a forgiving heart and was almost always the first one to say "sorry" and mean it. He hated gossip and kept me in check. He was strong physically but had a gentle touch and what you saw in public, was exactly what he was in private. No hypocrisy.

I especially miss his creativity and humor. Once after a lengthy grocery shopping trip, I came in the front door to find him and my young son Aaron, sprawled out on the floor, like you might see at a crime scene, with a sheet of notebook paper at each one's side. In large letters, the note next to Aaron said, "DIED OF STARVATION", the note next to Mike said, "DIED WHILE TRYING TO SAVE SON". I'll never know how they kept from laughing. The notes were written with a black Sharpie pen. Oh how Mike loved those pens! He had about 40 of them in his desk at work. See, it's the little things that you remember, but they add up to a lot of sweet, sweet memories. Can't wait to be with him again.

Sunday, April 12, 2009


With every passing day that I approach the possibility of meeting my Maker, I grow to love Easter more. Without the hope of a resurrection, life would be impossible to bear. Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die. And yet, not only will the righteous to resurrected, but ALL. With that, I want to post my annual Ukrainian Folk Tale . . . it helps me wrap my mind around the connection between the Savior's sacrifice and decorating eggs, which is a tradition we have always enjoyed so I'm glad it is deemed appropriate:


"One day a poor peddler went to the marketplace to sell a basket of eggs. He came upon a crowd mocking a man who staggered with a heavy cross on which he was about to be crucified. The peddler ran to his aid, leaving the basket by the roadside. When he returned, he found the eggs transformed into exquisite designs of bright colors. The man was Christ; the peddler, Simon. And the eggs were to become the symbol of rebirth for all mankind."

I hope we spend this day with those we love, rejoicing in the season of hope and blessed reunions. Happy Easter!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Bahama-Mama with Cream, Please

A local man has a portable snow cone stand and makes great "Bahama-Mama" snow cones with cream. They are a favorite of all of Jennifer's kids and when they finally wear us down, we indulge them. He worked alone with a "Help Wanted" sign in the window and was often swamped with customers, so Cheyenne (my eldest granddaughter) applied for the job and was hired. Her first day there, he asked her how she learned he needed help so she explained that her Nana (me) saw the sign in the window and that her aunt (Jen) knows his mother, Shirley (who also had a stand in Angleton, close to where Jen & Jon used to live). He then said, "You knew my mother died, didn't you?" Poor Cheyenne was crushed. Jen had not told her that. She immediately began to apologetically offer her sympathy for his loss when he started to chuckle. "April Fool's!!" he said. What a thing to do to a 16 year old on her first day of a new job with a boss who she did not know. The good news is, Shirley is alive and well ~ and we will never have any trouble remembering the date she started working there.

At the Lake Jackson mall, in a children's arena, Dow Chemical donated some brightly colored, larger-than-life objects made from some kind of soft poly-vinyl, to include a car, a couch, a stack of books with one laying down, forming a ramp, a TV, and a can of paint on its side with a pool of paint on the floor. There is ample sitting room for the adults to supervise while the kids run and climb. It's free so it's one of Ella's and Brennan's special treats when they've been particularly well-behaved. If we go early, they have it to themselves. Other times, there are many little ones to make friends with. Tradition says is imperative that before we go, I have at least one quarter in my coin purse for each of them to use in the gum ball machines afterward . . . 

I suppose it is a side effect of watching cartoons, that they both look so animated at times. On our last trip to the "Dow Furniture", (what we call it), we got out of the car and waited to check for traffic before crossing into the mall. When I gave the go-ahead, Brennan threw both his arms over to the left, much like a cartoon character, let his feet spin in place for a couple seconds and shouted "Fire in the hole!!" before he took off running across the street. A Kodak moment if ever was one.

When El and Bren first wake, they almost always reach for the Wii game. (It usually short lived because soon after the contention begins, it gets shut off). Sometimes they are precious to watch and listen to, maybe sitting on the couch side by side, like a mutual admiration society, complementing each other on their performance. If Ella is beating herself up because she is behind, (is it possible she could really be fishing for complements?) Brennan reminds her all she needs to do is practice. (am I wrong to say the following is a gender thing with him seeking affirmation?) He might ask her if she thinks he's "doing good?" Affirmative. Then after a time, Ella complains that Brennan is bragging. Brennan insists he is a good sport! (he is convinced a good sport is someone who is good at sports). Absolutely fascinating study of the human species. And I get a front row seat nearly every day!!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner!

I've been lucky in love, lucky with in-laws and lucky with my lineage. I've been incredibly lucky with the family I have, to live in America, and far too many other things to mention, but I am simply not lucky at chance. So I don't play penny-ante poker, have never bought a lottery ticket in my life and didn't gamble a nickel on my one and only trip to Vegas. Therefore, it only makes sense that I never win anything. If I do purchase, say, raffle tickets for a fund-raiser, it is purely for donation's sake. I have never won and don't expect to.

However, a recent contribution to the classical radio station KUHF in Houston (88.7 on your dial) automatically entered me in a contest and amazingly enough, I WON! I came home to find a congratulatory message on my answering machine, announcing an all expense paid trip for two to St. Paul, MN to attend a live broadcast of the show, "Prairie Home Companion" with Garrison Keillor. I've been a fan of the show for years so I don't have to tell you how excited I am. They said I could choose any weekend in October, so I may go early, since I don't do "cold" very well. I'll get more details later.

Speaking of chicken dinner (in the title of this entry), a couple weeks ago, Jen and I took her children and a friend of theirs out to eat. They love Chinese food and Jen said they especially like the General Tsao's spicy chicken, orange chicken and bourbon chicken from the food court at the Lake Jackson mall. When it's something they really like, they eat like refugees, so we bought a lot and none of it was thrown away.

Days later, Ella was hungry and wanted to get more "suburban chicken" from the mall. Normally, I like to educate them but 1) I thought it was so cute and 2) it saves me from explaining to others within hearing distance that we don't slink out to the food court in the mall to become inebriated on chicken that sounds like it's been soaking in alcohol. It is yummy, but it just tastes charcoal grilled. If we were at a fine-dining establishment, I might be concerned there is actually bourbon in it, but with the cost of using it for food-court food, no worries there. I'll eventually straighten Ella out, but for now, it's "suburban chicken"!

Monday, March 23, 2009

A Friend Called "Chubb-0"

It is amazing that my Michelle doesn't have identity issues. She was named Michelle Andrea after her father, Michael Andrew. We shortened it and called her Chelle for years (pronounced Shell or Shelley). Long ago, Tammy and Dana Papritz's children (now living in Oregon), dubbed her "Chelbo" and it stuck for all of us. But it has got to stop.

Today, the mother of Ella & Brennan's playmate called to see if the kids could come over to play for a while and I couldn't get to the phone, so Ella answered it for me. Recognizing a familiar voice and thinking it was Chelle, I heard her say boldly, "Hi, Chelbo!" When I got to the phone, my friend sounded slightly offended when she told me Ella had called her "Chubb-O". It took some explaining to set things right. Gratefully, she is in great shape, can run circles around me, and has an understanding heart. Why couldn't it have been one of the many sales calls I get during the day???

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Word Up!

It's Saturday. I stayed up too late last night watching a movie on TV, so it was delicious to wake up slowly this morning to the sounds of a train horn in the distance. Especially in the winter when there are no leaves on the trees to muffle the lonesome-sounding trains, it is as if they were very close by and I much prefer it to an alarm clock. My thoughts soon drift to my blog, wondering if anyone of my favorites has written anything, so here I am.

My Mike was always after me to write a book so we would have enough money for him to retire. My standard reply was, "What would I write about? I know nothing!" At least not well enough to write about it. When I was young, I wanted to be an actor. (That might explain why I derive such pleasure from movies still today) Then I looked into becoming a flight attendant (I enjoy learning about other lands and people, but am uneasy about leaving the country) I even fancied myself a writer, but suffered with an intestinal problem ... no guts! With the written word, it is so easy to be misunderstood. Even when writing letters to friends and family, I have unintentionally offended people with my warped sense of humor.

With this blog though, I am not presenting my thoughts to anyone in particular and I have not asked anyone to buy them. Still, I worry about the scrutiny. My two favorite words concerning blogging are "edit post". Even my beloved children circle like vultures, scouring for the least grammatical error ~ a misspelled word, a redundant comma, etc. I subject myself to that peril because living alone, I grow weary of talking to myself and besides, I love words!

Perhaps I inherited that from my mother who was self-educated beyond the eighth grade. Catholic school ended there and only the males in her family were allowed to further their education. The females were required to find work and contribute to the family of twelve children. Resentful but determined, Mother compensated by reading. She had a love affair with books, even the ones she never got around to reading. She also loved crossword puzzles and could not be beaten in a Scrabble game. I played her only once. Too cut-throat for me, but I did learn a lot about the love of vocabulary from her. Three things that come to mind about my mother are 1) Don't wash your hands in the kitchen sink. "We have bathrooms for that", she would say. 2) Men should not wear hats (or baseball caps) in the house and heaven forbid at the dinner table, in a restaurant or even in someone else's home.
3) Should you mispronounce or misuse a word, she would call you on it.

One of the most fun things about hanging out with grandchildren is being there when they are learning to expand their vocabulary. Brennan (4) cuts to the chase when you tell him" thank you", responding with a prompt "y'elcome" (you're welcome). No point is using two or three words when just one of your own will do.  The stuffed animal on his bed is an armadillo, not an "armajello". When he and Ella (5) clink their glasses together for a toast, in unison they quip "cheerleaders" (meaning "cheers"). The other day Ella was talking about hanging her towel up on the towel racket. (rack) Hands down, my favorite is the cross between "under arms" and "arm pits". When I tickle them in their "underpits", while singing to the tune of "Wonder Pets". . . . "underpits, underpits, who save the day" . . . the result is high pitched laughter. Occasionally I forget that underpits is not a real word.

When my children were much younger, Aaron reported (not tattled) by spelling out that Jennifer was saying "C- A -R- P!!" The misspelling of the word resulted in a family tradition. So today, in our family, when we are tempted to say a crude word, we just say carp (like the fish) instead. Aaron reminds me that if we are using a substitute word (like freakin'), that we may as well say the real word. It does sound suspiciously like something I may have told him (a hundred times), but as I mature, I've come to realize not all that I thought was wisdom, was wise. Apparently, I prefer the substitute words. For instance, the quickest way to ruin a movie for me, is to clutter it up with gutter talk. It is never, I repeat, never ever necessary. Even if it's about the gutter. I have an imagination and I'm not afraid to use it.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Remember That New Car Smell?

Only once in my life did I have a brand new, drive-off-the- lot, new car, complete with that new car smell. For some time, I took extra precautions to avoid getting little dents in the doors from other car doors and was even tempted to take the middle out of two parking spaces like I had seen some people do, but always managed to restrain myself. There was no eating (and most definitely no smoking) in the car. The first scratch on a new car is a blessing, bringing on the sigh of resignation that it is, after all, just an automobile. A mode of transportation. A machine that's whole purpose in life is to get from point A to point B faster than walking or riding a horse. Suddenly the pressure to treat it like a china doll is gone. Life is so full of much more meaningful issues, don't ya think?

One might feel like the prestige of obtaining one's license to drive is similar, in that you want to keep your driving record meticulously spotless. You subconsciously hold your breath, fearing the first citation to mar your otherwise flawless performance. Then, it happens. After that, you can breathe easier, knowing it has finally happened and you can get on with the business of living.

So this morning, on the way to school, my granddaughter, Cheyenne was involved in an accident with, gratefully, no one being seriously injured (only seriously shaken). I understand both cars will most likely be totaled, but I have learned that it is only about money and inconvenience and we can handle that.

The driver of the other car, who just happened to be a personal friend of ours from church, was extremely complimentary of Cheyenne, saying that Chey immediately got out of the car and went over to see about her. Even in a moment of great stress, Chey had her priorities straight.

Not having had the benefit of a driving school class, I remember being a newly licensed driver when MY first accident occurred. I failed to yield at a yield sign. I was raised in the country and learned to drive on rustic roads. The understanding of a yield sign had not really registered with me so it was clearly my fault. One of the back fenders had a substantial dent in it and I dreaded telling my parents about it. As I had envisioned, my father began raging about how expensive it was going to be to get it repaired and that our insurance would automatically be increased (all true), etc., etc. Then my mother came out to assess the damage, was quiet for a minute and then interrupted my daddy by saying, "Oh Ray, I could've KICKED a dent in it bigger than that!" ... at which time she dramatically kicked the fender! My dad just stopped yelling and walked off. My mom's words and actions put everything back in perspective. No one was hurt. It was only about money and inconvenience. She was my best friend for a time.

Once again, that's why EXPERIENCE is the best teacher ~ it gives you the TEST first and then the LESSON.

Now, Cheyenne can relax, armed with this new experience and focus on the present.

"Forget about the past ~ it's history,
Don't think about the future ~ it's a mystery,
Focus on the present because it is a gift,
That's why it is called 'the present'".

Monday, February 23, 2009

Unsafe Streets

The time has come ... and don't say you weren't warned. Lock your cars in the garage and pull down the shades beautiful granddaughter, Cheyenne, has been given a legal permit to drive a 3000 pound piece of machinery around on public streets, independently. It seems like just yesterday she was driving her three-wheeler, so how did this happen so fast? Yes, I know she's intelligent and careful ... but I'd much prefer to keep her in a glass case for a few more years. Sixteen years old seems younger and younger every year! But so far, so good. It helps her mom out, and her sister, Ciara, is secretly loving it. I think they both feel like they've grown wings. I'm working on the second generation of worrying and I'm getting proficient at it. Be safe, girls ... you are transporting precious cargo.

Personal Note to Tammy Papritz

Dear Tammy the Orphan,

In response to your touching and hilarious comment, I must say that I don't recall an excessive amount of time that you ever spent at my house when you were younger, which means that you must have fit in like a member of the family.

Regarding the teaching you to cook, all I did was share recipes ... you taught yourself to cook! And amazingly well, I must say.

As far as your reception, Annette Berger and I did that together. It's like saying, "Daddy and I killed a bear. Daddy shot it!" She no doubt did the lion's share, as I was always too dependent on her. That's why I've never been the same since she moved away. Much like when you did. San Antonio wasn't too bad, but Oregon?? Come on!!!

Illness, surgery or just for grins, anytime I have ever come to your house it has been for selfish reasons on my part. I cannot think of a more fun place to be or better company to be with. So, do I think of you as one of my kids? Once upon a time I used to, but not anymore. Not really. I don't even think of you as my equal. You surpassed my equal. You are my go-to girl for wise counsel, advice, an opinion or example of how to conduct myself in a difficult situation, such as a death in the family, today's economy, world affairs or just for invigorating conversation. Have you forgotten that I even entrusted one of my children to your good care for a time? Turns out, the priceless friendship that ensued has been one of the best things to have ever happened to that person. Although I do think of your children as my adopted grandchildren, you would be better described as my mentor than my child. I so much enjoy your keen sense of humor ...

When I am missing you, all I have to do is envision us at the side of your beloved grandmother's freshly dug grave, gathering flowers to make potpourri sachets for the family. The memory of your leg being sucked into the mud, like a reverent rectangle of quicksand, unable to pull yourself out, gives me a much needed belly laugh, even after all these years. I was so grateful that I had my back turned so you could not see me laughing hard, (but silently), until I heard you start laughing and accusing your poor grandmother of trying to take you with her. Right now, I can see your "white" sandal as clear as day in my mind, so covered with mud that it looked like you were barefoot, with no way in sight to wash off. Surely that is an example of what they refer to as precious memories!

Or how about the time we sabotaged the Berger's car interior the (very) early morning of their departure date of vacation? We had "Fang" the rubber snake, blasting the A/C and radio, etc so that when they started their car, they would be "surprised" and know that they were going to miss us ... I mean that we were going to miss them. Icing on the cake was filling the car with balloons that caused a patrolman to check on our proceedings toward that end. Good Times. Good Times.

So how can I call you a kid? Just because you are younger, thinner, smarter and better looking? Nope, you will have to settle for being the best little orphan I have EVER had in my life. You are immensely loved by me and my family. Don't you ever doubt it for a minute!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Laceration Laces

What will they think of next?!! I am forever proud of ALL my children with their unique personalities and individual attributes. Each one so bright and beautiful that it is truly a pleasure to be in their company. Case in point ...

A few days ago, Melissa, my eldest daughter, told us something that impressed me enough that I wanted to share it. She is a R.N., working at BASF and she saw an employee in the health clinic with a laceration about 1 1/2" on the back of her scalp. There was not a doctor available to stitch up the wound at the time and Melissa was contemplating sending her to the ER when she remembered something a doctor she had worked with long ago told her and they (she & the patient) decided to give it a try. She cleaned it well, took strands of hair from either side of the laceration, pulled them firmly and french-braided the hair to draw the laceration closed. After the appropriate number of days for healing, the french braid was simply "undone" and stitches were not necessary! Wow!! Now, you may think me simple, but that is just about the smartest thing I have heard in a very long time!!

It wasn't that long ago that this same daughter was out of town at a nursing convention when she and a fellow nurse were leaving a class that had been offered but had filled to capacity so they were unable to attend. Just as they were passing by, a gentleman was having a heart attack in the elevator. Pretty smart to have it during a nursing convention. Melissa and friend performed CPR and were successful! (During an EMT class I took, I was taught that even if you do CPR 100% correctly, the patient only has a 60% survival rate) He is alive and well. Somehow, the patient and his wife were eventually able to contact Melissa and express their gratitude. She is not the only life saver in our midst.

A couple years ago, daughter #2, Jennifer, an elementary school teacher, noticed a panic-stricken student turning blue and making guttural sounds. She asked if he was okay. He shook his head "no". She quickly did the Heimlich maneuver. Nothing.
She did it a second time and a sinister little piece of candy went flying across the room! He began to cry and she sent him to the nurse to get checked out. He was fine, but I'm guessing a little turned off by Skittles now.

Since I'm on a roll, might as share the story about Jen driving off the driveway at her grandparents house in San Felipe years ago. The back tire went flat when she landed in the culvert. My son, ( and her brother) Aaron, who was only about ten years old was in the car also. No one at her grandparent's was home at the time. That was before the event of cell phones and she didn't know any of the distant neighbors in the rural area. Frustrated and angry with herself, not knowing what to do, she began to cry. Tender heart that Aaron is, said in his little boy voice, "Don't cry, Jen-Jen ... I'll fix it!" Jennifer was grateful for his support, but skeptical of his knowledge or ability. I would be too. How could he know? But he did it. He changed that flat tire. I suppose all that hanging around with his dad paid off! He has rescued many a person stranded on the side of the road since then. It must be a gender thing. He can't help himself. Aaron is a prince of alacrity.

Daughter #3, Michelle (better known as Chelle) is a proven life saver for me regularly. When MY Mike was taking cancer treatment back in "97, she was away from home, but came back to help me help him. When he died, she stayed on with me and became my right hand. Both the other girls had family responsibilities but Chelle was single, so I leaned heavily on her.
Melissa, Jennifer and Aaron are all perfect blends of their parents and extended family, but Chelle is solid Van Horn. She is more like Mike than Mike is. After a time, she had the unmitigated gall to fall in love and marry HER Mike and move "all the way" to Pearland (about 40 minutes away). Her Mike has 3 children and she took to mothering like a duck to water, but she still continues to rescue me as needed.

I acknowledge that I am blessed far beyond merit with my "children". Color me grateful.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Clothes Do Not Make The Man

Gratefully, my father and my daddy-in-law are both still with us. My husband's father is the Jimmy Stewart in my life. "Dad", so handsome, has always been the quintessential gentleman who is meticulous about grooming and being prudent in all things social. He lives in Houston, no longer able to drive down for a visit and we miss his soft spoken wisdom and loving charm. It's easy to see why Mike grew up to be the extraordinary man he was. He learned it from his father.

My Daddy, on the other hand, lives locally and except that he is also handsome, his personality is diametrically opposed to that of "Dad". He is the John Wayne in my life. Rough, gruff, and almost deaf, but is able to fix most anything with some wire, duct tape and imagination wrapped in elbow grease. A king of improvisation. His standard uniform is a pair of coveralls and years ago, my kids dubbed him "Pinchin' Grandpa" because that is his typical approach toward affection for them, to pinch them on the neck when he greets them. He pretty much sums it up when, in describing our upbringing, he says "you kids weren't raised, you were jerked up!" (it also explains a lot about why I am the way I am :-) I am proud of both my parents and am amazed at their tenacity in bringing up six children, who all turned out to be good, productive, law-abiding citizens.

A short time ago, Jen and her children pulled into my driveway and there was a pickup parked next to my car. Jen mentioned that "Uncle Dan might be here". Her 5 year old Ella piped up with "It could be Pinchin' Grandpa. Does the truck have a scratch on the side? Is it dirty? 'Cause if it does have a scratch and it's dirty, then it's Pinchin' Grandpa's. If it's clean, then it's Uncle Dan's".

Now, I've always heard that "clothes make the man", but according to Ella, little says more about you than the car you drive. I may need to rethink my car, since I drive a '97 Honda Accord that was plenty used when I got it! Last week I emptied a can of WD40 on the door hinges so they wouldn't screech every time I opened or closed them. Then again, it does have a substantial number of miles on it and recently had to be repainted because it was down to the primer in some places, so it may be a better reflection of me than a new one would be! Besides, I enjoy the absence of a car payment, so I guess I'll just drive it a bit longer. At least my grandchildren will be able to recognize me when they see me on the street.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

I Am Nothing If Not Opinionated

Once I knew a man who appeared to be enjoying a full life. His home was lovely and he kept a manicured lawn accompanied by a vegetable garden that looked like a photo out of a Southern Living magazine. Working 16 hours a day, he was drawing lots of overtime and did his best to magnify his callings at church.

In spite of a cheerful facade, he was crumbling emotionally. Both he and his wife had serious health concerns while every one of his adult children were making poor, life-altering choices and he was physically exhausted, understandably depressed and feeling overwhelmed. In a weak moment during a short visit with me, he shared that he was unsure whether "life was worth living anymore".

And then, they wrapped his house with toilet paper. It must have been great fun because it was the best "job" of TPing I had personally ever seen. Now, in addition to the burden he was already carrying, he had the chore of cleaning up his beautiful yard, forced to leave unreachable shards of toilet paper in the tops of the trees for weeks as an embarrassing and constant reminder that he cannot do it all. Isn't that just hilarious?

Fast forward to life with my daughter, Jennifer. A mother of three beautiful young children, blessed with a full-time position as a teacher, active in church, with a supportive family and lots of friends. They have a lovely home and she is at this time, able to meet her financial obligations.

But for several years she has been plagued with chronic health problems, depending heavily on her husband at times. Then, he suddenly and unexpectedly died and she was hospitalized several times ~ even had surgery. In the midst of grief, with sole responsibility for the welfare of three very busy children, the daily quagmire of endless laundry, a job, maintaining a home and worrying about paying the bills, all the while feeling lousy physically, left her with an overwhelming sense of inadequacy. Now, that's laughable, isn't it?

And then they wrapped her house. It was about 3am and they rang the doorbell before they left, causing a panic attack substantial enough for Jen to call the police, who informed her that her yard had been wrapped. Terrified and unable to calm down, she called someone to stay the remainder of the night with her and her children Add that clean up job to her equation.

The lesson here is that we cannot possibly know what lurks in the lives of others. Victims make light of it and try to be good sports outwardly, rationalizing it away as an expression of affection for them. If I live to be a hundred years old, I will never see the humor in pouring water on a drowning man (or woman). My mother, who passed away August 2005, had lots of sayings. One of them was "Right is Right and Wrong ain't Nobody". Doesn't really make sense, but since I was raised with it, I knew it to mean that some things are just not appropriate.

May I suggest, if you want to show your love for me, place the largest package of bathroom tissue you can find, intact, on my front porch and I promise it will be welcome and appreciated every time! That's my opinion and I'm stickin' to it.

Friday, February 6, 2009

A Child's Ambition

Here in Southeast Texas, we tolerate the mosquitoes, humidity and heat so that during the winter, we can have as exquisite a day as today is. Bright sunshine, a gentle breeze, crisp air and mild temperatures.

Brennan and Ella were playing so well outside that I decided to work in the garage for a while so I could keep an eye on them since they were in the front yard. (We have a terribly busy street and little play area) After drawing on the driveway with chalk, making a "hopscotch" wannabe and rolling a basketball to each other for a time, they climbed up on the trunk of my car to watch the cars and dog walkers go by. They couldn't have been more content, sitting there like they were on the main float in a parade. Shortly, the time arrived for my garbage/recycling pickup to come. When the garbage truck came, the kids were completely enthralled, remarking about what a great job that would be! When the recycling truck followed, Ella and Brennan did some pretty serious sparring about which would be the better position to have ... driving or being the "picker-upper". Finally, they concurred. Being the picker-upper would be much preferred, no doubt about it. I feel certain the closer to driving age they become, the more they will lean toward being the driver of the truck, but for now, hanging onto the back of that slow-moving truck and getting to scoop up the plastic bags and throw them with wild abandonment into the back of the truck would just be the best job they could ever imagine!!

No stigma there. That's what makes children such fun to observe. They say exactly what is on their mind (sometimes embarrassing) and they see the positive in things even when their elders may be disillusioned by experience, stereotype, prejudice or preconception.

Days like today are my reward for hanging in there on days that are, well, let's say, days that I am less reflective.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

"Today We Sailed On"

There are some days that I feel are completely and utterly wasted. It doesn't matter if you are the caregiver of small individuals, suffer with health concerns that limit your mobility, are in what you consider to be a "dead-end job" or any other frustrating situation that prevents you from feeling accomplished, you must agree that we occasionally share that sensation.

I was having such a day when I heard a broadcast on TV from President Thomas S. Monson of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that he delivered on January 13, 2009 and it changed my thinking. You can view it also @

He cited possible scenarios such as I mentioned above and then quoted from the journal of Christopher Columbus. Surely Columbus bore the weight of tremendous responsibility and the burden of great expectations from many, including himself. Yet, what must have seemed to be an endless, day after day, view of nothing but water, he managed to keep his goal within reach. The journal entry read simply, "Today, we sailed on."

At first glance, one might consider his day wasted. They didn't accomplish any great feat. Then, I got to thinking, he faithfully continued on in his pursuit and that was no small act. As long as we keep moving in the desired direction, we improve our chances of sooner or later, reaching our destination! If we strive to be the kind of person we want to be in a patient, hopeful and diligent manner, we cannot go wrong.

I continue to have days that I accomplish little, but I am mindful of good ol' Christopher Columbus ... that my day DOES matter, that I matter and those I associate with matter in the broad scheme of things. I do the best I can and end the day with a smile on my face and the words floating in my head, "today, we sailed on".

You have to keep moving ... it makes it hard for the vultures to land!!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Bad Luck Better Than No Luck At All?

It's official. I should NOT be on the sign up sheet at church to provide transportation to doctors' visits, etc. in Houston. It's the same theory I have that I should wear a warning sign on my back in the grocery store or any other line, as it will definitely be the slowest one in the store. Get in line behind me and I can pretty much guarantee a long wait. Last time I took a friend to Houston, she needed to be there by 11:30am, but she lives way out in the Bermuda Triangle and I had never been to her house before so I left about 9:30am from my house and only had to call 3 people for directions before I could find it (naturally, the friend's phone was out of order). The house number I had been given was 529. Their correct number is 215 (yes, they've moved since the paperwork was done). I finally pick her up and head to Houston. Smooth sailing. She was there in time and they took her right in. This is what getting cocky does for you.... She finished with the tests at the doctor's office about 5:30pm and we were able to find the car in the parking lot (don't take for granted that is an easy thing for me to do normally). I'm feeling pretty good about things when I turn the key and nothing. Not a click, nothing but dead silence, emphasis on the dead. Okay, we're on the 6th floor of the garage parking at the Medical Center ... who do I call? My younger brother, Dan is my go-to guy for rescues, but this time I thought of my brother-in-law extraordinaire, Brad, who lives closer and could get to us faster. He & my sister, Kat both come in a very short amount of time, but had to drive 'round and 'round trying to find the right parking garage because its hard enough in the day time, but at night .... well, thank goodness for cell phones. I finally went out to the street and flagged them down. Gives a whole new meaning to the term "street walker". Inside, it was first thought to be the typical culprit ... the battery. We jumped it. (that's like the expression, "me and Daddy killed a bear - Daddy shot it") No such luck. Brad determined it must be the starter. Great. Now what? Can't leave it here. Call a wrecker, you say... Kat did have towing service included in her insurance (for any car she was in) so finally, a break. When we called, they were concerned about the mere 7' clearing in the garage.... would have to get a "special" wrecker. When he came, Brad had to go down to the street and flag HIM in. He was great. Professional, courteous, and fast! He pulled my car to Kat & Brad's house in Rosharon, then I borrowed Kat's car to take my friend home and myself home, which was then about 10:30pm. Brad, an ace mechanic, fixed my car the next day and we met in Angleton to swap vehicles. Runs like a top now. It was just a little journal entry.....but ....
the last time I agreed to take a (different) friend, it went like this: She was confined to a wheelchair, so we went in her van to Houston. She was to see the eye doctor. No problem. Her husband had serious Alzheimer's disease, so he couldn't be left home and accompanied us. No problem. He is gentle, sweet and agreeable, so I was comfortable with his going. She saw the doctor, got a good report, so we are loading up in the van to go home when, behind me, she drives her motor-driven wheelchair around a post and down the concrete steps sideways, falling out and continuing to roll down to the bottom of the steps. She is hurting so they call an ambulance to take her across the street to the hospital. Oh yeah, I am informed later that the eye doctor had dilated her eyes! That would have been helpful information to know that she could not see! Well, long story short, we (and I do mean the friend, her husband who cannot be left alone for a minute and I) spent all the rest of the day and evening at the hospital with them running tests on her before they released her to go home. Since it happened on their property, I suspect they were especially attentive to avoid litigation. It is a true story. I couldn't make this stuff up.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Family of Excess

About 8pm tonight, I received an info flash from a friend informing me of an unadvertised special for strawberries on sale only until midnight, so I immediately put shoes on and pealed out in search of a bargain. Good for me AND good for Kroger. I found $85 worth of bargains! Now, my kitchen is covered up (until morning when my feet don't hurt as much) with Hershey's chocolate chips marked down to $.79 a bag (and freeze well) with other good deals I ran across. I also have buckets of grapefruit and lemons as the grandkids and I "harvested" the trees today, before the substantial freeze supposedly comes on Thursday night. It helps that the weather was just glorious... cool, with the sun shining brightly... what I like to call a "Sears & Roebuck day" (because you couldn't order a better one from a catalog). I had to climb a tall ladder to accomplish the deed ....I don't do heights well ... now I look like I've been hangin' out with Brer Rabbit in the briar patch from the thorns on the grapefruit tree, but the kids were fun and kept laughing and hugging each other and expressing their love for everyone while they were gathering the citrus... a little bit of heaven. So between Kroger and harvesting, we look like a family of excess. Today, I guess we are!

I read in Lisa's blog about my sixteen month old grandbaby, Amelia enjoying a banana, quietly and stratigically smearing it all over the place. It made me smile and brought to my mind the memory of a similar event some years ago with Amelia's daddy, Aaron. Its been well over ten years and it STILL makes me laugh.
My husband, Mike and I were relaxing in the living room of our home while our teenage son was out of sight, in the kitchen, concocting a delicious chocolate malt in the blender, as he often did. We heard the whirring of the blender, and then suddenly a loud crash, followed first by silence, then a sheepish chuckle when asked if he was okay. He said he was. If I live to be a hundred, I will never forget the sight I took in when I got to the kitchen to see what happened. Aaron, standing in front of the sink, absolutely dripping with malt, including his glasses (it looked like he desperately needed a tiny set of windshield wipers, like you might see in a cartoon). As I surveyed the area, it seemed like the blender had simply exploded, with droplets of malt on every wall and in every nook and cranny you could see with the naked eye. Malt was in places where most people don't even HAVE places!! Apparently, you really SHOULDN'T put a knife blade into a glass blender while in motion. That's how you know "experience is the best teacher" because you get the test first, and THEN you get the lesson. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that even a year later, I was still finding malt hiding where it had found its way that evening. So, Baby Amelia got it honest.

I should confess that I am not exempt from making a mess myself. A short time ago I was asked to make homemade rolls for a dinner. With my handy dandy Kitchen Aid, it is just as easy to quadruple the recipe as it is to make a single recipe (and again, they freeze well) so I made up the dough and set it in the oven (out of a draft) to rise. My brother wanted me to ride with him to my sister's house a half hour away so I told him I would, but that we'd have to get right back so I could finish the rolls. (I have 5 siblings who all live locally except one - the stinker lives in Yorba Linda, CA but the rest of us get to run around together often. I know, I am so lucky!) Anyway, you know things always take longer than you think they will, but I felt confident that if I needed to, I could always just punch the dough down and let it rise an extra time, so when we got back and I looked in the oven, I had not counted on the fact that the dough had risen all the way up to the top of the oven, including being tangled in the broiling coil and brackets, etc. What a mess! I felt like saying every bad word I knew and making up a few, but I didn't. There was nothing left to do but proceed to scrape and coax the dough out the best I could but it was at such an awkward height, I couldn't really stand up straight and sitting down was out of the question. You will be happy to know that when it was all said and done, I only lost about a cup of dough that I couldn't use. Seems weird, doesn't it? Its like when you find a tissue in the washer that you didn't know was in the pocket of your clothes.... how can a tissue be so tiny when you use it to blow your nose and so HUGE when you find it in the wash? I hate it when that happens! The moral of that story is that I won't be leaving my dough to rise for an extended period of time ever again... at least not in the oven.