Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Truckstop Turkey

Thanksgiving is past but I did want to drop a word here about my wonderful friends who invited me into not just their homes, but also their hearts, as there were several.

One friend, like me, has very little family or contact with the family she has left, invited me to travel to West Texas and join her father, 92, and her for the holiday.

This was such a good idea. I love it when she shares her father. She did this last Father's day as well. He is sharp as a tack, independent and as healthy as any retired WWII pilot his age. He has stopped driving and when he loses his hearing aid it is like watching Laura and Hardy, for those of us from that era, when father and daughter attempt to converse. Sometimes I think he likes pushing her buttons, sometimes I think they are just too much alike. The Jury's out on that one.

Being let into a part of someone's very private life, like this, is such a gift for those of us who tend to peek into our rearview mirrors a little too much at the life that passed us by.

There was the expected holiday dispute about what time to go eat, since we were not going to cook for three. He said mid morning, she said too early, I could have eaten both times but was a passenger so I only observed.

When we finally made it to the resteraunt, the line was out the door and into the parking lot. I am 30+ years younger than Jack and I could not have stood in that line.

Not too discouraged, the father and daughter talked (argued) about where to try and how to get there, which road was best, the fastest, the closest. We ended up in a tiny town near theirs at a small truck stop. It was tiny when one thinks of the major names, such as the supersized truckstops, that line highways coast to coast.

This small truckstop had a buffet that tasted so good I thought angels came down and cooked for us, also I was really hungry so that canned cranberry sause was tasty! We loaded up our plates in a short, fast moving line around the food, like a well choregraphed dance.

It was only after I sat and began to look around that I realized there were many "Larry the Cable Guy" look alikes with sleeves ripped off flannel button up shirts and the waitresses were right out of the 50's, many may have been born in the 50's. Almost half the patrons had ink peaking out at us the other half were like us, older with no children. There were only a few children, most were working, getting from A to B and there were some like us, looking for a good meal and all of us seemed to be enjoying life.

I took in the smell of turkey and cigarettes and realized, it was perfect. Women came in after just waking, not even bothering to brush their hair and as I looked beside us, the ladies were in their Sunday best. A perfectly eclectic truckstop Thanksgiving!

That day I could not have been more at home, more at peace with where I found myself and more at ease with where life sat me down and said, "Breath, relax, enjoy, and accept the love offered by caring friends."

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Another Holiday, More Life Change

Although in recent holidays past I had little contact with my mother, I knew she was alive, or I guessed she was alive, and that gave me some comfort.

I always assumed everyone's life was like mine, full of the roller coaster rides of pain, joy, disappointments and celebrations. As I talked about my life to friends, I was always amazed that they rarely had the same sort of life. Some had similar challenges, all had their own hurdles to jump, but the jaws on their desks were a clue that maybe my life stories were either more forth coming and I needed a better filter when I shared or maybe my life really was a bit more crazy than most.

The past several Thanksgivings I have spent alone, mostly by choice.

I had invitations to go to other families meals but it seemed an invasion on their traditions. They made their memories long before they met me and with my baggage, I didn't want to insert the memory of that "poor lonely lady" into their tradtion. Even without saying a word, just a smile and "thank you for inviting me", the very fact I was there alone indicated a problems in my current family life. This didn't belong in a happy family situation.

It made more sense to me to send my little guy with his dad, who has lots of family that gathers for the Thanksgiving Feast, to make memories like I had from my childhood.

I chose to sit with my snuggy, remote and TV dinner or go to a movie, imposing on no one. In Austin, the Alamo Draft House offeres Thanksgiving meals on real plates with real forks that clink all through the movie with offerings of the traditional feast. I decided this was going to be my new tradtion, as it usually was also my birthday celebration. It wasn't bad. It was actually kinda nice to sit with a group of other people, to my way of thinking, who were mostly alone like me, and share a meal in the dark with them while watching a B grade re-release.

This year, it feels like the last of my family that helped solidify the traditions from my childhood is gone.

Mom, although robbed of her memories by Alzheimer's almost a decade ago, played a huge role in my bigger than life recall of how I became the person I am today. Not so big of a life that I could brag about my accomplishments but I became a survivor, much like her. I have never given up and stage right holds my alternative plan if the current one fails.

This Thanksgiving will be spent with a friend and her 95 year old father. They will be my family this year. Separate, we would each be alone. The three of us a family we will make, at least this year. I may have a new memory each year and I have decided that is okay. There is nothing wrong with change, if I can embrass the changes. At my age, I better learn to embrass change or I will only be fighting with myself, Mother Nature is not going to lose this battle, never has, never will.

This year I am thankful God gave me the mother I had. If I had any other mother, I would be such a different person. Heaven forbid, I could have been boring!

A flip of the cosmic coin on whether I would be a better or worse person but not worth spending more than this sentence thinking about. For all the pain, all the joy, all the love, teaching me to never give up by example, for all the challenges offered by my mother, I am truly grateful and Mom, I love you, always and until forever.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

My Mom Died

Faithful readers. Thank you for not giving up on checking my site. I have gotten many private e-mail from you asking when is the next post.

It is on it's way but will have to come in it's own time.

I just went to the depths of hell and demon spawn had to be delt with just to get my mother buried. Now I didn't know these were demon spawn, I thought they were loving and caring family who cared more for our mother than they did a dollar. I was wrong.

In memorandum, this is for my mother and I will be back with more stories in the future.

One of the last times I was in Arkansas to see my mom, it was 13 months after my father passed away. My favorite moment from that visit will live with me forever.

I was talking to Mom about something of no consequence standing by the cooking island in her kitchen area when suddenly and unexpectedly, she took it upon herself to abruptly walk into my arms when I was in mid-sentence. She wrapped her arms around my waist and put her head on my chest. Once I got past my shock, I slowly rested my head on top of hers then softly draped my arms around her thin shoulders. We stood in silence and swayed, as if to the same music although none was playing as we held each other.

I traveled back to when I was about 9 years old. She would be singing and dancing in the tiny kitchen on Carolyn Street in Jacksonville. I might have had my head in the refrigerator or just passing through to the back door when she would catch me off guard and gather me in her arms to sneak in a quick, tight hug that might end with her swinging me around and telling me she loved me then releasing me only after leaving a very slobbery kiss on my face.

It had been decades since I had thought about this mom from the 1950’s. Then on this day, for no particular reason, Mom chose to remind me of that singing and dancing mom, to send me her own brand of love as she did when I was a child.

Mom still hadn’t said a word and the warm hug seemed to last into the next day. I was filled with joy at her surprise embrace, even if she couldn’t swing me. It truly was a peace that passes understanding and I felt happiness that only a poet could explain. As we stood in her kitchen, light filtered through the curtained window over the sink and it felt like we were in God’s spotlight, suspended in this moment in time, just the two of us.

Just as abruptly, Mom took a small step back and looked up at my face. I was kinda hoping for that slobbery kiss from my childhood but instead, her eyes squinted and she leaned in closer, slowly taking me in from head to toe. She took another step back and finally asked, “Are you taller?” I stifled a startled laugh, trying not to break the peaceful moment we had together and gently told her, “Mom, you have shrunk. I am still 5’ 5”.”

She backed up another step, looked me up and down again from a few more steps away, then stepped in close as if to hug me again but her arms did not surround me, instead, as her toes touched my toes, her hair touched the bottom of my chin. She used her flattened hand and ran it from the top of her hair forward to the tip of my chin, all the while checking my feet, frequently asking, “you’re not on your tip toes are you?”

I smiled. Clearly the tender moment we shared was lost on her at that point and it was okay for me to smile, as long as she didn’t see the smile. She said defiantly with her spine straight and her own chin in the air, “No, you have grown because I am 5’ 5”, always have been, always will be! You have grown.”

That was the last word on the issue. It didn’t matter, I was still warm from her hug and admired her spunk. I told her I must have grown if she has always been 5’ 5”. Satisfied with her declaration and my agreement, she turned on her heels and went off to another part of the house looking for her puppy who was always right at her feet when not on her lap.

That moment with my mom has sustained me. I have relived that moment every time I felt I needed her. She was right there with me, arms around me, holding me, loving me. It never fails to make me smile, it never fails to make me cry. It was a wonderful gift that reminded me she was a strong woman who never lost her loving and kind heart. I loved her never ending and into forever and I will never forget that she was right that day we shared one last embrace between a mother and daughter.

She didn’t shrink. I was the child, she was the mother. Even if she wasn’t exactly 5’ 5” any longer, her feisty spirit made up for any inches age may have taken.

Friday, October 26, 2012

A No Pants Kinda Day, Outhouse Mishap

Have you ever wanted to go into the office and just go the whole day not wearing any pants?

For those of you who work at home, this does not apply, you can do this any time.

Those of us who are rebels at heart but have to conform to maintain income, pay bills, keep a roof over our heads, put gas in the car, bla, bla, bla ..... we must head into the office. Whether that office is a bus barn where we park our car then climb into a yellow school bus for the morning or a government office building, we must leave our homes and travel to our jobs.

Now you may be asking yourselves, what in the world does this have to do with outhouses?? I will get there eventually.

I was a pretty lucky kid. We only had an outhouse at the lake cabin and didn't have to live there, so we didn't have to use it every single day or night every single day of the year.

Some of my friends were not that lucky. They had no choice and this was very simply, the life they lived, the life they knew, the life they accepted and respected.

When I would spend the night with a friend who had no indoor plumbing, I apprecitated the fact that someone in their family was thoughtful enough to put an actual toliet set above the hole cut out for the waste to fall, even if 20 degrees outside and wrapped in a quilt, that seat was a welcome sight. As a girl, I could manage to sit on the seat still wrapped in the quilt to warm it some until I was about to burst then I would yank the quilt, do my business and run back to the house.

For those of you who are not familiar, an outhouse has to be moved frequently, has to be as far away from the water well as possible and although it certainly would be easier to get to if it was right next to the house, would you really want human waste that close to where you spent most of your time? Also, an outhouse has no electricity, at least the ones I used had no electricity. Flashlights hung by the back door to help lead the way to the outhouse and at least in the winter, there wasn't the need to search every corner, high and low, for snakes, spiders, or some other critter that might decide to make a home for the night in the shelter, especially if it was about to rain.

No matter the time of year, girls, I don't know about the men, but girls had to be careful to keep their pants off the floor of the outhouse. This required some skill if wrapped in a thick quilt because you wouldn't want the quilt to hit the floor either. If there were men about, they didn't worry much about making it to the outhouse, the world became their outhouse, unless they had serious business to do, at which point, they were not too neat. You get the picture.

At work on the day I am speaking of, decades after my last use of an outhouse, I had become accustom to "dropping trowe", just letting my pants hit the floor without worry. That day, I needed to worry. There was a leak in a joint behind the toilet and my pants were accommodating enough to soak up all the water I didn't see at the base of the toilet.

So, there I sat, for most of the day, behind my desk in my office with my pants off. I had a jacket around my waist and my pants drapped over a drawer with a DO NOT DISTURB note tapped to my door. Of course everyone had to knock and ask, why is there a DND on your door? Lucky for me, and them, I have a desk with a privacy front!

I tied it together, the outhouse and my no pants kinda day. It was a new experience for me and my pants eventually dried but oh my goodness. I do check the floor of the bathroom now, every single trip, just like the outhouses from my youth.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Walking Away is Not Always Letting Go

I started a massive clean out of my house in preparation for selling the old hag. I am sure at some point, decades ago, she was a beautiful young girl of a home. Like all of us who chose not to get plastic surgery, or more accurate, could not afford plastic surgery, her roof is a little saggy, the doors and windows don't open like they used to and floor boards are not fitting properly any longer.

Like any other person in the world, I want something better. I mean, I am hitting my back nine and is this really the last place I want to see as I take my final breath. Ah, no way man.

So my brain starts clicking. I can get social security early if I chose a place that is more affordable to live and with my small, very small, retirement check, I can get a smaller, newer gal to move into that I simply love!!

Great plan but there are a million and one steps inbetween the make my head spin.

First is getting rid of decades of crap that have somehow found a home in, well, my home! Why in the world did I get all this "stuff"?? I don't all this stuff, I don't use all this stuff and I certainly have no where to store all this stuff.

It's only logical that I box it and bag it then donate it, since I hate yard sales. My first load was quite an achievement. At least 15 bags and 10 boxes of crap I didn't need and was ready to offer to a charity to help someone who surely could use the mountains of cloths I have not worn in years, the book I read years ago and holiday decorations that had been long replaced with shiny new ones.

I loaded as much as I could into the back of my HHR (a long story how I went from my double cab pick up to the little HHR). It was piled so high I couldn't see out the rearview mirror but that was okay, having driven a pickup that towed a little RV I was used to using the side mirrors more than the over head center one anyway.

That was alover 2 months ago and guess what..... I am still driving around with my crap in the back of my HHR. What is wrong with me?? I have more to load at home, more to pack up and I can't seem to drive to Goodwill or Salvation Army? They both have a circle that is has someone who unloads the bags and boxes, it couldn't be easier. That just leaves one answer. I am having trouble letting go of my "stuff", much like the Steve Martin moive when they go bandrupt and his wife says, "I don't mind losing all the money. I don't want to lose all the stuff."

Okay, I have to suck it up because I want to move to the gulf coast and I am not going to get there with all that clutter. Something in me in refusing to let go. A film crew was at my home last October (another story) and asked if I thought I was becomming a horder and why did I hold onto so many things. It popped out of my mouth before I could even think about what I was saying on film. "I think I hang onto to so many things because I have lose so much in my life." In the year since I have thought, hanging onto these things has not brought back one single thing I lost in the past, it really is time to let go.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Waiting to Get Better at Waiting

I am talking about tables, in resteraunts, dives, or pancake houses.

When I was going to college I tried my hand at waiting tables.

Some things I learned....

How to cut a pie so all the pieces were the same. I can't believe I didn't know
this simple trick. Maybe because if I was the first, or even the 2nd person to
get to a pie during a holiday, my piece took up most of my plate if it wasn't
pre-cut. But I learned a neat trick, wish I could show you here, can't but I can
tell you. Cut it in half, spin the pie plate, cut in half again. Spin the plate,
cut perfectly down two of the slices, turn the pie plate, make the perfect cut
again. I may have been the last person on the planet to learn this trick but you woulda
thought I had discovered gravity I was so excited.

Somehow, I never got the pieces quite exact. I never claimed to be an artist and
my boss didn't have the patience to wait for me get better. Fired.

The other thing I learned as a waitress. How to pour coffee. Now I had been pouring
coffee longer than I had been rolling my Papaw's cigarettes. How silly was it to have
to be taught how to pour a cup of coffee?? There is a trick to it when there are 20
people glaring at me shaking their cups in the air or tapping the empty cup on the table so loudly I thought it would break. To prevent an accidental burn, yes, it would still be accidental, I would never want to hurt someone even if they were rude to me, I had to learn to pour the coffee toward the back of the cup, never tanking my eyes off the rim while asking if they wanted cream, to leave enough room. The danger came when the customer wanted to hold their cup, refused to set it down even if I asked very polite while sweat poured down my face and dripped between my shoulder blades. I was terrified of hurting someone so I never quite filled a cup and always seemed so busy pouring, we always ran out of coffee and it only took about 10 seconds for a pot to burn. Fired.

I learned people are rude to total strangers who are trying their best to give them them a pleasant experience for their hard earned money. I learned that after a long
night of running from the burning kitchen of screaming men to the front area where someone may be celebrating an anniversary, a birthday or just their monthly evening out, I was lost. I tried to keep a smile on my face and remember which planet was I really on? I learned that three men could have no shame as they left a tip of one penny each for steak dinners, served by a near tears teenage waitress in training as they laughed at my shock, yes, they waited to watch my reaction, cruel or bad upbringing?

I learned I felt such guilt and shame at not keeping everyone happy, of not doing at last an okay job, if not a perfect job. TV made this look easy. I was fired from there also.

All in all, my waiting to get better at waiting tables would have taken much too long. It was not in future to the next "Flo", to chat and tell my regular customers to "Kiss my grits"... She had confidence and spunk, knowing they admired her skill, they would be back. They would leave more than a 3 cent tip.

That was almost 40 years ago. It's a good thing I got my degree. I would have never have made it in the service industry and I am still in awe of their skill. I pay close attention and am amazed at their comfort level, the banter, the social part of a very demanding job and I always tip at the very least, 25% because they earn it.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Daddy Stopped by Today

I saw something this morning that took me back to the early 1950's and could recall how my dad smelled. It was the smell he had as a young father, not the aftershave of the professional he became in his late 30's. My dad had odd jobs when I was very young, pumping gas at a local service station and worked for the City water treatment plant. It was those early days that my love for my father's devotion to us kids was established and never waivered until the day he died. I knew without a doubt that dad would love each and every one of us kids until the day he died. When he worked at these jobs, he would smell of gasoline and chemicals from the treatment plant. Not unpleasant, burned into my brain and helped me picture when he walked up to the house after work and us younger kids would run out to greet him, each racing to get the lint out of his belly button.

Dad was not affectionant in a traditional way, not a lot of holding, hugging, any of that kind of coddling but he coddled in other ways, had his own brand of nurturning.

I think he learned by the time his forth child was born how to do this a little better. He was older and it was about 14 years after the first one showed up. There is a picture of my dad rocking my brother, David, when David was a young toddler and dad was singing to him. I remember the singing because I was there, I took the picture. It was such a tender moment in such a turbulent home that I knew if I didn't capture it, I might not recall those sweet times.

Dad was never rough, he just seemed a little lost as to what to do with us kids. I am sure that is why he deferred almost all of the discipline to my mother and seemed to magically vanish during times of high conflict or violence by my mom. As far as I know, dad never laid a hand on any of us kids, certainly not me. He would take off his belt when he was angry, place it in a circle in front of his chest, face stern then snap it to where it made a loud "POP" that echoed in the house or he would say, "Don't make me take my belt off," then would promptly begin to rattle the buckle but it wouldn't come off most of the time for the "popping" exhibition.

Dad seemed to smile all the time which was odd because his dad rarely smiled. My Uncle Bill and Uncle Tex also told me Papaw was harsh with his punishment to all the kids, 5 boys. He would make them hold onto a hitching post and whip them until they bled. Papaw never laid a hand on any of the grandkids either. Maybe as adults, the sons all warned him?

Dad nurtured by singing, smiling and growing things. We had a tiny house in the 1950's but as he furthered his education, our homes grew in size as did the lots until he bought the 35 acres in the Ozarks. He worked a garden with a tractor. This is not what made me think of him this morning. On the nurturning side, yes, gardens need a lot of time, love, and attention to grow. He did his best to do the same for his children. The thing I recall being out of bounds for dad was he grew the delicate flower, African Violet. They were all over the house when I was an adult and went home, I was amazed at their delicate beauty. These tempermental flowers take a lot of attention and just right care to flower. They all flowered.

About 2 months ago, I bought one on a whim. Knew it would die from my brown thumb. This morning, it was all leaves to heaven and blooms were peeking at me. Daddy. It was all I could think of, daddy stopped by to say hello. Dad died in May 2004, much too young from a much too harsh cancer. I miss you daddy and thanks for stopping by to check in on me.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Never Give Up, Just Walk Away

I think everyone in my family was a fighter of some sort. Unlike my father, God rest his soul, who was a Golden Glove Feather Weight champ back in his day, who was a "real" fighter.....we were each fighters in our own way.

My family members have faced hard times, every single one of them, in some form. Some more serious than others. Some had illness that took their lives. It wasn't that they gave up, they just knew it was time to let go, to walk away. Other family members walked away from bad crops, knowing no amount of water and care was going to coax out a good canning crop. They didn't give up on their gardens. Just was past the time of being able to fight mother nature's elements.

For me, it depended on the year it was, my age at the time, and my goals...... but it seems like I was always faced with some sort of battle. It took me 10 years to get my college degree. I didn't give up, I just had to walk away and regroup.

Well, lucky for me, I learned these lessons from growing up in the middle of war zones. Not like I saw at the movies with John Wayne but right under my nose, with my family.

It was the wars my family fought that had lessons for anyone willing to watch, listen and learn. My parents fighting and screaming, my grandparents, God love 'em, had their fits and fights too, as well as Aunts and Uncles. I don't think any kid could drop and roll under a bed as fast as I could. If a loud voice or the stomp of angry feet reached my ears, I ran to the nearest bedroom if trapped inside, hit the floor and rolled under a bed.

A lot of education was processed by my little brain over a decade as I listened to arguments simple as the amount of money spent to a person feeling ignored and undervalued. At first I might not have caught the concept of each argument but as I laid under many a bed avoiding conflict, I would flick dust bunnies with a puff of my breath then bounced them around with my fingers on the hardwoods wishing I had been outside, not trapped listening to things a 10 year old didn't need to hear. But I was lucky to have been caught unaware and trapped. A great lesson learned was that people who fought could still love each other. Well mostly, our family had it's share of divoce but also some who weathered the storms, stuck it out, walked away from the conflict for the moment but never gave up.

I fought with siblings, cousins, and parents but knew I still loved them. I teach my grandson now, it is okay to be angry with someone and still love them.

Over the years, watching my family evolve and growing into my own individual life, I learned that sometimes it's better to walk away sooner rather than later. It didn't mean I was giving up, I made a decision to do what was right for me at the time I made the decision.

This example can be used with something as simple as fishing. My Papaw built a cabin with a little outhouse on the side of a steep hill. It had no running water and the only heat was from a small wood burning stove in the middle of the one room cabin. It sat next to a great Ozark lake. I loved that place. It was a retreat that I used when I entered my teen years and needed to be alone to just think, no distractions. Papaw build a boat dock and had an old flat bottomed fishing boat tied up there year round.

Those of you who fish know, some days fish just don't bite. Many days, I stared silently at my bobber. After a few hours if that bobber wouldn't move, I knew it was time to walk away. I didn't really give up on ever fishing again, it just wasn't the right time.

The same goes for relationships, to my way of thinking anyway. If I walk away it does not mean I have given up loving that person. It doesn't mean I have given up on feeling loved, cared about or needed. It very simply means I go back to my roots and know that what I am seeking isn't where pain resides. If I keep going to the same place and only feel pain, it's time to walk away.

It was time. I left.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Gun Racks and Bench Seats

When I dated, I can't remember ever being in a car or truck that had bucket seats. I heard on the radio today that bench seats are going to be a thing of the past, gone the way of 8 track tapes and simple phones that only called or took calls.

I can hardly remember dating a boy that didn't either drive his daddy's pick up with gun rack or own his own truck with gun rack when I was young, before I became older and more open minded. Or was it really just what every my family liked most I went the other way?? I was pretty rotten that way.

Back to the loss of bench seats.... surely not in pick up trucks!! I have not googled to see if that is a fact but if it was on the radio, it must be true, right?

In Texas, they wear their guns proud. Other states, not so much. Me, don't own one, used to, had kids, read about accidental killing figured I would never get the lock box opened or gun loaded in time for protection anyway. Most likely woulda shot myself in the process.

My first husband made me carry a gun. Well, by making me meaning, I LOVED IT. But I didn't have kids at that time. Illegal, unlicened and under the seat. I will assume the statue of limitation is up after 43 years? He was a Viet Nam vet and had a gun with him at all times. Forget the empty gun rack in the window of the pickup truck, it was easier for him to strap on the pistol. Our practice range was a little different from what my Papaw used. Papaw gave us kids a 22 rifel and hung a pie plate on a tree with a LONG string. My husband threw bottles in the air. Now, I was a crack shot but even I could not hit a flying bottle or full beer can with a pistol.

I am a bit all over the place tonight but I am rambling, sorta required.

My best memory of bench seats? Scooting up close and an arm draped around my shoulders and the guy would say, "Shift". He would push in the clutch and I would move to the next gear, no matter where the shift stick was, comical at times, hard on trucks and cars all the time. My man would not let me go! I learned to drive what is now a classic GTO stick on the floor, at least I think it was a GTO. It was about 1966. How are kids these days going to have memories like that? They can't put down their smart phones long enough to know the eye color of their date for goodness sakes.

I recall the rattle of the guns on the rack, smell of field dressing due to the gear would be behind the seat, yet to be clean. Good way to ruin a sharp knife but I blinked my eyes and giggled like I had no idea what that horrible odor was.

The days of gun racks and bench seats are behind me. If I could fit my purse into one, I would have a Mini, gas is getting so high!!! I'm stuck with what I got cause I plan to retire in the next few months. That's okay, I just won't drive as far or as often.

For some reason, the disc jocky talking about the end of bench seats brought a wave of nostalgia that drug gun racks with it. As a parting picture for this entry. A member of my loving Ozark family, yep, we made amends and I am blessed for it. Good to know that althought my grandparents and parents are gone, the fundamental parts of childhood can be read in their pictures. So long bench seats, say hello to 8-track for me.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Get That Should Away From ME!

It seems every place I look, I see a should!

I "should" mop the floor. I "should" organize my junk room. I "should" eat better. I "should" ____ fill in the blank. Anything would fit and today I was up to my neck in shoulds; at home and work, internal, external.

Finally I decided, I "should" give myself a break. Never intended on referring to my age, gender or anything else personal on this site. That plan was left in the dust many blogs ago. I discovered if someone is going to tell a story, it's impossible to keep it impersonal. Nice try though.

If you grew up anything like me, we were all "shoulded to death" by family and friends. You should wear your hair up, you should go to church more, you should use more salt when you cook, you should have chosen better when you got married!

That leads me to where my head is right now. My Ozark grandmother, who lived to almost 100 years old, never really understood the power she over me with her opinions. It wasn't just the boys in my family that were told, "Shake it off and keep going." My grandmother was a shining example of never giving up, keep moving forward, don't whine about what you don't have and find the gratitude for the life I made for myself.

Because of her, I am able to make some pretty happy decisions despite what seem like overwhelming challenges. I "should" be divorced right now. I am not. I "should" be focused on my own back nine at my age, instead, I chose to raise my grandson rather than leave him with a drug addicted mom or end up in the State's care. This story is on my other blog and too heavy for this one.

I "should" be retired and had I not taken in grandkids, made many trips to the Ozarks to see family, even when my family told me I wasn't welcomed, I would have a bank load of cash that went into a gas tank, into lodging and food on the road. I still drove the 12 hours so my grandkids would know each other. Since I wasn't welcomed at any family home, I stayed in local resorts, actually roach infested cabins. I made the best of what was not the greatest time. I also, over the years, took in "strays" of all ages (I mean friends of my kids and husband) to help support them when they had no one else at the time. They would stay anywhere from a few months to a few years.

Had I focused only on myself, I could have put that extra money aside and would be happily living on the Gulf coast with several IRA's paying for my icy cold longneck as I became a parot head wannabe watching beach vollyball games. Today, I decided to toot my own horn instead of beating myself up, In my life in general, I felt like I have had a lot of blessings. I chose share those blessings, to help others and believe they would be better for the help they received. I certainly feel no regret that I went into debt and lived hand to mouth so others would have a warm bed and a hot meal. I did my best to try to follow my grandmother's lessons, family is first and we can choose our family. I did my best to help keep my own family connected when it was actually pretty shattered.

Tonight, I won't "should" myself into washing dishes, doing laundry or even watching what I eat. Tonight I plan to "reload my spirit", ignore dirty dishes, dirty laundry, and clutter from a 10 year old who is with his daddy this weekend. I plan to get off that pity pot I have walking toward and instead have ice cream for dinner while I watch a trashy movie that must be in the 1000+ channels on my TV. Tonight I won't fight with myself. I will enjoy my own company along with Mr. Ben and Mr. Jerry.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Minis, Bugs and Fiat's....Am I still In Texas??

I admit it, I am a transplant. To make sure I keep my Hillbilly roots, I write them down or pass along in spoken word to others but I actually moved to Texas.

Have you looked at the job market in Arkansas? I went where I could work so here I am, having switched from pork to beef. (An obscure reference to Arkansas Razorbacks and Texas Longhorns)

What I noticed on my long drive home (actually I only live 4 miles from downtown Austin) was that there was an absence of pick up trucks. I have gotten to where I was used to dodging the long bed, short bed, restored, double cab, heavy duty, super duty, four wheels, six wheel wide bed, every make and model of pick up truck in the world as I try to remain invisible to these little car crushers on my way to way home.

What I saw were very many-Mini Coopers, Fiats of all colors but only one shape, as is standard with all three of these toy make believe cars. There were even convertable Fiats and these look smaller than the Mini Cooper, Mini gives a hint that your but is 2 inches from the street and feet almost to the front bumper! How in the world did they make them into convertables with no a hood smaller than my kitchen counter? What I have to admit that I liked the most was the creative colors for all these cars, well not the Fiats, they need to step it up on color. There were Mini's with strips, designs and just plain blue that could hurt your teeth (yeah, Hillbilly expression). The Beetles were in colors from blinding yellow to familiar rust that ate through the metal to make you question if these were bullet holes or acutally time had taken a few bites, leaving only a hint of the color it used to be.

The pick up truck isn't dying in Texas. There were still pleanty of the monsters pushing these little cars around but I wonder if a HEMI can be taken down by a swarm of Mini's?? Maybe I will get to witness this in my lifetime.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Things I Learned from Day Time TV

I put my time to good use while on Family Medical Leave by getting educated in what programers believe daytime TV viewers need to know and by companies that are willing to pay for TV time let us viewers know what we are missing (we being John and Jane Q public).

If you had a fall in the last year (who hasn't?) you meet one of 5 qualifications for an electronic scooter to get around your home and become more involved with outdoor's activities. I would like one for the beach please.

My knives suck. I must have the ones that can cut cans. Although, for the life of me, I can't recall every having to cut a can to make a meal??

I learned I need to be on many more medications than I am right now, the symptoms I need to give my doctor to assure I will get these medications and oh my goodness, how did I survive without them?

My blender sucks. There are amazing blenders that replace 6 kitchen tools I don't even own, of course I don't cook either. I microwave.

With one call, I can change my life!! So many ways but the best one was not the amazing non stick pans, it was to get a degree with a guarantee of a job after graduation. They said so, it must be true. I can do this in my spare time on line, in my PJ's and bunny slippers, cool. I decided I want to be either a brain surgeon or a blacksmith. You are all invited to my graduation, maybe I will do both, they are so afordable.

I am not prepared to retire, ever, unless I follow some easy steps. All the numbers are toll free, what a relief.

I have every number, every agency, every person I need to talk to about preparing for retirement or pre planning my funeral! Well, I am on the "back nine". I learned so much about Medicare and it isn't as caring as it sounds. WE all need additional insurance to make sure we don't go right to the funeral part. So many gadgets to have at home it would almost pass standards for a hospital itself, cool......

Best of all.... I can get a cure for all of my additions, there are many but ice cream being the worse, without that pesky 12 step program. This can be done on a white sand beach in a spa like setting and there is almost a guarantee on cure. Awsome, although I'd miss my ice cream.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Life Ain't Always A Hootenanny

I've been away from my blog for a while. Either poop just happens or if you believe in Karma, I was a really bad person in a former life. I will know in September if I will celebrate with a hoe down or be facing a show down.

I had a little cough for a while, was told it was viral on July 26th, to stay home the next day, a Friday, and rest. I recently returned to work, this week and Friends, I thought I was gonna die!

The cherry on top you ask? Well there's whip cream to look forward to also. Cherry first. My own daughter robbed my house the week I was in the hospital! She is a topic for another blog. I came home to a messier house than I left, almost impossible but true.

The whipped cream? Although the diagnosis is pneumonia, an abnormal CT scan has led me to a terrifying wait for a follow up CT scan. I am a breast cancer survivor of 7 years. NO cancer survivor wants to hear, "There's just too much fluid to tell if there is a mass in that lower left lobe. Although you clearly have pneumonia, see your oncologist for another CT to see if a cancer spread." WHAT the POOP!

I patiently waited for my lungs to heal (did you know it takes up to 6 weeks?) then had the follow up CT, not to worry. I will be here for a while longer, unless I get his by a bus or a tree falls on me.

I haven't been on line much at all, was just too sick. I have a friend who told me I am now an official member of the Ass Wipers Club (older women who help each other when in need). Everyone should have such a club. They took such good care of me.

As for my my criminal of a daughter? She is not allowed back to my home and I have stopped contact, again! This has been going on over 20 years and why I am raising a 10 year old at my age. I plan to do a blog in the future, addressing life with a meth addicted child. Maybe call it Crystal Falls. What do you think I should call it?

Thanks to my friends who checked my blog during my long respite. I hate to be real here in the present, it's so much easier to live in younger past with Roy Rogers, Dale Evans, Sky King and Howdy Doody! Signing off for now folks but I will be back!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Death Penalty?

I was listening to the raido only a few minutes ago and the DJ's were talking about Colorado debating on whether to seek the Death penalty for a mass murderer.

Still stunned, sitting here wondering, what is the debate? I won't get on my soapbox about an eye for an eye, who can and can not play God but there is already a law on the books! Colorado has the death penalty. When would be a good time to seek a death penalty if not now?

I know many people who do not believe in the death penalty, my husband is one of those, many of my best friends. This is why I love America, we can have different opinions and no one goes to jail for expressing their belief about politics, religion or whether to be a vegan but it is too hard for me to think this guy will live his life out on tax dollars as he inflates his ego each time a book is written about him, a write or news reporter requests an interview on camera, then he gets to read about himself getting more famous, knows he will be in history books, studied in colleges and in fact, never forgotten.

We don't want to forget events like this, we learn from them but to grant a gift to the murderer who made this happen, to allow him to watch his fame grow as we feed him, cloth him and shelter him for the rest of his life makes me feel ill. It is my belief he will surpass the fame of the Manson Murders and the number of books, movies and documentaries about Manson spins my head. How long ago were the Manson murders and his fame has not faded.

To me, seeking life in prison will only inflate his ego, confirmed to him that he did the right thing and look at the fame as his legacy.

There is a lot of talk in many states about revamping gun laws. Every time my daughter sees this on TV she shakes her head and says, guns laws only work for the people who follow the law.

Off my soap box now.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Spank 'em or Hang 'em High?

The topic of child discipline came up today with some friends. We might as well have been talking about politics or religion because with parents, their way was the best way, the only way to assure we won't raise a mass murderer and each had some sort of book to support their point of view.

When I was a kid, there was only one method of discipline I knew about, you got spanked. We would get spanked with a switch, whipped with a belt, a shoe, a fly swatter, or what ever was close when spanker was angry at the spankee!

Wellll, this tradition lives on in the Ozarks and I am not saying it is a bad one but don't be surprised, parents, when you have some very creative kids that will turn it around on you, to teach the parents a lesson. I saw the message as, "Don't spank me, you will be sorry you did if I ever get hurt real bad."

Attached to this post is exactly what happened to my neice when her kids pranked her. I am sure there was older cousin involvement too, a little kid could not have pulled this off without careful planning by those what could climb, carry, then direct the actions, or lack of action, by her son.

I won't even go into the ruckus upon first sight of her child, as you can only imagine if you saw your child like this. After my neice realized her child was safe and she pretended to have gotten what ever message the kids were trying to send, there are differences of opinion about the message, she had her son stay in the tree so she could take a picture. She posted this on facebook so my Niece has a GREAT sence of humor.

AND...."What a GREAT Mom!" I would have been tempted to whomp the hell out of all of them kids for giving me a heart attack, or close to one. It's one thing for us to hurt our own kids, another thing for someone else to even look at them wrong, right?

What do you think about this payback from her kids?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

In the Deep End

Have you ever jumpped before you thought, really thought about what will happen after you jump? Where will you land, how will you land, is the water deep enough, will anyone help me if I get into trouble?

My grandson has been going swimming almost every night with a young friend who is taking swimming lessons. DJ has never taken swimming lessons but loves the water, would morph into a fish if he knew how and loves everything about the Ocean. I can't believe I have never thought about swimming lessons for him.

He was talking about jummping off the diving board when he got home with such excitment that these days, I can only envy. I can't remember being that excited about anything for maybe a decade, except when my grandkids were born.

The pool he goes to does not have a high board, in fact, I can't recall any of the pools in our town that have the low, mid and high diving boards we had in the 50's.

My brother and I would walk to the bus station with our nickle for fare and ride the bus to the nearest large town that had a pool, since our little town didn't have a pool. We would ride for about an hour and then have to walk from the bus station in that town to the city pool. I can feel the excitment right now and have a smile on my face I recall seeing the high dive before actually seeing the pool. This was going to be the day I climb that ladder and jump into the deep end with the bigger kids, it was time. I wasn't a baby any longer, I was in 2nd grade for goodness sakes.

Not yet the dare devil I finally became in my teens, I usually only made it to the mid-level dive board but didn't feel the thrill I heard from the shreaks of the high dive kids that were plunging into the water next to my board. I wasn't on the baby board, as everyone called it, closest to the ladder that led to the safety of solid ground, but I wasn't flying like the bigger kids on the high dive either.

The day I climbed the ladder to the high dive, I didn't think about the butt that was in my face all the way up the steps as we waited for the ones in front to jump then clear the water below so the next one could jump. I also didn't think about the kid beind me that had my butt in his face as he waited his turn, we were all anxious but now I wonder, what was going through their heads. I know what was going through my head. WHAT HAD I DONE!! I was the smallest kid on the board. The life guard told me, don't climb if you won't jump, no one was allowed to climb back down. The ladder was piled with kids who would not move to let anyone climb back down anyway, we had to jump it we went up the ladder.

A little more than half way up, I changed my mind. I was terrified as I looked down. It reminded me of being in a huge tree or on top of the house, which I was forbidden to be but did anyway. I was warned of the dangers of climbing as high as the roof of my house and I must be twice that high on the ladder. I asked the kid with his face in my butt, can I climb down? He yelled, with about 5 kids below him, NO!

When I got to the top, the kids behind me along with the lifeguard began yelling. I couldn't understand what they were saying, I was frozen on the end of the board. Then the chant started, "Jump, jump, jump!" Terrified, knowing there was a horrible and painful death waiting for me in the water below, I couldn't move, couldn't think, I was glued to the spot then suddenly, I was flying and the water was rushing up to greet me. I forgot to take a breath. My feet touched the bottom of the pool. I only flet the bottom of the pool in the shallow end, never the deep end. My lungs burned as they screamed for air. I knew I would never reach the surface, bubbles surrounded me, for sure slowing my attempt to reach safety. Just as suddenly, I burst through the surface confused buy the applause and how I ended up in the deep end when I was frozen on the high board. I looked up to make sure I wasn't still there as the kids began to chant "move, move, move" and the lifeguard blew his whistle of power and pointed to the ladder for my exit from the pool. I was never so relieved in my life, for sure I just narrowly missed certain death.

I survied the deep end. Somehow, without relizing it happened, I was climbing that ladder again, my heart beating so hard I knew it was making my chest hit the slippery ladder, wet from the dripping kids above me. I didn't care, I just knew, I wanted more.

If there is something I could give to DJ each day when he goes swimming, it would be that feeling I had on the day I jumpped into the deep end.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

My Brother Trucker

I had a new reader stop by who is a long haul truck driver. My older brother was a long haul truck driver but as with everyone, he is so many more things. Isn't it weird when we meet someone new we ask, "What do you do?" as if that defines who they are?? I know the truck driver who stopped by my blog is so much more, that is something he does, it is a part of his identity and it was nice to read how proud he is to be identified with this group. My brother was the same, he still drives a truck for a cement company. He had skills, he went to college but loves this job.

I remember movies like "Convoy" and learned about "front doors" and "back doors". My brother lived this job for a very long time after a stint driving the monster rigs in West Texas oil fields. After he almost died in a rig accident, he changed jobs to a "safer?" long haul driver where he didn't have to help unload heavy oil rig equipment but he was so much more than a coast to coast driver of trucks.

Another identity was as a soldier in the war during Viet Nam when I watched many of the boys we went to school with get their numbers pulled during draft lottery or they would come over or call after getting "the notice" in the mail. These were brave men who has to grow up from teenage boys in the blink of an eye. They had dreams of being teachers, coaches, and one even a Priest. Some got married just before they left, not knowing if they would return, leaving pregant young wives.

I was a girl and didn't have to worry that my number would be pulled but I cried when I heard about the boy down the street who didn't last one month, then I heard about a boy I had a few dates with didn't make it six months. I couldn't read the obituary page with my grandparents, it was too painful. When my brother and his friends had to pack off for boot camp, I sobbed.

My brother, James, is a proud veteran. I married a Viet Nam vet. He became a truck driver too. I wonder if there is a connection? They became road warriors.

Although I worried every time James was on the road, I was happy he was a part of something larger. During the Viet Nam war, he has his brothers in arms, a huge support group and a painful lesson for all of America, SUPPORT OUR KIDS in the MILITARY, EVEN IF YOU DON'T AGREE WITH THE WAR. Sorry for the shouting.

When James was a truck driver, a road warrior, finding the same kind of family as veterans. Truckers stick together. If we haven't done it, we can't understand. They have a brotherhood I envy. I love stopping at truck stops and seeing the buddies who are mostly kind and caring souls who would help a family or lady stranded roadside due to a break down.

Take care all who are on the road, give room to the truckers as they carry heavy loads trying to earn a living, like the rest of us. They are much more than just an extension of the machine they control. Drive safe truckers as us little cars are terrified of the huge metal monsters. Even through my fear, I am so very proud to know you.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Mamaw's Famous Moldy Soup

Sitting outside listening to insects and turtle doves while I closely watch my water hose, for fear of an expensive fine by the city (story for another day) I started to write about my Papaw Hoot Old, how he got the nic name....instead, once again my brain took a right to my Mamaw's infamous moldy soup.

My grandmother horded somewhat, guess bing hungry during the depression and what with my Papaw hunting, she needed a huge freezer to store the extra. Back then, we all had ice boxes. She didn't have to go to the ice house for blocks of ice, it was electric but did not keep food like our modern refrigerators.

About once every couple of months, Mamaw would would start pulling out leftovers from her icebox while slamming pots, shoving chairs and in general, becoming a creature I wanted to avoid. It was moldy soup time.

Mamaw kept all food that didn't make it to the compost. If we didn't eat it, she still kept it, if started turning bad, into her canning pot it would go and that lady refused to cook another thing until all the soup was eaten.

I loved my Mamaw dearly, have my own version of moldy soup, without the mold, but back then, I ate buttered bread with watery powered milk rather than lift my spoon only to meet a left over green bean wilted not from the heat of the soup, but from the fur that clung to it, refusing to let go even when shook. Yuck.

God bless you Mamaw and all you taught me but this is one tradition that will only live in my memory, not in my kitchen.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Lord Help Me Jesus.....My Grandchild is a Buddhist

I think of myself as a recovering Southern Baptist, then an Episcopalian, with a detour though Lutheren, almost to Catholic. Something like religion was simple when I was a child, either you were a born again Christian or you were going to burn in the fires of hell for all of eternity.

When I was told my middle grandson was Buddhist and his parents were searching for a temple, I calmly informed them of one near my home with little thought to, "What..... HE WON'T BE BAPTISED BORN AGAIN!!"

It occured to me that although all my children were baptised, none of my grandchildren are baptised. Unheard of when I was a youth. I didn't even know about Buddah until I was an adult.

My father and his family were deeply devout in their Southern Baptist roots. My mother never spoke of her beliefs and only went to church on special occations; a wedding, baptisim, or Easter. I thought it odd anyone would stay home on Sunday when I had been taught we could burn in hell unless we sorted out all the do's and don't's. To learn these do's and don'ts and avoid the eternal fires of hell, we were suppose to be in church.

My home church was quite sedate, like a soft spoken lullaby, it could lure kids and older adults into a soft snore which resulted in a lot of startled gasps as elbows found ribs. The songs were just as sedate.

When I went to church with my mom's sister, I learned there were other ways to worship. Aunt Betty was a rolling on the floor, speaking in toungues, foot stomping, hands clapping, arms raised over her head fundamentalist Pentencolstal.

In Aunt Betty's church, rather that the calm monotone sermon from our preacher, her preacher marched all over the stage as he shouted the Word and slapped the bible with his other hand. He never stopped shouting as he ran 0 to 60 from the podium to the front doors of the church then back up to the podium, ignoring and running around the women rolling on the floor shouting in a laugage I had never heard. I was told they were filled with the Holy Spirit.

I believe my dad went to the Heaven he sought, no matter that he sang slow songs, never raised his hands to heaven as he prayed and never spoke in tongues. I believe my Aunt Betty is in the heaven she belived in and that my grandson being a Buddhist will find his own heaven. His beliefs will not bar him from what ever waits for us all at the end of life. Even rock and rollers sought faith and comfort. "Give me something to believe in", Brett Michaels from Poison sang and Kris Kristofferson sang, "Lord Help Me Jesus". Some people choose to sing quietly, others shout, and now my grandson will meditate. It comes down to faith in something that can give hope and peace when needed.

As opposed to when I was a child, religion is not black and white any longer. I don't believe my grandchildren will go to hell if they are not baptised, "washed in the blood of the lamb" as I was, but it doesn't make their faith, belief, or their jouney though life any less. God Bless, my very young grandson that chose to look outside the box when seeking faith and a peace that passes understanding, as there are many boxes to choose from. To me, never giving up the belief there is something outside ourselves that can provide peace of spirit is the ultimate definition of faith.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Hooked on Games?

Have you evern known anyone that was actully additcted to a computer game? Seemed to only think about the game when not playing it and talked about it as if all family and social life had disappeared?

I don't know if I have met anyone with that level of obsession with a game but I have met many who will risk trouble at school to play their game on the iPhone they didn't need in the first place. I'm talking about 4th and 5th graders who would rather be at their key board than outside in their tree house or riding bikes.

This fourth of July brought memories of my large family, aunts, uncles, and cousins gathering at my grandmother's which spilled over to my uncle's next door or go to a city park where there were horse shoe pits for my dad and his brothers. The city park was a treat because it was too far to walk and had larger trees to climb for us what liked to climb trees.

This would usually be a morning to dark event and our decade's equal to computer games was the televison. It didn't cause the frenzy personal comperters have, maybe they were not as fun as the other games us kids played.

My absolute favorite games for these long events, due to the time of year I am sure, had to do with bugs. Bugs we called Kattie dids were abundant and easy enough to catch. All of us managed to grab a spool of thead running out the door as I had visions of home made icecream and cold watermellon appearing like magic on the quilts scattered around for the feast.

After our bellies were full, off we went to have tree climbing contests and look for kattie dids. Once we had an insect, it quickly had a tread tied around it without binding the wings. We held our breath to make sure the knot was good or the thread didn't break as away it went. Those bugs would fly in circles until we either wore it out or the threat broke. I can still hear that buzz the insects made when they flew in circles, although I have been told it is actually tinnitus.

The other game involed lighting bugs or fireflys. They lit up the sky at dusk and there were so many, you could take your jar and after whipping in a circle, you would have captured at least a couple. After our jars were full, we would lay on our tummies in the cool evening grass, heads resting on hands folded under chins, until it was time to make jewlery.

Us girls would were as eager as the boys as they decorated themselves as American Indian warriors, with head bands and streaks across their faces. We usually made rings and ear rings. If you think about it, what was the only way this florscent material would stick to our bodies? We had to pull their butts off, the part that glowed stick them to our faces and hands with their guts. We would then strut our stuff in the dark, no street lights to dim the glow.

I never thought about what we did as being cruel. It was just what all the kids did so I did it too. This was our version of computer games, with the added benefit of exercise, being outdoors and unfortunantly, thinning the populataion of these lovely insects.

I still hear the kattie dids at night near my home and smile as I recall when the only thing I had to worry about on July the 4th was climbing trees and catching bugs. I don't think 10 kids wiped out the population.

Here's to the memories I made with my cousins 5 decades ago and my hope that somewhere in the United States, this lives on. Many thanks to the beetles and fireflys that made my summers extra special and gave their lives for my entertainment, you live on in my memory, for those that died for my entertainment, I salute you.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

I Failed Home EC

Tomorrow is a breakfast for co-workers birthdays and I puzzle over what to buy. Not bake, not fry, not prepare; buy.

I failed Home Ec in Jr. High. Never wanted to take it, didn't ask for it, fought against it, lost, had to take it. I wanted to take shop. I wanted to cut wood, use the machines my grandfather used when he built things, I wanted to breath sawdust and wood stain that I could only get hints of as I walked near the shop room.

When I told my friends I came up with from elementary school, that I wanted to take shop, not Home Ec, the girls laughed, the boys made fun of me, one girl, older, said "To get into that shop door, I had to "do" the shop teacher." Do what? I was only in 7th grade, I didn't know what she was talking about. Do his chores, shine his shoes, wash his car, sweep the shop floor, clean the machines? I was willing to do those things. She laughed as she walked away calling me a "fresh fish" as if that meant anything to me either.

I was taught to respect my elders, never argue with adults, and do what I was told but this time, I spoke up. It was the 60's for goodness sakes, I should be able to take shop and ask for the change in elective without doing the shop teacher's laundry.

I lost. I had to take home ec, had to learn how to set a table, which spoon when where, which fork to use for salad, how to properly eat soup, how to place a knife on the plate and how to properly cut meat. COME ON!! All of us had been eating since we had teeth and my Mamaw told me, "God made fingers before he made forks!" at a picnic. I learned how to separate laundry, load a washing machine, fold towels and sheets. Something I had as a chore at my house since I was in first grade! I was the person in my home that did the ironing, had to sit on a stool to reach the ironing board because when times were tight at our house, my mom took in laundry for extra money.

First cooking class where we actually had to make something from scratch that the teacher taught us, I made my Papaw's biscuits and gravy. Shock, someone knew how to make something the teacher didn't teach! I was sent to the principals office.

Time to do laundry for the class, I stuffed everything into one tub and put twice as much soap. I went to the principal's office.

Time to turn in our folders with pictures glued onto the pages showing our dream home, room by room, I was stumpped. We didn't have those things in our house, I had no idea where to get them, I drew pictures of trees, told her was I was going to be a monkey when I grew up. I went to the principal's office.

Needless to say, this went on for the entire year until it came down to I gave in on some things. I joined the drill team, Mamaw made my uniform, not quite the red the other girls had but we didn't have the money for the uniform. I joined the FHA, Future Homemakers of America, although.... I was failing Home Ec.

I never learned to cut a right angle on a 2x4, I never learned to build bird house or a mail box. I also didn't pass Home Ec and had to take it the next year, same teacher, same walking with a book on my head, learning how to wash my face and again, how to separate cloths before they were washed. What a waste of time but I passed this time, with a D. Back then we acutally had a "D" for a grade if we were close to failing but they didn't want us in their class another year. My report card was funny. Science, B, Math, B, English, A, PE, A, Home Ec, a resounding "D"! I actually had to meet with the principal before I was given a D!

Tomorrow, I am BUYING a breakfast item, not cooking but all the talk about cooking by the WOMEN in my office took me back to the 60's at the end of 7th grade when I discovered, to my horror, what "doing" ths shop teacher meant and that I had more gumption that I realized. Although I only hurt myself by having to take Home Ec twice, that school year, I started to find my own voice.

Monday, July 2, 2012

I'm a Hermit Horder, How'd it Happen??

Before I left the house today I lugged two large boxes out of my room and into the living room, as I have Wednesday off for the Celebration of the liberation of our Nation, I felt I should do some liberation a little closer to home. The boxes have been in the middle of my bedroom floor, on top of other boxes, suit cases, piles of cloths, Chistmas gifts yet to be wrapped or given, for many years! Okay, I know exactly how many years, five years.

I would like to say that is the only room in my home where such mountains of unorganization lurks but it would be a lie. Today, I am only focused on my bedroom, which the two semi-large closets would usually hold this type of junk, are over flowing with the same type of things.

I am forever fearful I won't have a gift for a birthday, Christmas, or I see something on sale and know it will fit, eventually. Never does. Maybe if I bought it in a larger size, I would have better luck with that plan.

When I clean the built in shelves of my half century + home, I put everything into boxes that found a home on the shelves. I dust and then rest, feel too tired to put all the things back, think, "I really need to get rid of half this stuff, even if I give it away so I will go through each box and sort, that's very organized and rational of me." Then it get's set on the pile from the last time I thought this and eventually new books, pictures, candels, frames awaiting pictures and school projects fill the space I was going to use and the cycle starts all over again, for five years!

Since I am off mid week, I am going to liberate the boxes of junk I am sure I don't need, never needed and won't miss. Before I left for work, I made another liberating decision. I decided as I was dragging 5 gallon dead plans in their plastic planters from the front of the the house to the carport that on the 4th of July, I would replace the weeds with flowers. The neighbors are used to seeing these weeds that have adorned my front yard for at least two years. I may get thank you cards. I bought flowers this weekend but was too bummed out by the mess in my house to plant them, so I ate cookies and watched TV instead. Reasonable.

Now that I decided to liberate at least two boxes and three planters on the 4th of July, I have to tell friends I can't go with them to a parade and spend a fun filled day with them that we talked about weeks ago. In fact, I feel so much anxiety about this that I would much rather stay at home by myself, althought I love all my friends. What is wrong with me?? This is the question I thought about on my drive to work.

I have an empty nest this summer for the first time in my life. The first 10 days after DJ left for his dad's, I cried all the way to work and sobbed all the way home, acutally puzzled where this flood of emotion was coming from and why in the world did it seem to have a schedule? My friends, who are also co-workers, have done many things to try and pull me out of the quicksand of despair that seemed to swallow me as I grieved over the empty house. I declined all offers saying I had plans. I did have plans, with ice cream, cookies, and take out food all eaten in a dark living room in front of the television. I am a hermit! A home cave dweller! For some reason, it seems to be the only place I feel safe. How did this happend?? I didn't use to be this way.

All I could conclude on my short drive was that my life centered around family when I was growing up. I was always with a cousin, a grandparent, a sibling, some gathering of family that always brought us together. Tons of people but it hit me today, we were all related and everyone seemed to gravitate to my grandmother's house. Then my siblings and their children began to gravitate to my mom's every holiday, for barbeques, to pitch horseshoes, Sunday dinners and all the next generation cousins became best friends and the cycle of my childhood was being replayed with nieces and nephews. Now it is my sister's house the grand, or is it great, nieces and nephews gravitate toward for all the same reasons. I am the lone ranger, so to speak. I moved away from not only the compound where all my siblings live but from the State where I was born. I started a new life. Now my kids are grown, my grandkids are mostly grown and I am raising a 10 year old grandson who will be going to live with his father next year. At that point, my house will be forever this empty, this lonely, every single day.

I find it hard to relate to friends, with the rare exception. It is not them, I realize this, I envy the ones with friends, dinners, going on trips together, it is most certainly me. I never learned how to be comfortable with friendships, only family is familiar and dare I say....safe? Hording is more of a puzzle. I never used to do this as a younger woman. Why now? My only thought on this is that it seems I have lost so much in life, I don't want to let another thing go, even if it weighs me down.

So, on the day of liberation, I will have a decision to make as I am sure I will be expected to meet with the folks I agreed to spend time celebrating. Will I use the time for opening the door to friends or will I hide in my home cave? Does that make me a coward? What could I be afraid of and how do I face fear without reason?

I wish all of you the very best of times as you cook out, laugh with family and friends and make memories that will last a life time. Maybe I will take a step toward this....... next year.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Living Horsehair

When it would rain in our little town, as long as it was only rain, us kids could go outside and play. We went on grand adventured and explored the "sea life" of the Ozarks that typically remained hidden during long hot summer days.

Crawdads, now called "crawfish', were favorites to locate and do battle until one would lose a claw, we'd toss them aside and go look for others. If it was a down pour, forget finding crawdads, we ran to the ditches where we would ride the waves of fast moving water like snow sleding in winter. We'd dodge broken bottles, old tin cans, litter and all sizes of limbs too weak to hold on against the deluge.

At times one of us would get caught in a whirlpool and would have to be rescued by the rest of us running in to grab them. We'd yank them up and out of the rushing flood water and wait as the rescued cough, spitting out grass and mud. Crisis averted, we'd run back to the outspout where the drain shot out water like it was shot from a cannon. When I jummped in from above the outspout during a downpour, I can't recall ever feeling the grass hit my feet and of course we were all barefoot.

As the rain slowed, it allowed for a more intense search of the area Papaw told us to look for the most magically transformed creature animal know in the Ozarks,.....living horsehair. Papaw told us that big storms brought big magic in such a way that it could turn horsehair to life. He said we would find these rare animals if we searched the gutters as they would stand out. If we looked in the grass, we would never find them. The gutters hypnotized the transformed creatures. His eyes would almost glitter, as my Papaw rarely smiled with his mouth, he would lean forward then whisper as we all leaned toward him, fearing we would miss some tip that would let this living horsehair ellude our grasp, will be the hind end of the horse, the tail. The secret was they were so rare because they took longer to come to life, they were longer, it took more magic.

Us kids would search for these horse hairs and would rarely find one but once it was found, we'd watch it squirm, flipping this way and that way in the shallow water for what seemed like hours before one of us plucked it from the water and tossed it into a jar. Because it was a sea creature, we kept the jar filled with water. If I grabbed a horsehair and got it into my jar. I would watch it swim in it's watery home and think, this used to be something else, something that swatted flys away from the rear end of a huge beast but now with the magic of the rain, was a prized sea creature and I head home. Wet, cold, it was usually getting dark, I was always hungry and I wanted to show Papaw my prize catch.

The next day, it would inexplicably be dead! I didn't wail over a dead sea creature that may have been magic but never did anything magical for me, I saw dead things all the time. I would toss what at that point looked like a piece of over cooked spegetti noodle in the garden out back, wash the jar and put it back into the shed.

It wasn't until years later that I discovered these were really baby snakes that had washed from their nests into the gutters. The only possible way to catch snakes this young was when they were trapped in gutter water. I also learned the older the snake, the longer it was. Magic my hind end. We was tricked into snake hunting for my Papaw!!!

It was still great fun or I wouldn't be smiling right now writing about these adventures. I remember after a hot bath I would climb into my bed, crisp sheets smelling of outdoors after hanging on the closthsline before the rain. I would place the jar on my dresser and my gum on the back of the bedpost feeling very safe and content. I fell asleep after my prayers thinking it was a most perfect day, the best day ever to find a most magical thing in the Ozarks.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Hiding in the Hamper

I can still remember the smell of dirty cloths when I dug deep into them, making myself as small as possible, trying to become invisilbe, when my mother was on a rampage. This was before the days when I would step between my sister and my mom, before my little brother was born, the days they don't recall my mother's rages and days I will never forget. The hamper could not have been more than the size of small washing machine. It had a hinged door for dropping in dirty cloths that sprung shut, snapping at fingers as it took the deposits of shirts, sheets, and dirty socks. These were the very things that I hugged to make me disappear only occationally peeking between the slit where the angry snapping door allowed some light and visual down the hall.

I could hear her angry march before I saw her and usually she would be cussing like my Uncle Bill, that was quite a vocabulary of dirty words for a woman in the 1950's. I would head to the hamper when I heard a tone in her voice, if it wasn't aimed at me, I didn't want to find myself in her sights. If I was not near the hamper, I would run outside and climb into the dog's house. Another story for a another day.

My mom had very dark moods at times and they errupted in fits of rage that on at least two occations sent me to the emergency room and resulted in new caps on two teeth. I loved my mom, I still do, but her moods were unpredictable, at least to me, until she finlly left us all and moved to another state for two years. When she returned, she was better, happier. She was divorced and starting a new profession, as she completed college while she was gone. This is the mother I try to recall when I think about her. The one that sang, danced and was beautiful. The one that would fix tomatoe soup and put a cool cloth on my head when I was ill. The one that on occation, said, "I love you" and I actually belived it most the time.

After I was an adult and moved away, I got a long letter from her when I was in my 30's. She told me a story of watching chickens when she had to gather eggs and in particular, mother hens that had many chicks. She described squating in a dusty area in the corner of the pen to see if the chicks would come up to her but they stayed with their momma chick. She began to notice momma chickens had a tendency to reject one little chick, to the point of pecking it away from the rest of the chicks and herself, at time harming the little chick. My mom told me I had been that baby chick for her. She didn't know why and didn't know how to fix it but did want me to know she was sorry for all the times she hurt me and didn't comfort me when she knew it was what I needed.

I saved that letter. I pull it out when I am in a dark place because it still means so much to me. My mother's mind is gone, my beautiful dancing mom who would sing when she was happy, she is gone. All I relly have is that letter and when I pulled it out last month, the words had faded to where I can only make out a few sentences. My heart is broken. This post was going to be about the loss of my father but somehow, my fingers found the keys typing about my mom.

I am happy that my last memories of my mother are the nice ones and I fight to keep the horror of her fists and hair pulling off to the side where we all put things painful, in the hope it will eventually disappear.

I don't think I want to completely forget that part of my mother, she helped to make the person I am today, along with the rest of my family, and I am forever grateful to her for giving when she felt she had so little of herself to give.

I can't proof read this, won't read it again so forgive so many errors in spelling and grammer, as I am sure there are many, but the spirit of my message today was that I honor my mother, even with the bad times, and I miss her dancing and singing most of all.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Swamp A** in the Ozarks

I don't know if this is a term that is used anywhere else in the country, maybe you can enlighten me. My brother, the older one, used to tell me he had Swam A** when we would be outside in the summer, doing anything that required moving around. Even if we just ran through the yard sprinklers to cool off or took a walk to the square, which was more of a circle, where many of the town stores were located. I had no idea what he was talking about and just thought it was my brother's typical gross talk.

Kids now days are indoors a lot. When we were kids, we weren't allowed indoors. Slam that screen door just once, no matter which house were staying for the day, we ended up locked out until dark, only getting a sandwich passed to us attached to a disembodied hand that promptly slammed and locked the door again. If we had to go to the bathroom, it was a choice to find a place in the field and risk chiggers or ticks, or walk to a store.

Jimbo and I didn't hang together much when I was very young, only when I was a teen did we begin to see each other more as humans and less as objects to taunt and resent. He was a football player, a linebacker, so he was a big guy. Eventally, I lost my own identity to become Riggs's little sister. Even teachers in Jr. High and High School called me Riggs, like they did my brother, not by my first name. For most of my adolescene, I was only a shadow of my brother, which may have been why I was so shy, or maybe it suited my being shy, chicken/egg?

The other football players would gather at our house for various reasons. They would come to cook outs or hang out to workout on the weights. I heard them all talk about Swamp A** at one time or another and by that time, just thought they were talking about sinky butts, since my brother's room always had an odd odor, which I finally decided as I was forever closing his bedroom door, was due to he never washed his sheets and wore the same socks over and over again. How I knew this, that's a Rant for another day.

As to my own experience with Swamp A**...? It only started to happen when I added some weight and gravity began to work her magic, when gravity moves body parts from the proper and correct locations to unthinkable locations. The lightbulb went off as the pain began on a hot summer day, I finally understood Swamp A**.

The first time was during a brisk walk around a lake trail in near 100 degree heat. By the trails end, my "end" was on fire!! No amount of baby powder was soothing enough. As my years kept climbing, my parts kept giving in to gravity and what was formally known as my "rocking body" became, expanding gerth. I switched to a bicycle to try and preserve my knees and save my red "cheeks". There was no excape. Swamp A** followed me on the bike as well, reminding me with it's red prickly burn that it was here to stay as long as I insisted on sweating.

Out of the blue, as most good things seem to happen, I was in the bike shop looking for a padded saddle for my bike to help my burning behind and there it was, sitting on a shelf above bike gloves and water bottles. A little round yellow plastic carton with a pitcure of an adorable little furry Dora the Explorer type creature with it's huge smile and bright red monkey butt pointing at me. You know I had to read about this and I bought it. God bless America and Anti-Monkey Butt powder! It found me when I wasn't even looking. Take THAT SWAMP A**!!! If you have never heard of it, google Anti-Monkey Butt powder. If you like the outdoors but like me, end up with sweat dripping from your neck to your back side, if you end up with some pain and redness where it doesn't belong, you too suffer from Swamp A** syndrom and you will be doing the bowlegged Swamp A** walk for until it heals.

Moral of this Ramble, if you torture your sister, she may never tell you about Anti-Monkey Butt powder and if you don't want Swamp A**, find some Monkey Butt!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Cup of Butter and a Pot of Pork Fat

This morning, as I was getting my things ready for work, my grandson saw me slapping heaps of butter into one of those cup size Glad containers. He asked me with some concern and disgust, "Is that my school snack"?

I use the same container to put his fruit in for mid-day school snacks. I let out a loud laugh, he cracks me up sometimes. I reassured him, he had blueberries and stawberries in his cup size container. The butter was for cooked sweet potatoes at work. He walked away rubbing the sleep out of his eyes mumbling, that I was so gross, under his breath.

Of course, having lived my grandmother a lot and asking her questions that must have been equally funny to her, he had to suffer a childhood story of mine on the way to school. A car makes for a captive listener! Today it was about my grandmother keeping what looked like a smaller version of an old fashioned coffee percolator, much like today's cowboy coffee makers for camping, next to her stovetop for "drippings" as she called them.

Mamaw usually cooked with lard. When she wanted to punch up the flavor, as in "Bam" she used that small coffee pot full of discarded fat, usually from bacon.

Those cans had filters, much like modern coffee makers catch the grounds from coffee beans, her fat catching kettle caught bits of burnt flesh from what ever she cooked and yep, it was used a lot!

Until my first visit to a cardiologist, I really didn't give it much thought. Then the family history of heart attacks took me to my past, all the way to that pot of grease.

Is it any wonder most folks of my generation have to have their arteries roto rooted like plumbing in an old house? I have had friends and co-workers suffer a heart attack or stroke in their 40's and 50's. Some may be genetic but I can't help but picture that pot on Mamaw's stovetop with skull and crossbones or one of those red circles with a red slash inside at a 45 degree angle.

How did our grandparents keep that fat from spoiling? There was no expiration date on the can, I never saw her wash it, it was used then refilled each week.

Looking back, eating healthy homegrown green beans from Papaw's garden sprinkled with sevin dust, then Mamaw drizzled with bacon fat was everyday good eats for us,

I never passed on those flavorful greens. Now I know it was probably worse than my sending a cup of butter with my grandson for snack.

Maybe next week I will pack him a cup of butter and tell him to be grateful it isn't poison laced pork fat!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Dodge Darts and Brotherly Love

In the days when few of us had televisions, we had to make our own fun. If enough kids were around, we could get a ball game going or ride bikes to the railroad tracks to expore. When other kids were busy with chores or errands, siblings usually played with each other. If our chores were done and we were bored, we found our own entertainment.

My brother typically didn't want to play with me, treated me like I was a knat most of the time, so when he did ask me to play. I was thrilled and quickly agreed. Our house had a wooden fence that my dad kept in good repair and was tall enough that I could not see over the top. I may have been about 9 years old during these games that will never find their way to the Olympics.

It's hard to picture getting suckered over and over again into something my brother would think was too funny for words, like getting me to taste the neighbor's metal gate after a big snow. "It tastes just like ice cream, I promise," he would say as he pretended to taste the gate himself. After my tongue was firmly attached and screams of panic tore from my throat, I recall thinking he clearly didn't taste the section I did and it tasted nothing like ice cream. Althought I was in pain, my tongue so swolen it filled my mouth, I was still confused by the trap I fell into, still wondering how his tongue didn't get captured by the evil metal. My face felt burned from the cold exposure and my tears felt hot as they rolled without a sound, my heart breaking as my mom wore herself out whipping him with a belt and cussing like a sailor.

As for dodge darts, it was more of a summer game. I loved the attention from my brother who mostly ignored me and acted like I was invisible. At times I would run to the bathroom and check in the mirror, reassuring myself I was not invisible. Like a little sucker of a sister, I willingly became his partner in this game. Jimbo got a dart board one year, for a birthday or Christmas. He wasn't allowed to play in the house so it was set up outside. When he explained the rules of dodge dart to me, I wasn't hesitant in the least. Excited that this time, I would win. Yes, I thought that every time we played. I was warned to never tell mom or we couldn't play together. If I wasn't invisible, I was happy. If we played, I wasn't invisible.

To begin the game, he would mark my "dogde" area. He placed large rocks at four corners and used tree branches to fashion a small square in the lawn on one side of the fence. That was my side of the fence. To win the game, I had to dodge the darts he tossed over the fence from the other side without going over the "foul lines" he set for me. Now, how many times in these games do you think I was able to dodge all the darts when he only gave me about 3 feet side to side and front to back to work with?

I realized after seeing the first dart fly straight up like a rocket, curve almost in slow motion then gather speed as it made it's way for a direct hit at my face, this was going to hurt. I don't know how but I was mostly able to dodge the darts but some found their way to my arms, mostly because I had them wraped over my head as I ran in tight circles like a chicken with her head cut off. I would be in tears at the end of the game, not knowing he realized if he played any longer, Mom would find out. He would come to my side of the fence to count the number of times I was hit, which was easy since each place had little red dots of blood. I will never know what factors he used to tell me "great game" or instead, call me a cry baby. That would stop my crying, it was the absolute worst thing to be know as, a cry baby! It wasn't that I was dumber than dirt that kept me involved with his games, it was simply that my big brother asked me to play with him and that was a rare treat. I can't remember ever being the least bit suspicious as I always jumped at the chance to spend time with him, even when almost every game he suggested ended with me injured or trapped and usually in tears. My feeling of joy at being asked to spend time with him won me over every time.

He must have "LOVED" playing with me because he was willing to face my mother's rage and what seemed like an endless belt lashing if he was caught.

For all you brothers out there, us sisters forgive you for games like dodge darts because we loved you then and we love you now, unconditionally...... mostly.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Papaw Made me 10 Feet Tall

Todays toys come with a price. Whether that price is the cost to the pocket book or loss of social skills for kids as they strike the iPod pose, neck and head down, eyes unblinking and the screen of their little game inches from their noses. Back in the day, we had toys, they were just different. They required balance, skill and some risk taking. My Papaw was a railroad man but he was also a gifted carpenter. He would surprise us kids at times by going to the shed then dragging out a sled he threw together. If I were a bettin' person, I would bet it was because he wanted us out of the house, it worked every time. I loved the things he would make but one of my favorite was when he made stilts. Now I have looked at those metal ones in stores and shiver at the thought that I didn't inherit his gift for looking at scraps of wood and junk that had piled in the corner of his yard only to see it was actually a sled, a pair of stilts or a wagon. I have some scars from this, as from other adventures as a kid, but this was an art form itself! Papaw wasn't going to tell us how to get up on the little blocks for our feet, nor did he tell us to put on our shoes to prevent more injury. Papaw was big believer in, learn from mistakes and the learning sticks. He also gave us the extra challenge of a 2nd pair of blocks if we dared to try to go higher. Tony, my cousin, tried to get on the stilts from above, standing on the porch and putting first one foot on a block, then the other. I am sure I got way too much pleasure from watching him fall forward, sideways and even backwards onto the concrete porch as I watched and evaluated what would work best for me when it was my turn. Being of the personality that never learns from her own mistakes, I certainly didn't learn from others mistakes. I fell forward, sideways, backwards and had blood dripping down one leg from a missed foot hold. Eventually, I just took those skinny boards, more like sticks, to the middle of the yard, planted one in the dirt and held the other loose and close. I went on the lowest block and hopped. To my shock and the amazement of the other kids, I was up on the stilts. Now what? I realized quickly, as I was falling to earth once again, if I wanted to move, the foot hold had to stay in contact with my shoes. My next jump up onto the foot blocks resulted in wrapping my arms around the top of the stilts like my life depended on it and pulling hard while keeping my foot planted on the block. I made it a few jerky steps then down I went again. Egged on by the other kids making fun of me, even though not one of them had the success I finally had. I set my jaw, planted that left stilt into the ground and up I went again. It was just me and trees. I blocked everything else out. Lift and forward right, lift and forward left, repeat. Before I knew it I was at the edge of the yard. I turned around and ignored the kids yelling for me to fall, much like a pick up game of baseball when they yell "Batter, batter, batter, swing". I hopped up on first set of blocks then, mostly because I was mad, I went up to the second set of blocks to walk back. I kept my eyes on the sky and in my mind, was as tall as the house, as tall as the tops of the trees, and I was much higher than the bruised egos of my playmates! I finally realized it was okay to fall forward, that's how I had to exit the stilts. Let them start the fall forward then I jumpped, both feet planted on the earth at the same time. Without a word, I hopped down and tossed those stilts on the ground, a gesture of "dare you" to the next kid. I heard a quiet tap tap tap in the backgound of arguments about how I always seemed to have beginners luck. I looked at the window in the front of house and saw my Papaw's crooked smile, he gave a quick wink and dropped the curtin back in place. It was like he knew I would be the first one to defeat gravity that kept slamming us into the ground with each try. Don't get me wrong, today I like my electronics. If I tried stilts I would break a hip. Electronic have kept me in touch with family and friends in all parts of the country. Even my older brother is learning to use a computer although he is refusing to buy one yet. He goes to the public library where I am sure they still use DSL. But I miss that childhood feeling, knowing that from a few scrapes of junk, my Papaw could take an hour out of his day to make me feel ten feet tall.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Rolling in the Grass meant Chiggers in your A**

Some kids never learned that a few fun things sometimes should not be done again and again. Like when my brother "allowed" me the first jump into the stagnant water of the gravel pits, I finally figured out, I was the test subject to make sure it was deep enough to be safe. It he took me, I would jump first, feeling like a star as his friends watched me fall the 30 feet to the water. Same with playing barefoot in the summer. I don't think I wore shoes execpt when I was in church. I can recall going to school barefoot once, must have been the first day of school and I just forgot. Even in my little town they expected me to wear shoes so I had to walk back home to get a pair before I could get back into class. Rolling down hills in cool grass on hot summer days was a favorite pass time for us kids. It was always a race and always hoping we didn't roll on a honey bee. Afterwards we would sit and hunt for 4 leaf clovers (I never found one, ever!). I would occationally do the very girly thing of tying long stem clovers together to wear as a necklace or crown. I tried to keep the girl stuff to a minimum because I played with boys. The only girl around was my cousin/sister, she didn't like rolling in the grass or having tree climbing contests. The bad part of this was the Ozarks held an abundance of chiggers and ticks. If we stayed in the grass, we typically only had the fire breathing tiny red bugs that loved those tight spots, like the waist band area of shorts and back sides we sat on while resting. THE WORST PLACE to have to scratch when adults were around! As it neared dark, us kids had to head home. Back in the day, we could be gone all day long, walk the few blocks to the center of town where there were acutal water fountains outside the drug store or barber shop. If we got thirsty when playing in a field, we would just walk to the nearest house and turn on the water hose, wait for the scalding water to become more drinker friendly and fill 'er up. It didn't take long for Mamaw or Papaw to see me scratching where the red devils were attacking, welts grew on my arms and legs and I kept digging with my nails. Soon, I would hear a bath being drawn and smell the bleach. My grandparents solution to killing the chiggers making THEM uncomfortable watching me scratch was to put me in a tub of cold water with laundry bleach added. I shiver now as I think about how I could not complain that this never worked, it only made my skin burn more and the smell made it seem like I was in a tub of bleach with water added. My Mamaw would stand over me to make sure I stayed in the tub and my entire body was submurged. I guess I should be grateful she didn't hold my head under but then again, I never scratched my head, my a** was on fire so that's were I focused my own attack. Learning from mistakes has never been a strong suit of mine. I must have smelled like bleach for days afterwards and wondered if any of my friends had to do the same. We never discussed this, as far as I can recall. No matter how horrible the itching and bleach water baths were, they were never bad enough to stop me the next time my friends said, "Let's roll race to the bottom of this hill." I would slam my body flat against the grass and start my trip to the bottom of the hill, watching the sky and grass switch places rapidly. As soon as I could gain footing, I would stagger up the the hill to go on my next run.