Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Cat Eye Glasses

Way back in the day, I remember hoping one day I would be able to wear cat eye glasses. I really wanted to wear them. They were very popular in the early sixties and I thought the women who wore them, especially if they were secretaries, were at the top of their game.

Why, oh, why, did I have to have great eyesight?

When I was little, I wanted to be an actress when I grew up. But, not just any regular actress. I wanted to be a smoking actress. You know what I’m talking about; the ones who adorned gowns, strategically placed a wisp of their hair over their left eye, smoked, and said, “Dahling” a lot. That’s what I wanted to be.

Until I saw my dad’s secretary wearing cat eye glasses.

I used to spend a lot of time after school and some Saturday’s at my dad’s real estate office. I played secretary a lot and pretended I could type at a very fast speed. Most of my creations were quite sad, but it was fun pounding the keys on the black typewriter. Back then, ink ribbon was used in the typewriter, so I am sure my dad’s secretaries were not happy to come back on Mondays to see the ribbon needed replaced. I sure as hell wasn’t going to do it.  There was no way I wanted purplish ink on my fingers, especially when my dad often took me over to Mom’s Lunch for lunch. How can you possibly pick up a french fry to dip in ketchup when you have purple ink on your fingers?  Besides, I was a kid. Kids weren’t expected to change typewriter ribbon, right?

So, imagine how my jaw dropped when I saw one of the secretaries wearing cat eye glasses for the first time. Now, you have to understand that both of them were young and very pretty, so the cat eye glasses didn’t make them look like nerds or anything. On the contrary, it made them look smart and beautiful, which was a pretty great combination. As my mom repeatedly told me, “You have to be pretty on the inside before you can be pretty on the outside.” I thought that was a stupid comment, because I was pretty sure lungs and kidneys were not pretty. But, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I guess.

After staring at my dad’s secretary, I wanted a pair of cat eye glasses. I couldn’t wait to go home and ask my mom to take me to the eye doctor. I had to have these glasses.

“Vickie, you have perfect eyesight. You do not need glasses.”

“I really do, Mom. I can’t really see what is written on the board.”

Yes, I lied. I was, after all, a big fat liar, minus the fat part. So, off we went to the doctor. Looks like my left eye was perfect and my right eye was just a little weak, but not enough to need glasses. But, after my mom told him I had a hard time seeing the board, I got a pair of glasses “to use as needed.”

Shit.

They didn’t have cat eye glasses for kids. What? Sure they do. You must be mistaken, Mr. Doctor.

I came home with a pair of brown glasses that looked an awful like my mom’s. I was not a happy liar. I think I wore those glasses a total of four times. My mom wrote a note to the teacher to make sure I wore those damn things, but I think it somehow got lost before I gave it to her.

So, it looked like I was back to wanting to be a smoking actress when I grew up. My hopes of being a secretary with cat eye glasses were dashed.

But, maybe my mom could get a little spiffy looking with a pair.

I wished my mom wore cat eye glasses because she had a pair of  what she called “Ben Franklin” glasses and they just looked stupid on top of her mop of a hair-do. I couldn’t understand why there was a line running right through the middle of each lens.

She was about as stylish as my dad, who wore suits every day and looked  dapper, but who could not coordinate casual clothes to save his soul. He wore stripes with plaids and couldn’t understand why he didn’t match, as long as the same color was in both pieces of clothing. He also had no problem wearing black socks with sandals.

I was surrounded by the misfits of Toy Land.

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He was pinching her butt in this photo….

I have to admit I have never been back to the eye doctor. I know, my bad, especially since I’m pushing sixty.  I do wear Dollar General or Walmart Foster Grant reading glasses, mostly on top of my head like a head band.

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I don’t think I look like a secretary. I look like a pretend photographer.

 

 

Blackwater Falls

I am ready to move to a warmer climate. I am tired of snow, spinning tires, and 2 hour school delays. But, despite this long snap of frigid weather and mounting snow drifts, I still find inspiration to get in my car and snap some photos. It would be much easier to snap pictures during the other three seasons, when I actually want to get out of my car for different angles, but right now I am basically a “shoot from the car window”  kind of pretend photographer.

When my son was in for Christmas, we decided to drive to Blackwater Falls right after a frigid couple of days. We wanted to see if the falls were frozen. What was I thinking?

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We stopped to take photos of this lovely old house.

Blackwater State Park is located in the Allegheny Mountains of Tucker County, West Virginia near the town of Davis. The park is about 1 1/2 hours away from my home.  It is named for the cascading falls of the Blackwater River, whose amber-colored waters plunge 62 feet and then tumble through the Blackwater Canyon, which is roughly an eight mile long gorge. The so-called “black” water is from tannic acid from the nearby fallen hemlock along with red spruce needles.

According to wvencyclopedia.org

“The river enters Blackwater Falls State Park at an elevation of 3,040 feet. For the next 2.2 miles it is a wild river, dropping 57 feet at the main falls and then descending another 560 feet, before leaving the park. The river, geologically young, has carved the spectacular, deep, and almost vertical walls of Blackwater Canyon, which cuts through the surrounding plateau. Blackwater Lodge opened in 1956 on the south rim of the canyon, and a 65-site campground was opened in 1961. The state park, consisting of 1,688 acres, was established in 1937.”

I have never been to the falls in the winter. Summer is a beautiful time to visit the whole area, but we wanted to see what it looked like after a few days of frigid temperatures. I was not too smart and wore tennis shoes and my gloves might as well have been made of thin cotton. But, I had my camera and it was great having my son along with me.

We arrived at the falls parking lot and were surprised to see so many cars. I thought we would be all alone, seeing that it was so cold. I noticed license plates from Virginia, New York, Delaware, and Ohio among the many from West Virginia.

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Did I mention there were 214 steps to get down to the falls? I hadn’t been there in years and hoped the slipping and sliding would be worth it.

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It was a beautiful walk and I was so happy the wind was calm. I am not a fan of cold, but I trudged on, hoping the falls would not disappoint.

They didn’t There were parts that were frozen, but a majority of the falls were plunging, business as usual. I was taken back by the surrounding beauty. This was a winter wonderland, no doubt about it.

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Trees in the canyon below showed the beauty of winter.

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My son is a great photographer. His photos look a lot better than mine.

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Blackwater Falls, one of the most photographed areas in the state.

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So, if you go down, you must go back up. In all honesty, the stairs that snaked their way down to the falls had many platforms along the wall. There were benches and different viewing areas for those who did not want to take the whole journey. It was not bad, and I am a complainer.

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My son was able to make this snowman while he waited for me at the top of the stairs..just kidding. I did fine. But, we felt we deserved a break, so we stopped at the Mountain State Brewing Co. for a beer.

 

IMG_3945All in all, I was glad we ventured into the mountains to visit Blackwater Falls. The best part, though, was spending the day with my son.

 

Ginger-Ale House

I made my first gingerbread house this past Christmas. I am fifty-seven years old and had never made one, so I decided that would change. I informed my children, who are now 28 and 26,  it is never to late to begin a tradition, and that when they came home from eastern Europe and New York City to stay with me over the holidays, we would be making gingerbread houses….beer included in the mix.

I have been researching gingerbread houses and even have a board on pinterest on the subject. If I was going to create a gingerbread house, I really needed to know what the hell I was doing.

I started by looking at recipes for creating the gingerbread walls and roof for the house and I thought to myself, “Oh, hell no.”  No, this gingerbread house newbie was going to have to buy kits this first year. The thought of mixing and rolling and baking on top of my Christmas cookies and planned dinner was too much for me.

So, I found kits at Walmart. I also started accumulating candy and stuff to put on the gingerbread house. I bought other bases because I wanted to have room to make a yard. I was ready.

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The best part of this was the fact that my kids, now grown, seemed to be excited to put together a gingerbread house. When they were small, I was so busy getting ready for a Christmas Eve sit- down dinner at our house for 25 people, baking cookies and cleaning, that I just never thought about gingerbread house building.  It took us a while to get everything cooked and ready. I even used china and didn’t think about using plastic bowls or plates for salads or desserts until I was just tired of  it all.  So, our gingerbread house building I guess had to wait.

Better late than never.

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My son has been living in the Republic of Georgia and already had plans to alter his gingerbread house. He was thinking of Georgian architecture and went to the kitchen and came back with a knife. He sat, studied, and then began manipulating his walls and roof. He was smiling, so I knew he came up with an idea.

Alex, on the other hand, jumped right in and began icing her walls to the base. She remarked several times she was going to win. Before we started, we decided we would post our houses on my facebook wall and ask my friends to vote on the best gingerbread house. No one would know who built what house. Alex was on a mission to win.

I, on the other hand, was dealt a blow when my gingerbread house was missing the icing bag. Really? Strike one on momma’s house. I tried to improvise by getting a zip lock bag and cutting a hole in one of the corners. Total fail. I made quite the mess.

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We had a lot of fun though.  After Alex spent a lot of the time bragging about how her house was going to win, disaster struck….sort of. She put so many round little balls on her roof, that her roof slid right off the house. It was too heavy. She used a few choice curse words and then just sat and looked at her award winning gingerbread house.

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So, her roof became a side yard. She exclaimed that she was done, but then grabbed a few gingerbread people and started icing them on as the roof. It left a hole in middle. As she finished her bottle of Blue Moon beer, she placed it into the middle of her house and proclaimed her creation, “a ginger-ALE- house.”  Way to recover, young grasshopper.

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Adam, meanwhile, changed the whole thing and created a drive-in. Yes, a drive-in movie theater. I was ready to start calling him Gingerbread Fred as he had pieces of gingerbread lying on the table with no direction in mind. And then it came to him. The result was creative and so very cute.

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I loved his result! It’s a Wonderful Life was even playing at the gingerbread drive-in and the scene where George tells Mary he would lasso the moon for her was on the screen. He had little cars with the speakers by the car and I just loved it.

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So, we were done. I was pretty proud of my first gingerbread house.

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It was a basic house, but I liked how I made the icicles. I also put tootsie rolls as logs.

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Now it was time for the judging. We cleaned off the messy table and lined up the contest entries.

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I then put it on Facebook, where my friends obliged and immediately began voting. People were also guessing who they thought each gingerbread house belonged to. Most of the people thought I made the drive-in, Alex made the cottage, and Adam made the beer hall. It was fun. I won, of course, but  as I got votes for “best workmanship,” the kids both received kudos for being creative.

In the end, our first gingerbread house building was a success, minus my icing fiasco.

I smiled when Adam said he wanted to do it again next year.

Gingerbread Fred will be thinking ahead.

Alex, on the other hand, will probably take a more modest approach and wait until her house is done before bragging.

And I am just happy I had both of my children on the same continent, spending an evening with their mom making memories.

Success.

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Our Disappearing Roadside Rest Areas

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. 

Robert Frost

Years ago, there were no interstates. We had two lane roads and that’s about it. Sometime during the summer we would hop into our family car and travel around West Virginia. My dad was a realtor and land developer and said he could not be away from the business for too long at a time. I’m thinking that he just didn’t want to be cooped up in a car with my mom, who was so much more than a co-pilot; she was a drill sergeant  driving instructor and a callous wife. That combination was not fun if you were sitting in the front seat…which I was not.

No, I was sitting in the backseat…with a bucket between my feet and my face out the window. The hairpin turns on these West Virginia roads did not make me a happy traveler. My dad would also make us get out at almost every scenic vista to pose for a picture. He had one of those huge press cameras, and also took home movies. So, it took us a while to travel 60 miles through the mountains.

The great thing about traveling on a two lane road back then was the fact that there were numerous places to pull over and take a break. You could tell  because there was a place to pull over and the three main requirements:

1) shade

2) a great view

3) a picnic table right by the road.

Many people would pack a lunch before their little jaunts as  restaurants and gas stations were just here and there. Nowadays, there are interstate rest stops along the way where you can buy food and drink out of vending machines. Just writing this makes me feel sorry for the youth in 2013, as this way of traveling in the 50’s and 60’s was ideal now that I think about it. Well, except for the fact that most of the pull-off picnic rest areas did not have a bathroom. But, for the most part, they were a welcome break from traveling with three fighting young children in the back seat and one continuously perturbed woman in the passenger seat. My dad would always say the same thing:

“Look at this beautiful view. We need to get a picture.” We would then get out of the car and strike a pose.

If you lived in West Virginia back then, there were certain places your family would travel.  I will never forget stopping by the smallest church in the lower 48 states.   Right alongside Route 219 in Thomas sits Our Lady of the Pines. My dad even let me sign our name in the guest book located right inside. This cute 24×12 foot church has only six pews and seats twelve people. Peter Milkint, a Lithuanian immigrant, built Our Lady of the Pines in 1938. You know, I’m thinking that since Hawaii and Alaska did not join the United States until 1959,  perhaps Peter billed the church the smallest before those states had their statehood. I may have stepped into the smallest church in all the 50 states.

This tiny sanctuary receives about 30,000 visitors a year.

There were other places we would venture on our yearly 2-3 day “jaunts” around West Virginia and stopping by the roadside rest areas were always part of the plan. We would visit Senaca Rocks, Smoke Hole Caverns, Spruce Knob, and come to think about it, we never went anywhere else except for the Monongahela State Forest area. Naturally, they had many pull over rest areas with added concrete fireplaces. But,the  one place I remember most vividly, and that was Cool Springs Park.

Cool Springs was not a destination, but a stop along the journey. It was what our interstate rest stops are today, minus the animals and rusty tractors. It was such a surprise the first time we came down a 3 mile hill and saw this great rest stop/souvenir shop/petting zoo and I was thrilled to death. Kids love souvenirs and this place had everything. This was roadside kitsch galore.

I’m pretty sure my brother bought a tomahawk and I liked the penny in a small bottle with the words Cool Springs Park written across the front. Parents are more than obliged to purchase these souvenirs because it may mean some quiet time once the kids climb back into the car. Well, not when there is a tomahawk involved. But, regardless, it was a vacation pressed in my memory and I decided last week to travel to Cool Springs once again on my way to nowhere in particular.

Now, this isn’t my first trip back to Cool Springs since I was little and was continually tomahawked in the back seat of the car. No, we traveled along Route 50 when I had my own children. But, it had changed since the early 60’s. In the early 90’s, it was, well, more rusty. The owners of cool springs had many displays of train cabooses and other mechanical devices showcased around the acreage beside the gas station/ souvenir shop.  You could walk through the park like grounds over bridges and see the large water wheel in action. But, the tractors had a lot of rust on them and I didn’t want my children to touch anything. The animals weren’t around that day, but there were a couple of peacocks walking around.

Inside, the kids picked out a souvenir or two. The tomahawks were still there. Thank goodness my kids walked right by those. I smiled when I saw the penny in a jar and I believe I had a thimble to add to my printer’s tray.

Cool Springs was the ultimate roadside park. So, fast forward to 2013, and I decided to stop there once again, this time with camera in tow. Earlier in the morning I decided to do something spontaneous and hurriedly packed an overnight bag and I was on my way. The only certain plan I had was to travel east on Route 50. I was going to get to visit Cool Springs again.

Since I was looking out for photo opportunities on my drive, I noticed numerous abandoned buildings along the way. Once an interstate is built, a lot of restaurants, motels, and small businesses had to close due to a decrease in people stopping. Roadside parks had decreased also. People weren’t really stopping to stretch their legs or check out their map. Afterall, that’s what a GPS is for. Coolers are kept in a car for longer jaunts, and people wanted to stretch their legs where ever there were also restroom facilities. But, Cool Springs Park was still open, after all these years.

Ah,nostalgia.

The sign was still the same.

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I smiled as I got out of my car and decided to walk left through the park and save the store and restaurant for later.

I immediately noticed the neglect of the once magnificent park.

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The collection box was quite rusted. I think they quit checking for donations years ago 

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There was a very pretty covered bridge, but what you didn’t see is that it was jammed with old pieces of machinery and cars so there is no way anyone could cross the bridge any more.

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I’m thinking this is where all the old steam engines and mechanical devices go to die.

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There were a couple of birds in a very muddy pen. With the amount of rain the area had earlier, the whole park looked as if the creek bed washed up over its banks and covered the whole park. It was a very muddy walk.

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The more I walked around, the more I realized that this park will probably not be here in twenty years. Fences were down, the water wheel was no longer working, and the shelters had fallen down.

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I remember climbing into this caboose when I was little.

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The water wheel is no longer working. It was such a wonderful thing to see.

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I have no idea why this wishing well is enclosed by a chain link fence and is now full of water. I stared at this for a while, trying to figure it out. I should have asked someone.

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Sit at your own risk.

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And then I walked into a swarm of about 25,000 gnats. Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating, but they went up my nose, in my eyes and ears and all through my hair. There were so many shallow pockets of water throughout the park, I immediately thought that this could be a prime breeding ground for the West Nile virus as the bugs and mosquitoes were plentiful. Since there were a couple confirmed cases of West Nile Virus elsewhere in West Virginia, don’t think that wasn’t on my mind.

I was miserable. It is not fun having bugs up your nose or in the corner of your eyeballs. And then I stepped in donkey poop.

Yes, I didn’t see them, but I knew there were two donkeys on the property. And there was donkey poop everywhere.

So, now I was just a mess. I decided to make my way into the store so I could clean the donkey poop from my sandals and splash water on my face, you know, to drown the gnats.

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Once inside, a flower arrangement sits in one of the sinks in the bathroom that no longer works.

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A souvenir store on one side and a restaurant/hardware store on the other. I could not find a penny in a bottle.

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Darn, a blurry picture and I only took one of the crowd that was sitting for lunch. The place was crowded with tourists wanting a tomahawk, locals, and those just stopping for gas. There were three people in front of me at the cash register, so I knew this was still a hit with those passing by.

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As I left to continue on my trip on the scenic byways of West Virginia, I pulled over to take one last photo of Cool Springs Park. I then just sat and looked over the whole place. I remember such a manicured place with a water wheel and people sitting under shelters eating food they brought in their cars. This is the ultimate roadside park. And unless something is done, the shelters will be on the ground, the fences that are still up will have fallen, and the rusty tractors and train engines will be a further rusty mess. There’s no going back unless the decay is stopped.

I would so prefer driving the back roads. Interstates are rushed, impersonal, and agitating. Back roads offer scenery, a meandering pace, and a greeting from a roadside picnic table for stretching your legs and taking in the beauty that surrounds you.

I hope Cool Springs Park survives for future generations of tomahawk buying children. It was a West Virginia treasure, and still is, despite being so very rough around the edges. Luckily, it is a major route for those enjoying a ride on their motorcycles and short cuts across our state.

I hope you stop if you are ever in the area.

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S’mores

I have always loved picnics. Since I was the pickiest child on the planet, it was hard for my mom to find something I liked. No problem at a summer picnic, because there was a lot of food for me to put on my thin, wiggly paper plate. I would eat corn on the cob and watermelon. Ta-da. Ok, there were other foods I would eat. I wouldn’t touch the potato salad because whoever heard of putting chopped up potatoes in a whitish mixture ? I could also see little bits and pieces of unidentified food that I knew would take me forever to dig out. But, there was no way I was going to eat potatoes and white stuff in the first place and then call the damn thing a salad. Made no sense to me…potato salad. Give me a break. I saw no lettuce.  There was no way I was going to try that…ever. They did the same thing with macaroni noodles and called it macaroni salad. Macaroni is supposed to be with cheese or with beefaroni (which we called slop in my family.) Sometimes these ladies at the picnics brought the weirdest food.

I liked hamburgers with ketchup, but I would give the guy at the grill a dirty look if he tried to scoot a cheeseburger onto my bun. Um, Mr. Barbecue man, did I say cheese? No…who would ever put cheese on top of a piece of beef? That had to taste terrible. I would eat sliced Velveeta cheese at home and got pretty good with that cheese slicer thingy, but I would never put a slice of that on top of a hamburger. You just can’t mix things like that. So, sometimes I would just skip the hamburger and grab a fresh hot dog bun and put ketchup on it. I loved ketchup sandwiches! And in the end, I didn’t starve and picnics were great.

When our family would stay late at a picnic, usually a campfire would be involved. The adults whittled sticks and would place a hot dog in one hand and slide shove the stick through the middle of the hot dog halfway and would hand them to the kids. The first time I saw this happen, I didn’t know what the hell was going on.  What is this for, exactly? Everyone would then move close to the fire to get their hot dog nice and cooked.  Well, ok, but why not just throw them into a pot of  boiling water and be done with it? I didn’t much care for hot dogs on a grill because some of them had black pieces on them. The blackened burned spots would peel off like a scab, but again, it was too much work. And now someone was trying to get me to stick my hot dog in a blazing fire.

The whole problem with a hot dog impaled on a whittle stick was the fact that what if there was a sliver of wood that came off in the hot dog? I would put my hot dog near the flame, just enough to get it warm, and then take the hot dog and stick over to my mom and ask her to take a look at the inside of the hot dog to make sure I wouldn’t get a splinter in my throat. You know that could happen, right? My mom would shoo me away because I guess I already bothered her for most of the day, so I would take a plastic knife and dissect that damn hot dog to see if it was ok to eat. Again, though, this just took too much work, so I would just eye the hot dog bun and put some ketchup on it.

So, this whole  picky Vickie story leads up to the whole problem with s’mores.

S’mores. The word even makes me cringe. I don’t think I saw them until I was in junior high. I was still picky in junior high, but I wanted  to be cool, so I had to pretend I was all about s’mores and not complain like I did when I was at a campfire with my family. The first part of the whole s’more experience was getting that damn marshmallow warmed up and gooey. First of all, I wasn’t a fan of getting gooey fingers. Not going to happen. Oh, sure, I would impale my marshmallow down on the stick after slyly checking the stick for errant splinters. I would hover my marshmallow over the flame for a second and while everyone else was watching their own marshmallow, I took mine off and would eat it. I hated warm marshmallows. I hated melted marshmallows. But, I wanted to fit in with the other kids and if I told them I hated s’mores, then, well, they would hate me and maybe call me “Picky Sticky Vickie” or something.

By the time some of the other kids got their marshmallow off their sticks, I was already by the picnic table grabbing two graham crackers. Thank god I liked graham crackers, but I sure as hell wasn’t going to share them with melted white goo and a hunk of chocolate.  I decided whoever mixed these three food items together for the very first time must have had rocks in their head.

So, it was like this every summer at every picnic I went to. I had to work hard and perfected my s’mores avoidance technique: Put the marshmallow on a stick for like 5 seconds, take it off, pretend it is gooey, go to the table and on the way eat the marshmallow. One time I thought I was being watched, so I made the whole damn thing and then….oops, dropped it on the ground. There is no 3 second rule in the woods or any place with me.  There was no way I was picking it up.

It wasn’t until college  when I was invited to a picnic and offered a stick, that I realized a lie didn’t take much work at all.

“I’m allergic to marshmallows, and you can’t make a s’more without marshmallows.”  Damn, why didn’t I lie earlier. I lied about everything else.

In the past twenty years it has been easier to pass on the s’mores.

“Oh, hell no.”

The Popcorn Muncher

Sometimes I get a chuckle from facebook status messages. One of those messages  made me laugh out loud this morning:

“If someone in Fairview is missing a goat it’s in my yard!!”

I laughed and then I smiled with a great memory from when my children were young. We lived “out in the country” if you want to call it that. We sat on 13 acres and I had wildlife at my kitchen door daily. It was wonderful. We used to watch a snapping turtle climb out of our pond and creep up to the top of  hill by our house and work for hours digging a hole to deposit her eggs. She did this every year. I had no idea that a snapping turtle finds the highest point she can for her egg delivery. I went out one year and dug a hole parallel to where she was working to no avail. She would look over at me like “What the hell, lady.”  As soon as I went back in the house, she moved over and continued where I started digging for her. My children loved it and I felt like an awesome mom and general turtle helper.

Well, every Christmas season, which is right after Thanksgiving in my household, I would bring out the air popper and make popcorn for our Christmas tree. I learned over the years to let the popcorn sit out for a few days for easier stringing. It just sucks to try to push a needle through fresh popcorn.It was hard not to curse in front of my children. “Oh….sugar” just didn’t make it. Some of those  needle-through-my fingers needed a full f-bomb rant. It wasn’t until after the internet was invented (thanks Al Gore) that I was able to read advice on proper popcorn stringing. Some years I would feel more energetic with my popcorn stringing and completely loop around the tree. Other years, not  so much. I would faux string it, which means cheating and only showing the popcorn string where people can see the tree.

After Christmas was over and the tree was taken down, I would slide the popcorn off the thread and put it in a large stainless steel bowl.

“Kids, I’m going to put the popcorn out on the mound so the birds can have a Christmas treat.”

Am I an awesome wildlife lady or what? The mound I am referring to was a place underneath a hickory tree near our pavilion. When we leveled the yard after we built our home, I wanted to save the hickory, so we left a little hill area in front of the tree. We placed a large granite stone at the base of the tree. This is where I would lay out goodies for the birds  and squirrels. And after Christmas, it was where I put the popcorn.

So, one day I had the kids put on their coats and I took that stainless steel bowl outside and explained to the kids what kind of birds may want to eat the popcorn.

“Let’s keep an eye out, because we may see blue jays…..and crows…..and..maybe a bird we haven’t seen on the mound before.”

It was starting to snow, which was great while decorating the tree. It really puts you in the mood. My daughter loved to help put the ornaments on the tree and it wasn’t too long when she too, would stand back after carefully deciding where to put a particular ornament. My son was generally waiting for me to put together my little Christmas  village of buildings and people as he loved putting a little boy headfirst down into the well or laying  him on the white ground with a horse drawn sleigh getting ready to run over him. To be honest, I loved walking into the kitchen to see what he moved around next.

A few hours after I put the popcorn out on the mound, my daughter ran into the Hearth room with a big smile on her face.

“Mommy, there’s a cow eating the popcorn!” Cackling is always a great laugh, and Alex was doing her share of cackling.

Whaat? We walked over to the  kitchen french door and lo and behold, there indeed was a cow munching on our popcorn. It was a big solid black cow and it was loving the popcorn. This was the year I made a large popcorn garland for the Christmas tree, so there was a heap of popcorn on the mound.  Popcorn was coming out of both sides of his mouth. The cackling from Little One continued. Adam took a break from putting a dog on a roof  in the village to join us at the door.

“Mommy, you never said a cow would come to the mound,” she managed to say between her wonderful laugh. Adam stood there watching the cow munching like it hadn’t been fed in a while.  It was a funny sight, especially since the most we were expecting were blue jays or crows.

We stood there for a long while, actually stunned that there was a cow in our yard. Our neighbors had cows, but they lived down over the hill and were far away from us. I knew it had to belong to them. The cow must have slipped through a broken barb-wired fence and trotted away and decided to visit us, I guess.

After I made the call and our neighbor came to retrieve the popcorn munching cow, we continued to decorate the tree and my son continued messing with the village, placing the little Christmas town on alert for the boy lost after jumping off a bridge.

It was a wonderful, wonderful memory and I thank my facebook friend who found a goat in her yard this morning.

It made me cackle.

The Cab Ride

Most of you know my daughter has been living in New York City while attending grad school at NYU. I was able to take a few personal days to travel up there to attend the graduation ceremony for Steinhardt, her grad school. At first I was going up to the all school graduation which was held at Yankee Stadium, but my daughter asked me if I could change my plans and come up to her earlier one since the venue would be a tad bit more personal than Yankee Stadium. I wish I would have just taken the whole week off and went to both, as I had a wonderful substitute in place, so I didn’t have to worry about that while I was gone.

Since the last time I went to New York, the major airlines decided to quit flying directly from Pittsburgh to JFK. Jet Blue used to be pretty inexpensive, but now wanted to take me from Pittsburgh to Boston and then to New York and jacked up the price on me. Delta did have one direct flight, but it was now $709. Gee, thanks major airlines.

My options were driving to New York City (oh, hell no), taking the MegaBus (when I googled it, pictures of burning wrecked Megabuses came up that I just had to go and look at), and Amtrak. I took Amtrak before and although it takes several years to get to New York from Pittsburgh, I enjoyed the ride. So, I booked my trip with Amtrak. This time, however, to avoid sitting near a woman with 4 children who wanted to sleep while the children squirmed, fought, and tattled, I decided to see what the business class car might be like, and upgraded to business. Wow, what a difference.

It was worth the $30 upgrade. I really thought I was getting away with something as there were about 64 seats and no one had to share the other seat with anyone else. At each stop, the conductor would make an announcement, “Folks, we are going to have a full house today. Please keep personal items off the seat next to you so people will be able to find an open seat.” I would look around and see people spread out watching movies or sleeping. Business class was definitely worth the upgrade.

Nine hours later, I arrived at Penn Station. It was raining and of course I did not bring an umbrella. Penn Station is attached to Madison Square Garden, so I thought it would be better to catch a taxi if I was out front there, instead of a side street, and I did. I put my hand up in the air like Carrie Bradshaw did on Sex and the City and immediately a cab pulled over. Well, it pulled over because there were people getting out. I asked if I could use the cab, despite seeing about 10 other arms in the air nearby. I clearly pissed off people who were standing on the long street in front of Madison Square Garden. Remember, it was raining, not sprinkling.

I hopped in the back with my carry-on, laptop bag, and purse and off we went. But, it can’t be that simple for me. I had to go and say “Hello, good afternoon!” to the taxi driver. You wouldn’t think it was a big deal to talk to a taxi driver. But, Oh, Dear God, the conversation took a dramatic turn, or a comedic turn. I will go with comedic. Now you have to realize that traffic was heavy and I had to go up all the way to East 95th Street. Madison Garden is on West 33rd, so the following conversation is abbreviated somewhat.

“So, is this your first time in New York?”

“No, this is I believe my sixth time.” blah blah blah. Found out he has lived in the city for 19 years, from Bangladesh, he told me I should visit there, blah blah blah…more chatter. He started to talk about the April Bangladesh earthquake and handed me a flyer to look at while he talked about the disaster.

He asked what I did in West Virginia. I told him I was a teacher. He asked if I wanted to share half of his banana. No, thank you, I told him. I had eaten on the train.

Then, he went down the wrong road…not literally, being in a cab and all, but the wrong road, figuratively. I looked at the street sign and we were only at 59th. The traffic was bad. I was wishing I would have taken the subway and lugged everything up the subway steps.

“So, what does your husband do in West Virginia?” he said with his heavily broken English.

“I’m divorced.”

“How long you divorced?”

“4 years.”

“That is so sad.”

“No, I’m pretty happy about it.” I smiled. I was hoping there would be silence for the rest of the ride. Oh, hell no.

“Do you have a boyfriend?”

“No. I’ve had my share of goofy dates, though.” He looked at me strange. Maybe “goofy” was just a West Virginia word. Then he started.

“You know…. I believe in God….I love God….and I know God would want you to share your life with a man until you die.”

“You don’t think God would be okay that a person can be alone but happy for the rest of his or her life?”

“Maybe, but you should share your life with someone until you die.”

“Oh, you know, I am happy the way my life is.”

“Maybe………………..I’m going to fix you up with someone so you can share your life with him until you die.” I had to laugh.

“No, really. I’m ok. I am just going to get a cat.” I laughed, but he didn’t understand the whole cat lady scenario.

“You give me your phone number and I will have you meet someone.”

“No, I am only in New York for a few days, so I don’t have time to meet anyone, but that is so sweet of you to be worried about me since you don’t know me.”

“I can tell you are a wonderful person. You need to share your life with a man. God would want you to.”

“No, thank you, really. I really don’t want to meet anyone right now. I was married for 25 years and really enjoy being by myself right now. If it happens,it happens….. I’m not going to go out searching for a man.” I nervously laughed.

“I sorry I bother you. I can tell because you talk to me that you are a good person. God would want you to be married until you die.”

I can’t tell you how long this conversation went on, but by 80th street I was ready to jump out of the moving cab and meet God without a man. I know the Bangladeshian meant well, but he was spending too much time looking through his mirror at me in the backseat and little time watching cars changing lanes and waiting until the last second to stop at a red light. I was ready for a nerve pill.

When he pulled up in front of my daughter’s apartment, I handed him cash and a few extra dollars as a tip. After all, he did offer half of his banana and wanted to play matchmaker for me.

“I’m sorry I bother you. I won’t fix you up. Have a good time in New York and I do hope….God hopes…that you find a man to share your life until you die.”

“Thank you for being so worried about me. I will be fine. Thank you!”

I walked up her steps and as I opened the door to her apartment building, I noticed that he was still parked at the curb, watching me. I couldn’t buzz in fast enough. My daughter came down the steps, and I didn’t want to turn around again, but out of the corner of my eye saw a hint of yellow go past. He was gone.

And all I could think of was that quote from Casablanca, altered a bit to fit my situation:

 

“Of all the taxi cabs, in all the towns, in all the world, I stepped into his.”

The Time Change and Church

For those of you who follow my blog, you know tomorrow is my least favorite day of the year. I’ve surely written enough about Daylight Savings Time and how it turns me into a zombie for a few weeks after the time change.

Daylight Savings Time Ends….Again

 Spring Forward into the River

Hello Circadian Dysrhythmia

Go Fly a Kite, Benjamin Franklin

So, how many times can I beat this dead horse? Apparently, at least five times. I guess I just need to really get my opinion out there. Daylight Savings Time just sucks the life out of me…….and millions of other people too.

But, I have to admit, the whole time change did have one perk: church. Now, don’t judge, but I just did not care to attend church when I was younger. My dad was a Sunday school teacher, so we had to get up every Sunday morning and drive downtown to church. And, I’m sorry, but I just didn’t like it. I had a problem with the whole Noah’s Ark story when I went to that private hell of a Catholic school from first through third grade, and was tired of arguing about it with Sister Maria and then at Sunday school. I just didn’t buy it. I was mad at God for drowning animals. Taking only two of a kind was really mean, and when I was little, I held a grudge for a tremendously long time.  So, I just thought the whole church thing was a big ole fat lie to get money in a collection plate.

So, there was one Sunday each year that I didn’t have to go to Sunday school, and that was when it was Daylight Savings Time. Oh, I remember my parents talking while sitting on the couch about how they had to remember to turn the clocks ahead before they went to bed. I always wanted to try to sneak into my parent’s room and change the Big Ben alarm clock my dad kept by his bed, but after getting caught the first time, I decided I was doomed and would have to go listen about multiplying fishes and walking on water. None of the Bible lessons were believable to me. People can’t get that old. I told my mom Caspar the Friendly Ghost cartoon was more real than church. I remember my dad looking at me like I needed an exorcism. His Bible was all marked up and his handwriting in the margins. He was clearly into it, but his  nine year old heathen daughter wasn’t buying any of it.

I know  my dad would change the kitchen clock above our lovely gold refrigerator that Saturday night before he went to bed. He would change the time on his wrist watch. He would change the time on his Big Ben alarm clock and set the alarm to get up for church. But, every Daylight Savings Time Sunday morning we would always miss Sunday school. We slept it! My mom would yell first.

“Elwood, wake up! We’ve missed church!” I would wake up and smile. But, then, my mom would march into my room and ask why I pushed down the alarm clock so it wouldn’t go off.

The problem with all of this is that I was a great liar and lied every chance I got. So, when I really told the truth and tried to explain that I didn’t do it, no one believed me. I would be just like me to sneak into my parent’s room and push in the alarm buzzer thingy.

For years I thought my sister was the culprit because she would laugh at me for getting yelled at for turning it off. She wanted to go to church because she liked wearing her white patent leather shoes. She would deliberately put on a pair of white anklets that had a hole in the big toe so she could entertain while sitting in the pew at church. But, you know, I never ever pushed down the alarm button to keep us from waking up on time. I mean, I wouldn’t wait until Daylight Savings Time to do that. I’d do it every damn Sunday.

Years later, when I had my own children and complained how my husband wanted to go to church the next day when it was Daylight Savings Time, I would always try to balk. “Oh, come on. We are losing an hour. Let’s just sleep in.”  My mom was visiting during one of those time changing moments and just smiled when I was complaining about being blamed for turning off the alarm.

“Mom, I really wasn’t the one who would push in the alarm so we could sleep in after losing an hour.”

“I know.” I looked at her and she was wearing a shit-eating grin on her face.”

“God dammit, Mom! …….You were the one?…….and then you came in and blamed me?” She smiled and nodded.

Well, there was only one thing I could do….

I stood up and clapped.

“I needed that hour,” she said with a shrug.

So, in the end, the heathen’s mother threw her own daughter under the proverbial bus in order to garner a lost hour of sleep once a year.

Well, played, Mom, well played.

Smokey and the Car Wash

I was sitting at our local lazer wash the other day thinking back to the first time I ever went to an automatic car wash. I grew up in Weirton, West Virginia, and the new “automatic” car wash had just opened “up on the hill” near our home. I can’t remember what kind of car we had back then, but the whole family jumped in when my dad told us a car wash opened where you sit in the car while it is being washed. What??? No taking a bucket of water, soap, and a garden hose out into the driveway anymore? Well, not that I really helped wash our cars in the first place. I was and still am, a “non-finisher.” I just really can’t finish anything all the way through. Same for washing the car. I would get one side done and then spray the other side with the hose to knock some dust off and call it a day. You could never see that side from our picture window, so it looked like I did a great job.

When we pulled up to the new car wash, we had to wait in a line because, as all things new, people wanted to experience this new-fangled way to wash a car. It was the 60’s, after all, and inventions were just waiting to be invented. When it was our turn, a guy motioned for us to move up a bit. We then had to put the car in neutral. They guy then took some gigantic hook and put it somewhere in the front of the car.

“Will that pull off the bumper?” I thought that was a pertinent question.

The guy told my dad to make sure all of the windows were rolled up. We were ready. There was a little jerk and our car was on some track through a little building with these scrubber things on the sides. The noise was loud and the water was really hitting the windshield and roof of the car. To be perfectly honest, it was a bit scary. Those brushes were right up against our windows and then one roll up over the car and down the windshield.  Hey, this was fun….but not really.

After we were done, there were two teen-age boys who wiped our car with dry cloths. My mom had to interject her authority of being Queen of Weirton.

“Make sure you dry the car good….and there better not be any spots of dirt anywhere.”

Oh, but there was. When we pulled into the driveway, she had my dad not park the car in the garage. She wanted to inspect the job the new automatic car wash did on our family vehicle.

“Well, we won’t be going there again.”  I remember there were seven places that were missed. I smile at this because I can’t remember what I did fifteen minutes ago, but I can remember my mom ranting about SEVEN missed places on the car after visiting the new automatic car wash “up on the hill.” She loved to find something to bitch about. My dad was probably relieved that he wasn’t at the end of this particular rant. I remember thinking he was going to like this new car wash. Anything she disagreed about, my dad was then quietly all about.

So, one day I was sitting, watching tv, with our dog Smokey, on our lap. It was a hot summer day and my dad must not have wanted to wash the car by hand. I mean, who would want to, now that we basically had a robot to do it for us?  He asked me if I wanted to take a ride with him to the car wash.

Since Smokey was already sitting on my lap, I just picked her up and carried her a la Paris Hilton with her prized chihuahua to the car. Smokey often rode in the car. As all chihuahuas, Smokey was a yapper. Yap, yap, yap. But, who knew what was about to transpire.

Well, Smokey went ape shit. The noise first scared her and she buried herself beside my hip. We were yanked ahead on the conveyor belt. When the brushes hit against the car, that’s when Smokey defended her territory and her family. She ran over to the window and bared her teeth and growled and barked like she was ready to take on the brushes. She ran back and forth, over my dad and over me to each window. She was going to save us from this barrage of red and yellow bristles attacking us.

I should have counted how many times she ran back and forth. My dad also found it amusing. Smokey the chihuahua was fighting with the brushes at the automatic car wash.

When we got home, Smokey was exhausted and fell fast asleep on my dad’s lap.

The next few times we went to the car wash, we took Smokey along for our pleasure. It seems so cruel now to put the little yapper through this sort of animal abuse, but you have to understand I never once thought I was being abusive. I just thought it was really really funny.

And each time we got home, my mom would disappear downstairs for a few minutes. We knew she was heading for the garage.

Four missed places this time.”

Atticus, Warrior Cat

We never owned cats when I was young. My mom said they were sneaky and that was the end of that. We had dogs. And I brought home a skunk and iguanas and african frogs. But, cats were out of the question. My bff, Ramaine always had cats. I thought they were so cool. They weren’t sneaky at all. My mom was a loon.

Even after we had children, my husband didn’t want to have any inside animals. But, he cracked under pressure and brought home a cat for my daughter. She is still alive and my husband, now ex-husband, still hates the cat.

My son decided to go the cat route. He got a cat and named him Atticus. He had planned on training it to be “Atticus, Kick-Ass Cat.” He told me he was going to get a little ninja headband for him and would teach him to use and flush the toilet. Yeah, good luck with that. Well, he did turn out to be a killer cat. I am lucky to have survived the vicious cat attack inflicted upon me.

My daughter warned me not to cat sit when Adam went to Europe over Christmas 2010. She stayed at his apartment one time and awoke, finding Atticus right by her face, eating her hair. She was afraid for her cat, Whiskers. Whiskers lived with me when Alex went off to college. She will be seventeen this July and can hardly walk. Atticus, warrior cat, would simply destroy her.

Sure, looks are deceiving

It was hell. It really was. Whiskers would scream and hiss at Atticus. Atticus would jump out at Whiskers whenever he had the chance. Whiskers would attack, and Atticus would back off. Atticus was just a young cat, still learning how to act around another cat, perhaps. But, then he found my leg.

I guess he thought I wanted to play. He came over and took a little playful bite. But, I didn’t want him to play Warrior Cat with me. I wanted him to be a gentle, non hair eater. I simply pushed him away and told him, “No.” Well, that was like an invitation. Atticus came at me and bit my leg.

I pushed him away. And he came at me again and really let me have it. He really bit into me. I screamed and pushed him away. He came at me again. I had about three good sized bite marks on my leg. I screamed at him again. It was like he turned into a monster cat.  I grabbed my door mat, the closest thing I could find to hide my legs. I had exercise capri pants on, so he was concentrating on my lower legs. I was very afraid.

Well, Adam returned and came back for the little shit. Whiskers slept for days. But, what happened next was bad, very bad. The cat bite became infected. I washed it with soap and water after he bit me, but  I had no idea that a cat that has been  kept inside could have such a potty mouth. I read how the cat’s mouth is just laden with bacteria. And now it was showing up on my leg.

At the time, I didn’t really want to worry my son. I did show him the corner of my new pull out couch where Atticus decided to use as a scratching post.

“You owe me a couch.”  Adam felt bad. I didn’t really want to tell him how bad my leg was. It was getting bad. So, I thought I should probably go to the doctor. Probably means no. I decided to head to the internet instead. Looks like I needed antibiotic. And I should go to the doctor. Should means no.

Well, not a good idea. I started taking amoxicilin. Thank God I had a stash. My leg became ugly and oozy. I babied it and looked at it all the time, worried that pus was just not a good thing.  The information on the internet about cat bites scared me to death. Every day I would say to myself, “Today is the day I should go to the doctor.”  I have since decided that I am very stubborn about visiting a doctor. Not my cup of tea. The picture below was taken a few weeks after the bite. It was looking much better at this point. Really it was.

Ew, I know, right?  Notice the dark mark. That was my brilliant attempt to monitor my condition. I took a pen and drew around the redness to see if it was getting worse or getting better. Why didn’t I just go to the doctor? Well, because I have no brain.

It took almost a month to heal. I probably have some sort of parasitic cat worm traveling around the inside of my body. I am pretty sure that the overdose of anitbiotics helped.

After the cat bite, I bought some betadine and keep it in my medicine cabinet. Good thing, because he bit me again this evening, the little shit.

Yeah, I’m cat sitting again.

He can be a sweet cat. He really enjoys jumping on the table and sitting on my arm. When I graded school papers, he sat on my arm. He is furry and soft and I really like him.

But, then he turns into Psycho cat. He just looked at me and then promptly bit my hand. Oh, it was just a little bite, didn’t really break the skin. I ran to the bathroom, washed it with soap and hot water, then put some Betadine on it.

He’s been here seven nights and he will be here six more. Tick Tock Tick Tock.

At least Whiskers seems to be doing ok.

Feeling Mousey (Part Three)

    When I got back to my room (after walking past creepy jester statue guy) after my time at Epcot, I thought I’d better figure out a type of itinerary for Hollywood Studios. It is funny, but when we took the kids when they were little, I had an itinerary down to the minute. I was a Disney nazi. But, it did save time standing in what my daughter, Alex, called the “Ride of Misery.”

 So, as soon as I got to the park, I went straight to the Tower of Terror. This was the one thing I wanted to experience at Disney World.

I decided not to take a Dramamine today. I took a 1/2 pill yesterday and although it said, “non-drowsy formula,” they lie.  The Tower of Terror was so much fun. When I got off the ride, I noticed that there was already a 30 minute wait listed on the board. I got there just in time. I headed over to the Aerosmith roller coaster and got a Fast Pass  because it was already a 30 minute wait. I had to come back at an assigned time period to ride it. I then went to stand in line at Toy Story, the most popular ride at Hollywood Studios. Oh Dear God, it was a 100 minute wait. So, I decided to get a Fast Pass. I got this instead.

Damn. I messed up. I didn’t even really want to ride the Aerosmith Roller Coaster. I had my head torn off by a maniacal roller coaster at Kennywood Park called the Steel Phantom. I didn’t want to die again. So, what to do? I decided to stand in line. For 100 minutes. Which is like almost two hours…This was going to be more fun…than a barrel of monkeys.

I do have to admit that it was a great queue. And the ride didn’t disappoint. It snaked through Candy Land, and dominoes, Chutes and Ladders, toy soldiers, Mr. Potato Head and other games that were enlarged, like this picture of Candy Land with the red queue bars in front of the wall. It really wasn’t a bad wait.

I then went back to ride on the Aerosmith ride. As soon as it started I knew I was in trouble. I put my head to the left and closed my eyes. I breathed through my mouth because I knew that one more loop would do me in. I hate roller coasters with loops. I was feeling pretty brave by this point, ready to experience what I couldn’t before. Well, motion sickness is not in your head. It’s real and I’ve lived with it all my life. I can’t even swing on a swing. I HATED the Aerosmith ride. Hated.

Disney boasts of the ride on its Web site, “Zoom from 0 to 60 mph with the force of a supersonic F-14, take in high-speed loops and turns synchronized to a specially recorded Aerosmith soundtrack and zip through Tinseltown in the biggest, loudest limo you’ve ever seen….The 3,400-foot-long track is more than a half mile of sudden accelerations, dips, loops and twists and turns.”

Well, you go from 0 to 60mph in 2.8seconds. That’s when I knew to shut my eyes and hold my head to the left. The picture that they take of each car, you know the one that you can buy at the end of the ride? Well, mine was hysterical. I should have bought it.

 I loved Hollywood Studios. I took my time and enjoyed all of the shows and street entertainment throughout the day. Muppet 3D was fun. I’m a muppet/Swedish Chef fan, so I was in my element.  The whole park was wonderful. It was a lot of fun. I got back at dark, walking past Jester and Jester junior. I quickly turned around, half expecting them to be right behind me. I scared myself..lol

 Well, hopped back on the plane to Pittsburgh yesterday evening and headed home.  I learned a lot about myself on my first trip. First of all, what was I thinking? I teach small children. Why in the world would I want to use my spring break to go where there were children running amok? 

 I think, though,  that I did great and now know that I can  travel by myself…if I HAVE  to.   Would I go to Disney again by myself?  Oh hell no. 

In the end, I think traveling solo is fine. But, I like to talk. I enjoy companionship, camaraderie. So, in the future, I will first see if anyone wants to join me. Then, maybe join a travel group. And if I still want to go bad enough, I can go by myself. Because, again, in the end, I won’t be lonely. Afterall, I will be with me. And I think I’m pretty good company. That’s  my new Puerto Rican attitude talking. I learned a thing or two while standing in lines.

Feeling Mousey (Part Deux)

 

   I set my alarm for 6:00. I had a hard time getting back to sleep after Ted Bundy delivered my luggage at my door in the middle of the night. So, I hit snooze a couple of times. I hoped to take a quick shower, get some breakfast at the Sassagoula Floatworks Food Court, and hop a bus to Epcot Center. I only had two days at Disney, and decided to head to Epcot and Hollywood Studios. I thought they would be best for me, the solo traveler. I had never been to Animal Kingdom, but  I knew from being a Weather Channel dork that the temperatures were supposed to soar to 94F, and there isn’t much shade or inside time at Animal Kingdom. So, I scratched that from my choices. Plus,would zebra poop stink in the heat?  Sorry zebra’s, you were the first animals I thought of. Anywho, off to Epcot I went. But, first, breakfast. I decided to get biscuits and gravy. I tried to behave myself and the eggs, bacon, pancake and sausage platter seemed too much for me. I got under the bus shelter and within 3 minutes a bus going to Epcot pulled up.

 The great thing about Walt Disney World is a thing called Fast Pass. Too freaking bad that I didn’t understand how it worked. Evidently, you can go to a ride and if the queue area is long, you can get a fast pass ticket to come back later. I was going to do that. By the time we got to Epcot, it was almost 9:00am. People are allowed in the park, so far and then you are stopped by Disney folks holding ropes. To hold us back, because people were on a mission. That’s when I first noticed Disney tattoos on people. Real tattoos with Disney stuff. Wow. I had no idea people were so obsessed with Disney. I mean, I know a teacher who has a Disney license personalized license plates. That means she is was the first one in WV who wanted one. How special.

 I didn’t know what the hell I was doing or where I was going. Was I supposed to be in a hurry. I thought maybe I should be. So, I decided to get to Test Tracks first, located on the left side of the map. You’d think that Epcot would be easy. The map is great. Except that the park  is s p r e a d out, making the map quite wrong.  You can’t use the Great Golf Ball spaceship Earth as a focal point because it is circular. You don’t know if you are coming or going. I decided to ask where most people are rushing to. “To Test Tracks.” one replied while looking at me like I didn’t own Disney stock. I guess I need to know where I was going. My bad.

 Well, the ropes dropped and people took off  like a bat out of hell. I walked quickly and it paid off. Well, except that there was a “single rider” line and well, I was right up front in no time. Score one for the loser by herself. The one without a Disney Tinkerbell tattoo. So, I rode Test Track, a roller coaster sort of thing by GM. After the ride, everyone got to see the new cars GM is coming out with. I fancied the new Camaro. But wait, people were rushing off to another ride. Damn. Why didn’t I prep for this journey?

 One thing one should never do is travel to Disney World during Easter. It is about the worst time to go there. So, of course, I go there. Another test, so to speak. Did I have patience to endure long, snaking queues? Could I handle being behind little screaming children who needed to get out of the heat, and perhaps fly back where they came from? Would I hit them? (Well, you just never know) I was lucky there wasn’t much of a line during the first ride. Oh, but that was the end of free time. It was crazy after that.

Ok, lunch time. The place was packed. All the food places were packed. I headed to the Land and ate at the Sunshine Seasons place because they use the foods they grow in their greenhouse as stuff on the menu. I ordered a turkey with monterey Jack cheese on foccacia with chipotle mayonnaise and a side of their potato salad. It was the best sandwich I have ever eaten. That or I was just really hungry. But, it was delicious. It was also the first time that I noticed people looking at me. Ahhh, they finally noticed I was a solo traveler. Well, apparently, if you are by yourself, you really shouldn’t sit at a table that four people can sit at, even if that’s all they have in the whole place. I even told a familyof three they were welcome to sit with me if they wanted to, trying to be nice and all. And the mom said, “Well, are you done?” Uh no, and I have lice. Please sit down.

After taking in as much as I could in Future World, I headed to World Showcase. By this time I was hot and miserable. It was 94F and World Showcase was out in the hot sun for the most part. People took advantage any way they could.

April in Florida. Yikes. I don’t know why, but I couldn’t get into World Showcase. I think it was because I was so hot. I got back to the resort at around 9:00. I had pizza and a salad (well, it was like a cup o salad) or more like an ice cream scoop o salad.) I had to walk past a statue of a jester back to my room. He was creeping me out because his eyes look like they are following you. His friend on a stick was creepy too.

 I had a bit of a culture shock my first day at Disney World. I always talk to strangers. I guess it is for all the times when I wasn’t allowed to when I was little. But, I don’t know much Espanol and a majority of the guests at Disney World were Spanish speaking.  A majority for sure. The nicest people were the Japanese, but I couldn’t understand them. I loved the British. They were fun.  I tried to talk to a couple from Scotland, but I couldn’t understand them at all, and they were talking English. I smiled, because I thought how much fun it would be if I broke out in my Appalachian dialect. “I’m so tard.” The Puerto Ricans were not friendly at all.  A bit arrogant. This whole “lost in translation” made me feel, well, …quiet. I can’t be quiet. I never expected this.

I headed to Hollywood Studios on my second and final day. This was by far my favorite. See Feeling Mousey (Part Three)

Feeling Mousey (Part One)

  When I decided that I wanted to take a solo trip somewhere, I thought hard about the places I wanted to go. My ultimate adventure is to take a train across Canada. To get ready for such a solo venture, I needed to pull up my big girl pants and journey on, alone. At first I thought I would go to the beach.  The relaxation would be nice, but it wasn’t how I wanted to test myself.

 Yes, I guess I felt the need to test myself. You have to understand that I was married for 25 years and really didn’t have to do anything by myself. I was a stay-at-home mom. I didn’t have to take out the garbage, although I was the weekly “house gatherer.”  I didn’t have to fiddle when my car started making noises like a mechanic was traveling under the hood of the car, banging on something that would soon smoke.  I didn’t do anything that inconvenienced me. I guess I pretended to be a princess. I made my husband check the air pressure in my tires about once a week because I have issues with my tires looking low. Everyone has issues. Mine are pronounced, however.

 Well, fairy tales don’t always come true, and next thing you know, you’re divorced after 25 years of marriage, you no longer can get by acting like a princess. I mean, there are limits to how long one can get away with that. (imagine Bette Davis in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane). One day, you wake up and actually have to work for a living, and make your own appointment to get your car fixed. And I think I’ve done well. Well, I still whine about garbage night, but really, I honestly don’t think I should do that one. But, someone has to, right?

 Ok, so I felt the need to scratch the beach trip off of my list. I needed to go somewhere that was filled with families, with couples ogling each other, and friends laughing and pointing. If I could get by a few days of being inundated by this test, I could go anywhere by myself.  Remember in Sex and the City, when Carrie went off to Paris to be with the Russian? She saw four girls walking by and immediately called home, lonely. And she was only there for like a day.  I didn’t want to be Carrie Bradshaw. I didn’t want to phone home and cry..in the middle of a train trip across Canada. No, I had to make sure this solo travel is for me. And so that is why I chose a harsh environment for a single traveler. I chose…Disney World.

 Say what? Yes, the one place where people don’t go by themselves. Disney World. I thought that if I had many “boo-hoo” moments, then solo travel would not be for me. So, I made my reservation, and decided to embark on a quest to celebrate my independence, to acknowledge that I had fortitude and perserverance to sit by myself at an eatery, and to leave and return still inflated. That was my goal.

 So, I made my flight and hotel reservation through Orbitz. Now mind you, I haven’t flown in 30 years. I have inner ear problems. But, I was ready. I had my gum to chomp on, my ear plugs and yawning techniques so the descent wouldn’t make me grimace in pain. After all, there would be no one there to listen to me whine.  I had to…..(worst phrase EVER)…..”Buck up.” 

Well, I did fine. I’ve been to Pittsburgh Airport plenty of times. I just never had to park all the way in section 19E in the extended lot. I could have hopped on the shuttle, but I was trying to toughen up, right? So, I strolled with my two bags and my lead laden purse all the way in my “clompy” shoes to the terminal…only to find that the People Mover was not moving..More walking. No problem, I can walk.

 Checking in was a breeze. Disney had sent me a voucher book called Disney’s Magical Express. And magical it was. They also sent me a yellow tag to put on my checked suitcase. Once in Orlando, I could bypass baggage claim and just hop on the Magical Express bus to my resort. How easy does that sound?  I was feeling pretty princess-like once again. Once at the resort, my bag would be in my room, waiting on me, or there shortly after my arrival.  Well, up to 3 hours perhaps. So, I packed things I needed in my carry-0n.

 My flight to Orlando left on time. I liked Air Tran. They are ranked the safest airline in the United States. I was feeling pretty safe.I sat wedge in between a man who was with his family, who were seated across the aisle, and a dermotologist from Ohio. We talked most of the way. The descent was pretty bad on my ears, and although this is funny now, I couldn’t hear a damn thing for a few hours after the flight. It was like the ear plugs were still in my ear. I am sure I was shouting to people. Poor Helen Keller.

 The Orlando airport was easy to manuever and great that I got to bypass the baggage claim. I could walk straight to my waiting Disney Magical Express. What efficiency. People from three resorts were jammed into a very comfortable thirty minute bus ride to the resort. For those of you who do not know this, Disney World is actually located in Kissimmee, Florida, not Orlando. Which is nice, because Orlando is the 3rd. most dangerous city in the United States. Really. I’m glad I was staying on Disney property.

 By the time I go to the resort, it was about 9:45pm. That was probably a stupid move on my part. I should have arrived early early to take advantage of the day. But, hey, you live and learn. But, it was a cheap flight with a safe airline, so I booked it. The check-in was quick and easy. The one thing that I couldn’t believe is that there was no wi-fi in the resort. AND there was a $9.99 fee for 24 “contiguous” hours. I thought that was a loop hole, because I had no idea what contiguous meant.  But, yeah, I want internet. Put it on my charge. Sure, two days at the Disney parks. Just put it on my charge.

 The Port Orleans French Quarter resort is inspired by New Orleans. The man holding the door open reminded me of the Mayor of Munchkinland, only a tad bit taller.  After check-in, they gave put beads around my neck, Mardi Gras fashion.   I got to my room and my suitcase was not there, smiling at me. Not to worry. They said it may take up to three hours to get my luggage.  I was surprised to see a fully refurbished ugrade. I was supposed to have a room with 2 double beds overlooking the parking lot. When I got to my room, it had a king sized bed and was beside the Sassagoula River, which was quite pretty. Upgrade. Yay!  There was also a greeting on my bed, created by the lady who had my room spotless each day. I’m talking spotless. Immaculate. Never in my life have I seen a room so clean. Of course, I didn’t know at the time that the room was totally re-done in March. I loved my comfy room.

I was starving. So, I changed out of my “It’s damn cold in West Virginia” clothing, and threw on some shorts and flip flops. I went to hunt for something to eat. The Sassagoula Floatworks and Food Factory is a warehouse where old Mardi Gras float props are hung. It was 10:30pm and luckily the place stays open until midnight. I decided to go with a meatball hoagie. Well, the meatballs were huge and one actually fell out of my bun and onto the floor. I sat and stared at it, looking back at me. Well, the whole thing was a mess and so I ate as much as I could with my 25 napkins, and gave up on the mess.  Time to get back to the room and plan my next day. I was heading to Epcot Center.

Oh, did I forgot to mention that someone knocked on my door with my suitcase at 2:29a.m.? Yeah, that’s what I thought. What’s worse, is that I was half-asleep and opened the door without looking  in the peephole. Just glad I had on my long buttoned down sleep shirt, because I obviously didn’t reach for a robe that I didn’t bring with me. I was half asleep. Glad the 3rd dangerous city in the United States robbers didn’t pretend to bring people their luggage at 2:29 in the morning.

 (See Feeling Mousey (Part Two)

Eavesdropping 101

 It’s a given that kids like to play with their toys. They will drag them out, play until their little hearts content, and then put them away at the end of the day. Well, some children put their toys away. My son, Adam, didn’t.

 I was a stay-at-home mom, so we played all day. It was like a little day care center. We would make crafts and paint, build with blocks and Lego’s, and color the day away.   Adam liked taking his books and making a road with them. All of the downstairs rooms were open, so he could ride his little Hot wheels car from the kitchen through the living room, the dining room and back into the kitchen. It was at the end of the day, that Adam just didn’t want to pick up all of those books.

 Every time I would ask Adam to pick up his toys, he would ignore me and go about his business. So, I would ask him again. “It’s tooooo much.” he would always reply.

His next line was, “My back hurts.”  He would hold his back like he was in pain, and just couldn’t possibly pick up all of those books. The bending over was just killing him.

 I thought I was being a nice mom by helping him pick up his toys, but I soon realized that he had to learn to do this all by himself. New mothers need to learn a lot too. Trial and error.  So, I told him he had a choice, pick up his toys, or I would put them in a bag for a day and he would not be able to play with them the next day. I don’t think he believed me and off he went.

 So, I got out a black trash bag and started picking up his toys. I walked into the living room and held the bag up. “You can have this back on Tuesday.” Well, that didn’t go well. But, I stuck to my guns and I thought that that would work. It didn’t.

 The next day, Adam decided to place his books on the floor as a road. He and Alex jumped on his little car and away they went. So, when it was time for him to pick up his books, he told me that his back was hurting. Oh, he thought he was a good little actor. But, I was better. He had no idea who he was dealing with.

“You know, Adam, your back has been hurting a lot lately. Almost every day. I think that I am going to have to make an appointment with Dr. Dev. to take a look at your back. I’m really worried about you.”  I stuck a Pee Wee’s Playhouse tape in the tape player, and said on my way to the kitchen, ” Now, you guys please sit and watch this while I make a private phone call to the doctor’s office. I will be back in a few minutes.”

 Well, I knew that Adam was going to eavesdrop. He’s my son. I picked up the phone, with its long cord, and went around the corner, peeking back around like I was going to make a private phone call. He watched my every move. I knew that in a minute, he would be at the corner, eavesdropping on my conversation with the doctor’s office. This was going to be good.

 I dialed the phone. ” Hello, yes. I need to make an appointment for my son to get his back checked.” I went on to tell the receptionist about how his back hurt when he bent over to pick up his toys and how it seemed to be getting worse. They put the doctor on the phone for me. I was whispering, in a loud sort of way.

“Hi, yes, Dr. Dev…………why can’t he just have an x-ray?………………Oh, are you serious?………………….He’ll have to have an operation?……………………..I had no idea…………..I mean, how long will he have to stay in the hospital?………….Oh my gosh, he will not be able to get out of bed for how long?………………..Summer will almost be over by then?…………………Why can’t he go swimming after the operation?……………..Well, is there any way at all I can just watch him for the next week or so to see if his back feels any better. I would hate for him to have a back operation. He’s so young………We are going on vacation in a few weeks.He would have to stay with his Grandma Georgie…….. I hope it is just a muscle hurting or something. I will watch and see, Doctor.”

 I finished my fake conversation, hung up the phone. I could hear Adam run back to his place in front of the tv. I walked in the room, wiping a pretend tear from my eye, and said nothing. His eyes were wide, but he knew he couldn’t tell me he heard the rest of the conversation. “What’s wrong, Mommy? he asked.  “Nothing, sweetie. I just have a piece of dust or something in my eye.”

 That evening Adam came up to me as I was picking up his toys and said “Mommy, I think my back is feeling better. Look.” He bent over 3 or 4 times. “I’m going to try to pick up my toys.”

 “Well, ok, Adam.”  I hugged him like I was never going to see him again. “Thanks, Adam. Mommy loves you.”

 Adam always picked up his toys after that. 

 And he thought HE was a good actor.

Guinea Pig Children

With Christmas just around the corner, it reminds me of  the toys and games I received for Christmas when I was young.  The 1960’s and early 197o’s were the decades of  “The Misfit Toys.”

I don’t think they had testers back then. If someone invented a toy or game, perhaps the toy manufacturers just packaged it and put it on the shelves. I really think that  if there were toy testers back then, some of them surely would have died. I’m thinking specifically of  my first chemistry set. I can’t find any research on “toy tester deaths.”  I did look. If they would not have perished,  toy testers  would have received brain damage,  an amputated finger, or if not injuries, than stains on their clothing. And on the carpet. And on the couch.  Which piss mothers off to no end. Probably worse than the brain damage. This mother hates glitter. Just thought I would add that because if glitter gets in your eye, you WILL  go blind. For that reason, it is banned in my house.  I know I read that somewhere. You can’t dispute facts. Especially if you make them up.

Anywho,  children got to be “guinea pigs” when the product actually game out.  And of course you know that a “guinea pig”

is a person  is a person who is subjected to experimental or other observational procedures.  Like children of the 1960’s and early 1970’s. That would include me. I very well may have been one of the “Guinea PigChildren.”   I was, after all, hit in the temple by flying clackers.

I loved my Clackers…. until  THE incident. Clackers were popular in the early seventies, when I was about 13-16 years old, perhaps.  Clackers  were  two hard plastic  marbles, (if marbles can be plastic), each about two inches in diameter. They are attached to a ring with a sturdy string. A person  puts their index finger in the ring, allowing the marbles (or balls) to hang below. Through an up-and-down  motion, the two balls swing apart and together, making the clacking noise that give the crazy toy its name. With practice, it is possible to get the marbles swinging so that they “clack” together above and  below the hand.

Clackers were discontinued because children were being injured. I continuously hurt my fingers while honing my clacker craft. Not all children follow rules. They also made an excellent weapon. If you swing them over your head, and let them go, they could fly across the room and either hit or strangle a kid…. Or a poodle. I read that cave men used Clackers. Or bola’s, as the South American gaucho called them. (See, I do research). I heard that if struck too hard, the acrylic balls could shatter, with flying consequences. I became really good at clackers. I could hit them above and below. I was the Crystal Lane Clacker Queen.  Self-imposed title, perhaps, but queen, nontheless.

One day, several of us were “clacking”, and mine flew across the room and knocked over a glass of water that was on the coffee table, which in turn, spilled the water, which then flowed  into my mom’s pack of Salem cigarettes. I guess water-logged cigarettes aren’t easy to light. I tried to get one out of the pack and it just wilted in half. So, I put it back in there. We were done clacking for the day. My sister told on me and off to my room I went. When I came out, my Clackers were gone.  Damn….

 

I really don’t know what the fascination was with Clackers. You didn’t win anything. You didn’t have a high score. But, you could be timed to see how long you could “clack.”  Time clackers, so to speak.  Maybe it was a lesson in eye-hand coordination.

I really think that I could have been a ninja assassin with my clacking skills. But, I preferred to grow up and become a teacher.

Same thing.

______________________________________________________

Eeny, Meeny, Miney, Moe, Larry, and Curly

After we had built our house, we had our contractors come back a few years later to build a pavilion on our patio.  I looked out one day and I saw the two brothers standing as still as could be. I watched for a minute or two, and they never moved a muscle. Strange. I opened the door and the one brother waved me off, making just a little movement with his hand. “Vickie, shhhhh. Turkeys…..”

I looked out in our field, and there were 6 huge turkeys. Well, I knew all about how turkeys were skiddish. I also knew that the

brother builders were big time hunters, and were probably salivating at the prospects of killing one of those birds. I was wondering how long they would stay frozen like that. All they needed were some British outfits and they could be guards at Buckingham Palace.

The turkeys were still far away, but were coming closer.  I let it continue for a few minutes, but then I thought I should put a stop to this. I wanted to sit under my pavilion some day, after all.

I grabbed the cracked corn and opened the door. “HEY YOU GUYS!”  I yelled for my turkeys. Yeah, my turkeys.

As soon as the turkeys heard my voice, they ran to me like I was their momma. They surrounded me as I threw corn to the ground. I sweet talked to them and called them by name: Eeny, Meeny, Miney, Moe, Larry, and Curly.  We knew each other pretty well. After all, it took me a very long time to tame them.

The builder brothers reminded me of little boys who were just told them there was no Santa Claus. Deflated. Hurt. Then mad.

“Vickie, that’s not right. It goes against the laws of nature.”  Builder brother #1 said, as he limbered up from his stoic pose. Brother #2 just looked at me.

It all started one day while watching them through my binoculars. They were pretty far away. I was so excited. I had never seem live turkeys before. There must have been 15 of them.

I decided I was going to tame them. I started by putting corn out on the ridge. When they would go to the corn, I would just step outside on the patio. They would run away, but then come right back.  The next day I put the corn closer. When they found it, I would come outside and stand, once again. I did this daily. In a couple of weeks, I had them eating out of my hands.  The picture, above, shows my turkeys under the hickory tree. I called this “the mound,” where I put food out for all my critters.

  One day I was pruning my Japanese maple in the front yard, and I heard my husband talking to someone. ” Hey, I don’t have any food. Your momma’s in the front yard.”  I smiled and then yelled for my turkeys. And around the corner they came. The followed me to the front door, knowing I was the food lady. I loved those turkeys.
My turkeys came every day for a long time. As hunting season approached, I saw less of them.  The turkeys are long gone now, and so am I. I moved from the property I loved so much and don’t get to feed wildlife too much. Well, there are the Misfits down at the river, by my apartment: 2 white ducks, 1 mallard and one strange looking goose. They have been together for 2 years now. I need to go down there more often.

Feeding something every day…all year long

 

I am now looking for a house to buy.  “Wanted: 3 bedroom home with central-air, garage and woodline for turkey feeding”

CSI: West Virginia

If you are a mom, you have to wear many hats. You are (in one long breath), a doctor, a nurse, a vet, a teacher, a psychic, a story teller, a cop, a beautician and barber, a chef, an EMT, a genealogist, a bodyguard, a maid, a professional organizer, a seamstress/costume designer, a personal shopper, a referee, a fashion coordinator and a chauffer. I would like to add another to the long list of  jobs that mothers perform daily :  crime scene investigator.

You may not think that mothers should put crime scene investigator on their resume, but I beg to differ. Case in point: The Case of the Smeared Ladybugs. It was a new case that I was working on for a few weeks. I had just finished solving,  The Case of the Baby Powder all Over the Carpet with an arrest in that one.

I had two suspects in that case: Big Boy Adam Jay, a curly red-haired punk, age 6.  He’s been downtown at the station several times.  We had his mug shot hanging up all over the place.  He knew the ropes.  The kid  knew how to use his noodle.  I soon found out  he had an accomplice, Baby Face Alex. Alex was Big Boy’s sister. She was 5 years old. Soon, she was singing like a canary.  Big Boy called her a Stool pigeon. I told him to shut his yap. She didn’t want to go to the big house.

During interrogations under the lights, Alex spilled her guts. She fingered Big Boy as the culprit. He was the brains of the operation. In a nutshell, Baby Face told me that they didn’t want to move. It was explained that the new house was almost complete and that she and her brother were to box up their possessions for the move to the country. They talked and decided to sabatoge the house-selling process. Big Boy figured that if they made the house “ugly and smelly”, no one would want to buy it. So, one night, they took a large container of Johnson and Johnson Baby Powder, and sprinkled it all over  their bedroom carpet, beds, and dressers. It looked like snow on Christmas morning.

During the investigation, I also found smashed jelly beans in the carpet throughout the house. They also put Match box cars on the steps leading to the second floor  for the prospective buyers to trip on and tumble down the stairs to their death.  The cars appeared their daily, but the two denied any involvement. I had to interrogate the only other occupant in the house that could have been responsible, their father, Clueless Jay. He wasn’t aware there was a second floor.

After I shut the books on that case, and we made our move to the country, so our children could lead a normal life away from the big crime city of Monongah, population 345 1/2 (Don’t ask) , I noticed a smashed lady bug on my kitchen nook window. Somehow lady bugs entered our new home and enjoyed crawling on my nice, clean windows. Someone had murdered the lipstick-red insect. It appeared upon further investigation, that the perpetrator put his or her finger directly on the lady bug, crushing it to the window,

and then smearing its remains down the window for approximately 4 inches. Someone in the new house was a cold-blooded killer.

a line-up, several years and 4 cases later

This did not sit well with me. After all, Jeffrey Dahmer started off by taking wings off of butterflies. Soon, he was eating people. I had to nip this in the bud. First, lady bugs, and then the killer would move on to ant hills or earthworms. I was an animal lover. A lady bug has worth, and perhaps some bug children somewhere else in the house.

I immediately ruled out Baby Face Alex. I knew she had it in her heart not to hurt anything. Her stuffed animal dog buddy, Fluffy, recently fell off of her bed and Baby Face cried  because, “Fluffy is paralyzed.”  I was impressed by the kid’s vocabulary. So, I eliminated her as a suspect. I interrogated Clueless Jay, who had no idea what a nook was. My only other suspect was Big Boy, and he didn’t squeal. He denied any involvement, especially after my “all animals have feelings” talk. I saw him crying outside , while playing with his Tonka trucks. Good. That meant there was still time before we had to start calling him Jeffrey.

But, he still wouldn’t budge. So, I  brought out the big guns. I had Scotch tape and powdered sugar. And a big ole lie. I brought them into the kitchen nook.

“Big Boy, Baby Face, this is how I am going to find out who killed the lady bug and smeared it down the window.  I am going to take some of this powder I got from a police officer and lightly put it in the smear.”  I took some powder and brushed it with one of those little plastic watercolor brushes onto the lady bug guts. “Now, I will take a piece of tape and press it against the window. I will leave it on their for exactly one minute. This will then give me a fingerprint.”  I looked at my watch for a minute. ” Ok, now I will carefully peel the tape off of the window and hang it in the air for 30 seconds.”  Some more watch looking. “Ok, now, I have fingerprints of the person who smeared the lady bug.  The police officer told me that after I do this, it will only take about 10 seconds for the white powder to appear on the finger of the person who did this.”

As soon as I said that, Big Boy Adam brought his hands up and looked at his fingers. “Gotcha!” I said to him. The procedure made absolutely no sense, and that’s what made it brilliant. Score one for the mom.

And that’s how I solved The Case of the Smashed Ladybug.  Big Boy and Baby Face grew up to be upstanding citizens and although there were a few more cases I will delve into at a later time, they never spent any time in the big house. And that’s because of yet another hat I wore.

So, yeah, mom’s should add crime scene investigator to their portfolio. And we should all get to look like Marg Helgenberger.

Ringing in the Holidays, Literally

I usually put my Christmas tree up on the day after Thanksgiving.  I was a Christmas tree perfectionist. I placed an ornament on the tree, then stood back to see if it looked ok. It took me hours to decorate the tree. I popped popcorn days earlier, because stale popcorn is easier to string. I would sit and string popcorn for a very long time. I also made my own 30 foot garland by cutting strips of material and tying it onto a jute rope. My tree was beautiful if I may say so myself.  My children would be home, out of school for a few days over Thanksgiving, so I thought I would start our very own holiday tradition. I believe this began when they were six or seven years old.

One Thanksgiving day, after our big meal at my in-laws, we were sitting around, relaxing, when I said, “Wow, did you guys feel that cold air come through here?”  I shivered. The kids shook their heads and they went about their business. Adam got up and walked through the kitchen, into the Hearth Room, where he had been playing with his Lego’s before we left.

I heard him yell to me. “Mom! Dad! Come here!”  We got up and walked into the Hearth Room. The Hearth Room, by the way, is our living room, which I refused to call a living room. I wanted to be a little more creative than that. I dubbed it the Hearth Room when we built the house, and that’s what we all called it. When we walked into the room, I could tell Adam was excited.

“Look!  Santa dropped it down the fireplace!”  It was a vhs movie. I can’t remember what the movie was called, maybe Otis and Milo. I then added, “Maybe he dropped it down the fireplace at the same time I felt the cold air. Santa was here!”  And that’s how it started.

Every Thanksgiving evening I would say different phrases: “Boy, I have the shivers………Is it cold in here all of a sudden?”…….”Did someone  just open the door?…… I would say it nonchalant like, and they would look at each other, get up, and try to beat each other to the Hearth Room. There would be a movie waiting for them every time. Score one for Mom.

One year, I had just decorated the mantel and tree in the Hearth Room. I must have dropped a little elf hat that came off of a stuffed elf  that I usually left in the box of unused decorations. Adam felt the breeze before I said anything, and ran into the Hearth Room. The movie was sitting in the fireplace, on logs like it had been dropped down the chimney. But, Adam also found the little elf hat and about freaked out. I guess it would be scary to think that there was a little man in your home.

“There was an elf in the house. He dropped his hat.”  Adam looked a little unsettled. I just got him to be able to sleep after being scared by an R. L. Stine book weeks before. He would wake up, yelling for me because the “Green Witch” was in his room. I think they were watching “Are you Afraid of the Dark” also, so that didn’t help. And now there was a freakin elf in the house. Looks like his sleep patterns were going to be disrupted again.

That night, my husband had to go to work and set the security alarm. He never set it on “Instant”, which meant the lazers would be on and anyone moving inside the house would set off the alarm. We used to set it that way when we would go on vacation. I was in a deep sleep and all of a sudden I heard the alarm go off AND Adam screaming at the top of his lungs. I jumped up and ran out into the hall. He wasn’t in his room. His screams came from downstairs. It was about 3:00am, so I thought for sure someone was in the house and was trying to take Adam.

I quickly shut off the alarm and noticed that the Hearth Room was breached.  I rushed downstairs, a mother on a mission. I didn’t have a gun or a knife or a shoe. I had adrenaline. My son was screaming. I ran into the room, and found Adam, clad in his cute little Ghost Buster pajamas,holding his hamster cage in his arms.

“Chuck was making too much noise in his cage and so I thought I would bring him down here so I could sleep.” He was scared. Adam, I mean, not Chuck. I looked around and noticed that the alarm had been set to “instant.” There was no intruder. Adam walked through one of the lazers and set off the alarm. My poor little guy.

I walked Adam back to bed and tucked him in and assured him that his dad set the alarm by mistake. Adam seemed to think that the elf set off the alarm.  Just great.

All was well the next morning and the kids watched the movie that came down the chimney. They seemed to enjoy our new holiday tradition and I hope they pass it on to their kids.

I just hope they leave the elf hat in the box.

D-i-v-o-r-c-e

I have been divorced since May, 2009. I guess you could say it was a friendly divorce. We even rode together to the divorce hearing.  The judge was a little shocked. “Well, in all the time I have been doing this, I’ve never heard of the divorcing couple car- pooling to the courthouse.” But, we did. We also didn’t use lawyers, so it was quick. He even treated me to lunch at the 8th Street Confectionery after the hearing. A meatball hoagie and a divorce on the same day. Life is good.

My ex-husband and I remain close and he still calls me a couple of times a week. So, it is nothing out of the ordinary to hear his voice on the other end of the phone line.

One day this past spring, Magoo (my nickname for him because he can’t drive) called me with some unsettling news. He asked me if I had received a certified letter from the clerk of the circuit court. Nope, never received one.  I always seemed to get mail a day later than he did. That was normal.  There was a pause on the other end of the phone. “Why?”

Magoo told me that the letter informed us that since lawyers were not used in our divorce, part of the divorce process was not completed and the certified letter was sent to inform us that they had to render the divorce null and void. We were supposed to come back to the courthouse for a meeting with the family law judge who granted our divorce. There was silence on my end of the phone, because I was at a loss for words.  I am never at a loss for words. I could feel my blood pressure rapidly rise and I thought that my head was going to explode.

“What the f*&%????…….  Are you saying that we are still married? ………. Oh my God! ………..Read it to me!”  I couldn’t believe that a judge could be so inept to overlook protocol in a divorce proceeding. What a moron. I called her worse names.  I was a torrential ranter. My sentence structure was nothing but a long string of adjectives….

“That stupid, moronic, inept, worthless, incompetent, bumbling, absurd, insipid, lame, banal, unfit, impotent, brain-crippled, window-licking  short bus riding bitch!……”

He read it to me. “blah blah blah….protocol was not followed……form 425 not signed or notorized……..blah blah blah……divorced rendered null and void……must appear before Judge _____ within 30 days to begin divorce process…..”

I was shocked.  “Are you freakin kidding me?” I looked at the clock and then asked if he wanted to meet me down at the courthouse right now. He replied, “I will come and pick you up in about 20 minutes. Vickie, this means we are still married.”

“Shit, Magoo, this is absurd!!” I was ranting and rambling and I was so mad I couldn’t see straight. I wondered if we should call the Judge’s office to find out what the hell was going on.  He said, no, we should just drive down. I asked him to read the letter to me again, one more time. He said he already read it to me once.  I didn’t give a shit. I wanted to decifer it. Tear it apart with a fine toothed combed. He went to get the letter. I guess he walked with it into another room while we were talking.

As I was pacing, waiting for him to come back to the phone,  I stopped by my front door and just happened to look at the calendar. I just couldn’t believe that after almost a year, we found out that we were never divorced. I also found out something else.

Magoo got back on the phone. I yelled into the phone, “YOU SON OF A BITCH!”

I noticed on the calendar that it was April 1….April Fool’s Day………Damnit, he got me!

His laughter was deafening. It went on for quite a while. I let him have his fun. It was the first time he was ever able to pull an April Fool’s joke on the Queen of April Fool’s jokes.

He tried to talk through his hyena-like howling. “I am the Master!……After 30 years, I am FINALLY able to pull an April Fool’s joke on you.”  And he began cackling again. Cackling like a little school girl if I may say so.

He must have written down some of my remarks, because he was able to regurgitate everything I had said. He was a regurgitator.

He called me back two more times that afternoon. All I could hear was laughing. I hung up on him.  And then I smiled.

That was a good one.

Before…

After…..still smiling 🙂

Well Intentioned Untruths

It’s just part of life that you remember who peed their pants and cried in second grade. You remember the kid who ate his scabs and the girl who got gum caught in her hair and had to have it cut out, making her look really bad. You remember their names. And use them when you get older.

As a teacher, I am faced with weird predicaments on a daily basis.  I always worry about the kid who puts an eraser in his mouth,

the girl who continually rocks on her chair, the boy who plays with pencils.  So, I bring up names from the past.  “Do you want to end up like Kenny Myers?” I asked today.  A kid put an eraser in his mouth. They know a story is coming.

“Well, in fifth grade, I watched Kenny swallow a bic pen cap. They had to take him to the hospital and have his stomach pumped. His parents had to pay a huge bill just because Kenny put something in his mouth that wasn’t food. So, if you want to end up like Kenny Myers, put a pen cap in your mouth.”

I have no idea what happened to Kenny. He may have swallowed the little blue part on the other end. I didn’t see it. I heard about it. And remembered it, I guess, so I could pull a story out of the “Useless Information” file I have stored in my brain. Now, you have to understand that my kids know I am pulling their leg, so they just sit there, smiling. They are in fourth grade and understand what’s going on.  But, they also know that I have drifted off topic once again. They keep tally marks.

I have another student who rocks on her chair. They know that that is the number one no-no in my classroom. I hate rocking on chairs. My son was a notorious rocker. He still rocks on his chair. He is 25 years old, and I had to tell him to quit rocking  just last week. I don’t know why it bugs me so much. Probably because of what happened to Joey Minco.  Years ago, I was sitting next to Joey and he was rocking on his chair. He then tipped back too far and went back, hitting his head on the corner of a desk and then landing smack on his head.

“He cracked his head open and had to go to the hospital. Joey had a lot of problems remembering his name after that. So, please quit rocking, unless you want to end up like Joey Minco..or whatever his name is…” Lie. Joe Minco was an old man who lived across the street from me.

On breaking pencils on purpose- “Do you want to end up like George Dragovich? (Another old neighbor. I have no idea why I use neighbors from my youth.)  George broke the tips off of the pencils so he would be able to get up in front of everyone to sharpen his pencil. He slipped on a piece of paper on the floor and landed on the pencil. It just missed his eye and the lead is still under his skin right here…(as I point near the corner of my eye.) So, if you don’t want to end up like George Dragovich, quit breaking your pencils on purpose.”

Chewing 23 pieces of gum at the same time- “Are you chewing gum? Do you want to know why I don’t allow chewing gum in my classroom? When I was little, there was a girl name Ethel Mertz  (sometimes tv character names come out of my mouth). Ethel was very poor. Her dad worked very hard to save up so Ethel could have a brand new dress. He bought it for her for her 10th birthday. She couldn’t wait to wear it to school and show off her beautiful dress. But when she sat down in her desk chair, someone had put a wad of gum on her seat, and she sat in it. Back then, you couldn’t get gum out of anything. It stained and turned dirty looking over time. Her dress was ruined and school hadn’t even started yet….

And you know who put the gum on her seat?….No, not me…..Joey Minco. He thought it was the wastepaper basket.”

Walking down the hall at the end of the day with a sucker in their mouth- “Hey! You’re not allowed to have suckers in school…..Why, when I was little, I had a sucker in my mouth and fell down the steps and you know what happened to me?……..A piece of the  sucker stick is still stuck in my throat. I can’t eat anything solid…So, quit walking with a sucker in your mouth unless you want to eat pudding for the rest of your life.”

On taking your shoes off in class every single day- “Please put your shoes back on. Do you want to end up like Gladys Kravitz?……Poor Gladys. She was my cousin…..WAS my cousin………..Gladys was in fourth grade, and always took her shoes off. One day there was a fire drill. They thought it was just a fire drill. Gladys took her time putting her shoes on…..when the class got outside, the teacher noticed that little Gladys was nowhere to be found….I’m not even going to tell you what happened to her. But, if you want to end up like Gladys Kravitz, go ahead and take your shoes off.”

I really can’t stop. I continually make up scenarios for kids because if you just explain why it is unsafe to rock on a chair, they won’t

remember it. But, if you give them a vivid description, something they can put a face to,or in my many cases, a name,  they will remember it. I mean, I don’t use blood or guts, because that is just wrong for a great teacher like myself to do. And I guess I should mention that the kids know I am lying, right from the beginning…but they seem to love my “Unless you want to end up like….” stories.

When I was little, my mom told me that  there was a special  place in hell for liars. I know, because Lars Peters is in hell.  My mom told me that Lars always lied and he is now in hell. “So, Vickie…if you want to go to hell like Lars Peters, keep on lying.”

Sigh……I really have become my mother.

Cereal and Saturday Looney Tunes

When I was young, the best thing about the weekend was waking early to watch Saturday morning cartoons. The 60’s were a great time to be a child. Mom and Dad would sleep in. We would get our own cereal, and then plop down to watch cartoons all morning long.  My brother and sister would lie on their stomachs on the floor. I don’t know why that made me puke. Probably because I just gulped down 2 bowls of Rice Krispies, sprinkled with a bag of sugar. I sat curled up on the couch. Everyone has favorite cartoons, depending on their age. I thought I would share my favorite cartoons with you. This will age me, but that is ok. They were awesome cartoons.

I am going to start with one  family of cartoons, Looney Toons, brought to you by Warner Brothers.

The best cartoons ever!  Everyone remembers Bugs Bunny. He was suave, sophisticated. Nothing really bothered him. “What’s up, Doc?”  There were also Yosemite Sam, Daffy Duck,  Pepe LePew, Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner, Tazmanian Devil, Elmer Fudd, Sylvester (“Sufferin Succotash”) and Tweety Bird, and Porky Pig. Here are just a few that I loved watching those Saturday mornings a long time ago.

My all-time favorite  Looney Tune character was Foghorn Leghorn. “I say, I say, Boy!”  He usually walked around, humming “Camptown Races.”  There were other characters in this cartoon, such as Barnyard Dawg, Henery Hawk, Egghead Jr. and Miss Prissy. Once in a while his college friend, Rhode Island Red, would stop by. I enjoyed Miss Prissy, the widowed hen who had a crush on Foghorn. She was always after him. Foghorn was a huge rooster, and had the best one-liners of all time. I cracked up. I didn’t know what he meant some of the time, but I think he was the one who taught me sarcasm. I think my quick-wit came from Foghorn. What an inspiration. It didn’t work in school, though, when we had to discuss who our hero was. I remember the teacher going around the room, asking each student who was their hero. I was ready. I was tired of hearing about Mom or Dad or Grandpa who was in the war.  It was my turn.  I had an awesome hero.

“Vickie, who would you say is your hero?”……Who?…….The rooster?…..Vickie, you can’t have a rooster as your hero……….No you can’t…..Why?….Well, he is not a real person……Yes, he talked, but he is a cartoon character………….. Well, yes, Doug  just said his was Superman, but that is different…………..Well, it just is different…………..Vickie, you can’t have a rooster as your hero……….A hero is someone who does something special……..Vickie, a cartoon character talks because he  is a cartoon. He is not special because he is not real…..Please quit crying…..Vickie……Just sit down, please…….”

 

2. Wile E. Coyote and Roadrunner-  We used to count how many times Wile E. Coyote should have died. I really enjoyed the details in the cartoon, like the boxes that had Acme Corporation written on them. Wile E. would order contraptions from the mail order company to catch the Roadrunner. The only ones I remember were the jet powered roller skates and the rocket sled. You knew he was going to get blown up. Stupid coyote. We would sit and yell at him. He would hold up a sign right before he blew up. The Roadrunner always raced right up to him, stopped, and made a noise, “Beep Beep”, before taking off again.

 

3. Bugs Bunny with Daffy Duck-  There was one episode that was my favorite Bugs Bunny cartoon. It was called Ali Baba Bunny. Bugs was so cool and calm, whereas Daffy was greedy and a bit angry. I thought he was jealous of Bugs. The dance in this segment is Bugs at his best.

 

There were other episodes where Sam the Sheepdog would clock in, carrying his lunch box and the coyote would clock out. I think that’s how it went. Yosemite Sam probably had a stroke and died. He was always pissed off. I think my least favorite was Porky Pig, the stutterer.  “That..that…that’s all folks…”And Elmer Fudd, who needed extensive speech therapy. I bet little kids that were having problems with their r’s and l’s cried when they watched him. “Shhh! Be verwee verwee qwhy-et. I’m shooting wabbits.”

There were other Looney Tune characters that I loved watching. There was Speedy Gonzales “Undalay! Undalay!” And his cousin, Slowpoke Rodriguez. I bet you remember him. How politically incorrect that one was!

And then there were the dog buddies, Spike and Chester. That’s the one cartoon I didn’t care for. Spike was a huge bulldog and a bully. Chester was a hyper Jack Russell type who jumped around Spike. He was always slapping poor little Chester. I really felt sorry for him.

In the end, Looney Tunes cartoons made for  great Saturday  mornings when I was young. My kids missed out on some great cartoons. Sure, a lot of them were violent and a lot of them were politically incorrect. But, they were cartooons for small children. We didn’t see what adults may see now. We ate cereal. We watched cartoons. It was a great childhood.

Yeah, I’m a Pez Head

I believe in collections. I think everyone should collect something. When I was in high school, I collected pigs. There was a reason behind that. My family and my best friend’s family went on vacation together to Mexico when I was a sophomore in high school. We were sitting outside at a restaurant, when all of a sudden a momma pig and a bunch of baby pigs came running over to us. It was a shock to see the little piggies, but they were adorable. I collected pigs for years after that.

When my children were born, I thought hard about what I would start to collect for them. Adam now has a closet full of baseball cards. Actually, he has some pretty nice cards. His dad also bid on some Nolan Ryan’s at an antique auction when he was young. It would take him a long time to catalogue all of his cards, but he does have a nice collection.

I made a mistake with my daughter, Alex. She got short-changed a bit. I started collecting Pez for her. I think there are now several hundred Pez in a big Rubbermaid box. Of course, when she was in high school, she informed me that she didn’t want her collection any more. She didn’t want anything to do with the Pez collection. Well, that didn’t stop me. I still pick them up every time I see a new one come out. So, I am a Pez Head. I will give the collection back to her, of course, but for now, it is mine and I think it is fun. I think the most expensive one she has is worth  only $6.00. I’m not even going to tell you what the Nolan Ryan rookie card is going for, but let’s just say that my daughter was short changed big time. Even if I went with my first thought for her collection, snow globes, they still wouldn’t be the investment that baseball cards have become.

I thought of other collections for my daughter, but it is too late now. She has a collection of Beanie Babies, and key chains, and pogs. Remember those?  In the end, I messed up. But, parents with young kids, it’s not too late for you. Collections are fun and easy to start.

Here’s a few of the things I collect:antique matchbooks, swizzle sticks, old rulers with company logos on them, antique letter openers, duck decoys, the three see-no-evil monkeys, cast iron door openers, ashtrays, irons, snowmen, antique fans, silver teapots and bottle openers with company logos. There are many more, but I have most of them packed away. I’d like to find a couple of antique globes. I think that would be cool in an office/library.

I still like the idea of collecting Pez. They are fun. But maybe for an only child. So, what do you collect?

Candy Cigarettes

When I was growing up in the 60’s, everyone in my neighborhood in Woodland Estates seemed to smoke. Our moms didn’t work, so they hung out in their housecoats, drank coffee, and smoked cigarettes. My dad smoked. The mailman smoked. I think the dog probably smoked.   His name was Smokey, after all. Smoke filled the house. The brand of choice was Salem cigarettes. My mom loved her Salems.  I  could see the swirling smoke entering my nose and traveling to my naive lungs.

So, since it was such a part of our upbringing, it was nothing to walk up the path to Leach’s store and buy atomic fireballs, wax juice bottles, candy necklaces, gold mine gum, wax lips, and last but not least, a box of candy cigarettes. We loved walking up that path during the summer. It meant candy.  Lots and lots of candy. Our mothers gladly threw money at us, for that meant they had more time to smoke, drink their Maxwell House coffee and gossip with the other ladies on our block. Well, I can only speak for my own mom, but she would give us money to walk to Leach’s every day during the summer. My sister, Cheryl, wore wax lips home about every day. I remember buying pretzel sticks.  We all would wait until we got home to open our cigarettes. We wanted to be just like our moms. Well, minus the housecoats.

Our candy cigarettes had a pinkish tip, which I guess meant fire. You would get laughed at if you had the wrong end in your mouth. When we puffed on our white candied cigarette, there would be a chalky powder that would emit from the cigarette. It was probably cocaine. I mean, you just never know. It was the 60’s, afterall. Did tobacco companies secretly own these candy cigarette companies?

There are studies out that show that a large percentage of candy cigarette eaters became full-time smokers. I disagree. None of us cigarette eaters became smokers. I think our mothers’ smoking habits turned us off. I just never had the desire to smoke. I would put one in my mouth only to make fun of how my roommate smoked. Other than that, I hated them. Still do.

But, if that is the case, I also bought those bubblegum cigars all of the time. Does that mean I am going to smoke cigars? I bought the big wax lips. Does that mean that I would get BOTOX later? I also ate the gold mine gum. Did that mean I was going to eat money when I grew up?  I mean, seriously.

Kids like to play grown-ups. We put makeup on, high heels, painted our fingernails, and smoked  pretend cigarettes.

You know we are all going to end up with pretend lung cancer.

Making Mountains out of Molehills

I really should have a full head of gray hairs. I probably do, but thanks to Clairol #whatever, I am keeping the gray away.  But, one of these days, I am going to wake up to white hair that no dye or shoe polish will be able to cover. It’s either that or a stroke.

I think it goes back to when I really wouldn’t let my kids climb to the top of the really high sliding board.  I would stand there and picture them waving at me from the top, “Watch, mommy!” and as they wave their little wave, lose their grasp and fall backwards to the ground and explode. I could create scenarios in my head one after the other. My cause and effect machine was working overtime. I had one hell of an imagination.

Fast forward to their college years. They were both at WVU, about 30 minutes up the road from our home. That was just far enough away, but close in case we had to get their fast. We took homemade soup when they were sick and drove them home when they needed extra pampering. But, nothing prepares parents for the news that they both want to study abroad.

“You mean, like Canada, right?”  I could only hope. Canada was a great country. They could learn all about their culture, such as hockey, curling, Canadian bacon, and could come home, saying, “Eh, dontcha knowl.” That sounded great. They just looked at me.

So, off they went. The first summer, Adam went to Strasburg, France for a month. He flew by himself. Why the hell he didn’t travel with the rest of the WVU students and teacher is beyond me.  He was also the only one who rented a bicycle and toured the countryside while he was there. I didn’t want him to ride a bike, because I would probably get a phone call, in French, “Madam, do you have zee son named Adam, with zee red hair, smashed under car..we send him home in a box, oui.”

After he came back, Alex went to Santander, Spain with a WVU Spanish group. Nothing is worse than two weeks of crying on the other end of the phone. She hated it. She said there is nothing worse than “forced admiration.”  She said that being part of a tour group is horrible. She wanted to go off by herself and see the sights that she wanted to. I pictured getting that phone call. “Senora, Alexandra was at the end of the tour group line, when someone must have abducted  her.. All that was left was her camera. We will send that home to you…in a box..Ole”

This is awful but I was sitting home, saying to myself,  “2 down, 2 to go.” I still had 2 more study abroad experiences to live through, and I wasn’t even leaving my home. I was exhasusted. Adam went to Morocco for 4 months. Luckily for me, WVU had asked him to blog every day and his blogs were entertaining and scary. I think that is when I started going gray. He traveled in an old, small plane from Casablanca and could see the runway as they landed, bouncing down the runway. He climbed the second highest mountain in Africa and I had him frozen like Jack Nicholson in the Shining. He wrote about how he and a friend from Italy rode horses bareback through the woods. Whaat? On tv, people who race horses through the woods always catch their neck on a low tree branch. That always happens.

When he came home, Alex went to Guanajuato, Mexico. She loves Mexico. I didn’t. She said that they don’t have screens in their windows and she would wake up with bug bites all over her body. Her roommate was stung by a scorpion that was on the dresser handle. Gray hair….She joined a Mexican ultimate frisbee team and traveled 6 hours on a bus by herself to Mexico City,then traveled in a van with frisbee players she never met before. She didn’t tell me until much later that their van was hit  broadside by a truck. We sent Adam down during his spring break because she was so sick, we thought he was going to have to bring her home. After several trips to a hospital, she recovered and they were able to ride horses up to a volcano. Horses? Volcano? Deathly ill? Scorpions? Open windows for rapists and questionable flying bugs?  I was a mess for those 5 months. She, meanwhile, took private salsa lessons and had a blast. I never left my home and thought about drinking heavily.

I thought I would be done worrying while they traipsed around the world, having fun.

Adam in the Alps

But no, they weren’t done driving me crazy. Adam climbed part of the Matterhorn and drove a compact car around the Alps one summer. Alex worked for the Japanese embassy and the JET program for a year and was placed in Kobe, you know, the place that had the devastating earthquake. And yes, there was an earthquake while she was there. Seems that Japan has earthquakes somewhere almost every day.

She flew to Korea for a long weekend, so I had her accidentally stepping into North Korea. “Hello, Alex mom?  She in North Korea. Not good. Must be spy. Never coming home. Goodbye.”

And today, I have spent the whole day in tears. Alex went to teach in France. So, of course she was up in the Eiffel Tower several weeks ago when they evacuated it because of terror plots. She flew to Japan last week to see her boyfriend and she was supposed to be back last night. No word from Alex. No word all day today. I saw on CNN where South Korea was cracking down on airport security because of a supposed bomb on planes. She had a 2 hour lay over in Seoul. So, that had to mean her plane had a bomb on it. I was ready to call the airlines, because I was sure her plane disappeared over the Meditteranean Triangle, or a taxi driver abducted her. When we finally talked on skype, she told me that she was sitting at the train station in Paris, when security people came and asked her row of 6 people to please leave the area. Next thing you know 300 people were evacuated and they taped off the area where Alex had been sitting. She went to a cafe after seeing a friend from Moscow (probably the bomber) and they heard a loud boom and they ran outside. She said she never heard what had happened, but that her train had left on time.

I’m ready for the looney bin.

When Grandpa Falls Asleep

Every parent has a “puke and poop” story about their kids.  You just think that yours tops them all. Well, I don’t think this is the puke story of the century, but it rates.

When my two children were very young, they would head to Grandma’s and Grandpa’s for the evening every once in a while. My husband and I had to go to one of his work parties, so my in-laws told us to bring them on over. We picked them up around ten and back to the house we went. I got the kids ready to go to bed, and all was right with the world. Or so I thought.

I was awakened by Alex crying out for me, “Mommy!”  I ran into her room, turned on the light. “My tummy hurts real bad.”  I sat on her bed, and she sat up and promptly puked all over herself , the comforter, and me. It was black. I was scared because I had never seen black vomit before. I got her up out of bed, and she threw up again. She did the vomit walk all the way to the bathroom. No sooner than I got Alex to the bathroom, I heard Adam yell for me. “Mommy, I threw up!”

I yelled for my husband to help. Why should he get to sleep? He balked at changing dirty diapers and turned green when he saw blood or vomit. He was generally useless, but I needed help. Adam had at least tried to aim for  his wastepaper basket by his bed, but threw up all over the his nice light grey berber carpet. It was black vomit.

Oh, Dear God, they have some terrible virus, I thought. A black virus. Her carpeting was a very light pink and white berber and I knew I had to scrub fast before it really stained. Alex wanted to try to go back to bed, but as soon as she got in the hall, vomited again. She was a vomit walker. I ran and got the wastebasket in her room for her to hold while I took her bedding off and put new sheets on her bed. I should have just picked them both up and put them in the bathtub so they could just puke in an enclosed area.

I told my husband that their forehead didn’t feel warm. I was ready to rush them to the hospital. I’m telling you that the vomit was jet black. I was stunned. Jet propulsion vomit. Vomit splatter. CSI style. My babies probably had a rare, contagious disease I couldn’t pronounce.

Jay just looked at me and said, “They smell like oreo cookies.”

What?  Oreo cookies? That couldn’t be. How could kids vomit so much blackness from just an oreo cookie or two. “Well, that is probably the last thing they ate.” I replied. Then I thought that Grandpa probably gave them a couple cookies late, but that shouldn’t make them vomit, for goodness sake. I was pretty strict with the junk food. I never gave them pop and I limited their cookie eating every day. No, they must have that rare, 5-syllable disease I was thinking of before.

So, my husband started the  questioning. “Adam, did you and Alex eat oreo cookies at Grandpa’s?”

He nodded. “We had oreo cookies and root beer.”

“How many cookies do you think you ate?” my husband asked.

“Like 2 bags.” Adam said and then threw up again. I can’t stress the blackness enough.

I looked at Adam like he had three eyes. “You mean 2 cookies, right?”  And that’s when Alex chirped in. “Grandpa put the bag of Oreo’s on the table and gave us a Root Beer.”

“He let you eat more than 1 or 2?” I asked, my blood pressure slowly rising.

“Grandpa fell asleep in his chair. We ate the first bag. It didn’t have many cookies in it, and we threw it away.  He woke up and Adam told him we were out of Oreo cookies. So, he got us another bag. And poured us some more root beer.” Alex noted in detail.

Adam added, ” So, when he fell asleep again, we ate  the second bag.”  He looked at me like it was no big deal.

“YOU ATE A WHOLE BAG OF OREO COOKIES?…. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?”  I was ready to call my in-laws. I didnt’ care that it was 1:00a.m. My kids shared  more than a bag of Oreo cookies and had several cans of Root beer each. I was beyond furious.

“Mommy, it wasn’t Grandpa’s fault. He was sleeping.”   Yeah, that makes it better.

I scrubbed the vomit walk in both bedrooms and the hallway. I changed the sheets on their beds and put blankets on top of their sheets since their comforters were caressed with Oreo upchuck.

Yes, Oreo upchuck. That’s what I called it. Like it was an episode on tv- Oreo Upchuck, brought to you by Tide, when your whites can’t get white enough. When your children spew black Oreos on their pajamas. Let Tide bring the color back to life.

Needless to say, Oreo cookies could not be brought into my home. You couldn’t even say “Oreo cookies”, unless you wanted to see my death stare.

I still hate Oreo cookies. Not too fond of Root Beer either.

Mono…The Kissing Disease

When I was in high school, I was lucky if I weighed 90 pounds. I used to fry up two hamburgers most mornings before the bus came in order to gain weight. That is probably where the high cholesterol came from. Nothing worked. I was still skinny.  So, imagine my horror when I was diagnosed with….mono.

In 1973, mononucleosis, or mono, for those with mono who are too fatigued to say the longer term, was called “The Kissing Disease.”  I was pissed because I didn’t kiss anyone. I think it should have been called the “Water Fountain Licking Disease.” I don’t think I got it from there either. I really don’t know where I got it, but I remember there was a football player who had it a week or two before I was diagnosed with it. I bet he licked the water fountain and the bugs jumped up while I was getting water one day. I really didn’t mind people teasing me about kissing this guy, but alas, I was just a blurp on his radar screen.

I specifically remember my symptoms. The sore throat was intense. Mom mom got out a small flashlight and kept checking my throat. “My goodness, Vickie……There are patches of white all over your throat.” Thanks, Mom. Now it hurt even more. Later, it was found that they were pus patches, which is disgusting. “Hey, I have pus patches on my throat..Wanna see with the flashlight?  Hey, I know, let’s go lick some water fountains.” I really wanted others to experience this wonderful thing called mono.

I had a very high fever.  Before I was diagnosed with mono, I called what I had, “The Shuffle Flu.” I remember wearing those scruffy slippers and shuffling around the house because with each step, my head pounded like you wouldn’t believe. So, I couldn’t walk like a normal person. I was a shuffler.

The worse thing for me were the swollen glands. I had them wrapped around my neck. I had no idea there were glands behind your

neck. My neck hurt so badly. I wanted to wear one of those whiplash collars to keep my neck from moving. I felt awful. I might as well look stupid. I even had hurtful swollen glands in my armpits. I was a mess.

One symptom of mononucleosis that I couldn’t handle was the extreme fatigue. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that a trip from the  couch to the kitchen sink was like running a mile as fast as I could. By the time I would shuffle over to the sink, I would be sweating, my pulse would be racing, and I was spent, drained of all energy. I would shuffle slowly back to bed and sleep for hours. It was horrible. I would not wish this on anyone.

I had an enlarged spleen. I wasn’t allowed to pick up anything heavy. So, my mom wouldn’t let me even pick up my dog, Cricket. I just remember my mom saying that there was another boy who had mono in our city at the same time and he had an enlarged heart with his mono.  Oh great. I didn’t want an enlarged heart. I’d take some enlarged breasts though.  Too bad that wasn’t a symptom. So, now there were two guys and me with mono. I sure got around.

I can’t remember how long I was out of school, but I had been preparing for a Voice of Democracy Speech in Speech Class for weeks before mono attacked me, and I was determined to be in that damn contest.  Oh, what a mistake that was. I went to school for a half day and went to the contest at the local VFW that night. All I can remember was standing at the podium, breaking out in a sweat, dying for a glass of water, which someone gave me in the middle of my speech. I downed like I had been out in the desert for a month. Who the hell was I kidding.? I wasn’t going to win. I may have won for “Best Attempt to Utter a Sentence Without Passing Out” award.  I had to hold onto the podium with both hands because I was so fatigued. Stupid, Vickie, stupid. But, teenagers are stupid, so you know, you learn.

So, there are some ways for you to keep the mono bug out of your mouth. Don’t share anyone’s drink or straw. Don’t borrow anyone’s lipstick. Don’t use anyone’s used Kleenex. Ok, that would be gross, but I do want to mention that mononucleosis is spread by saliva and mucus, so don’t flick boogers at people. Ok, still being gross.

Mononucleosis is not fun. Diseases usually aren’t. Just take it easy if you are diagnosed with mono, and don’t rush back to your every day activities. I have found from watching others with it over the years that it can delay the return of your energy if you don’t take time to let your body rest. You could have relapses of fatigue for a while.

And just don’t spit on anyone, Luggie-style.

Playing Dead

When I was young, our family lived in a neighborhood. People and houses were all around us. We didn’t really have deer in our yard too often. The only thing we really had come into our yard were crazy hummingbirds.Hummingbirds need to go to anger management classes. I’m serious. Even if they aren’t hungry, they will buzz right back over to mess with the hungry hummingbirds. My mom had several feeders out on the back porch and we had all the hummingbirds in North America visiting the nectar in our yard.

But, that was the extent of the wildlife. When I got married and we moved to my husband’s  hometown, I remember hearing owls when it was almost dark. I loved it.  For weeks I heard the owls. Until my husband informed me that they were just mourning doves. “Just” mourning doves. I had no idea what a mourning dove was.  And why the hell was it coming in the evening.  Nobody told me it was spelled like a really sad dove. So, what I  thought was an owl was really a depressed pigeon. Welcome to wildlife.

Who knew that when we built our house out on 13 acres that I would become a wildlife whisperer. See https://dyingbraincells.wordpress.com/2010/08/12/elly-may-clampett/  I was a stay-at-home mom and took daily walks through the woods and was amazed at all the wildlife. I loved it. I could tame anything. I am surprised I never got bit, especially during, “the Episode.”

We went to the animal shelter and brought home an outside cat. We didn’t know that people dropped off cats in the countryside, so I guess we could have just waited for a stray to show up, as they regularly did. But, we rescued Tiger and he lived outside. One evening I went outside to sit on the front porch. It was almost dark and my babies were in bed for the night. We hadn’t purchased porch furniture yet, but had 2 folding lawn chairs out there on the corner of our long porch. In the darkness I could see that Tiger was sitting under one of them, so I plopped myself down and then tried to get Tiger to come out from under the chair.

I sat in the chair, saying his name like I was a nutcase. “Ti-ger…come here, baby…Ti-iiii-ger…”, all the while trying to put my hand under the chair to try to pet him. I couldn’t reach him. My hand was moving under the chair some more, calling to him. Cat’s sometimes don’t do what they are asked to do. So, I just sat there, quietly waving my right arm sort of under the chair.

All of a sudden, I saw Tiger jump up onto the porch. Uh-Oh….My dangling hand froze. If that was Tiger……what was under my chair? My eyes grew huge…like cartoon, out of the head eyes.  I slowly got out of my chair and ran out into the yard.

I turned around to see a oppossum. It must have been playing dead under my chair. I was ready to be dead for real out in the yard. My heart was racing.Dear God, the thing could have taken off my arm.

Well, after a while, I got very used to wildlife at my door. The oppossum came back almost every night to eat out of Tiger’s food bowl. I named him Poopy Butt. I think that is a fitting name for an oppossum.

I will never forget that evening. My eyes have never been right since.

Did I Unplug My Curlers?

Have you ever left your home, only to turn your car around and head back because you weren’t sure you unplugged your curlers?  Well, I mean, bald guys wouldn’t have this to worry about.  But, some women do.  Like  me. I worry that I don’t have things unplugged or turned off.  I am a “turner-arounder”.  That is a person who turns around and comes back home to double check. I guess you could call it a “Double checker”.  Or a “Go back homer”.  There are many things to call people like that.  But, do we have OCD?  Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?   I don’t think I am OCD by any means. If I was OCD, I would first have to re-arrange the letters to CDO so they would be in alphabetical order.

I am going to share a few of the things that make me a “Go back homer” or a “Turner-arounder”, or a “Double checker.” I really like all of these phrases. I just don’t know which one to use. I will have to think about this for a few hours, OCD-like…But, read on and see if you can relate.  Maybe we have one or two in common.

1. “Did I close the garage door?”-This is really important, because if you left the garage door open, thieves could just walk in and take your…paint cans or wheelbarrow or tool (I am sure we had more than one). Better yet, raccoons could walk in and then fall asleep and then when you come home at night and drive your car into the garage, and shut the door, they would become trapped in your garage and poop all over your car and scratch, “LET ME OUT, YOU JERK” on the side of the car. Or, someone like Ted Bundy would be waiting in the dark, and when I would step out of my car,  kill me, well,  just because. Then he would leave a note like, “She really should have shut her garage door….Love, Ted.”

2. “Is my toilet running?”- Yeah, that gets me all the time. I always use the bathroom before I leave the house. Isn’t it great how I can share my “pee time stories” with strangers? Well, I have to drive 30 minutes to work and I drink a lot of water. Anywho, I usually wait by the front door until the toilet stops making that “I’m filling back up with water now” noise and then I shut and lock the door.And drive off. “But, wait. Did I wait this time? I can’t remember. Did I go to the bathroom before I left? What if my toilet ran all day? I wonder what the hell my water bill would be?… Shit…I better turn around.”

3. “Are my curlers unplugged?” This is the worst one, because I never can remember. I know in my mind that I unplug after I put the last curler in my hair. But, did I really unplug this time? My poor family would all pile in the car to go somewhere and we would get halfway down the driveway and I would say, “I am not sure I unplugged my curlers.” It got to be to the point where as soon as we would get in the car, my husband or kids would ask me. And I would ALWAYS go back. Now that I am divorced, and live by myself, I stare at the plug outlet and say to myself or sometimes out loud if I was really feeling like a loser, “Unplugged.” And I would wrap up my curlers and put them under my bathroom sink. But, my mind is not free. While driving, I would then think, “hmmmmmm, I wonder if I put those curlers away too warm? Could they start a fire?”

4. “Did I leave food for the cat?”- Well, this is important, because if I have a car accident and my head is wrapped in gauze, they won’t be able to hear me saying, “My poor cat has no food.” Therefore, it is imperative to leave her dish full of food and…just in case, the bag nearby. That way, she can knock the bag over when her dish is depleted of food and she can just eat out of the bag until I am released from the hospital. I do have one of those self-feeders, but my cat won’t eat out of it. I guess the food gets stale tasting if it is out too long and she sticks her nose up at it. Well, think about it. Would you eat a piece of toast with butter and jelly after 6 hours of being on the counter? I didn’t think so.

5. “Off, off, off…off..off..off..”-In OCD talk, that means, “Go make sure the oven knobs are all turned off.”  I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have turned around to make sure my oven was turned off.  And as I touch each knob, I would say those words..”off, off, off, off, off, off.” And then I would stare at the oven, just one last time. Yes, they are off ….for sure. I would even ask the kids to check. I could hear them say, “off, off, off, off, off, off” in that mocking manner. They were probably thinking, “What the hell? We’ve eaten out for the past 2 nights.”

I guess we all have our idiosyncrasies. That word looks weird….I guess we are all weird in some way or another. I forgot to mention that I make sure that the match I use to light a candle stays in a little jar of water for at least an hour before I throw it away. I heard about a match being in a garbage bag and then smouldering and then burning down a house about a year ago..I like to burn my hazelnut cream candle about every day and don’t want to burn my apartment down. So, the match gets to drown to make sure it is not a fire hazard.

So, do I have OCD? Should a “turner-arounder” be labeled as having an obsessive behavior? I really don’t know the answer to that.

I do know that I have to stop writing this blog now because it is bed time. I have to go make sure my alarm clock is set. You never know when the electric will go off and you would then sleep in for work.

I am pretty sure I have it set… Maybe…..shit….maybe not….I will have to check after I make sure the tires on my car are not flat for the drive to work tomorrow.

Puntastic Halloween….Part 2

Well, I am on a roll now.  I really am the Queen of Halloween Costume Ideas.  It was wonderful to see the great comments from my first hit, “Queen of Halloween Costume Ideas….’Tis True”, and to prove I am not just any one hit wonder, I will offer up my next Halloween blog for your approval. I think I have better ideas on this one.  Enjoy!  These are easy, quick ideas that are cheap or will not cost you a penny.

Uh Oh....

Dog

“On a short leash”-For a guy, dress like a dog and wear a collar and a very short leash.

Dog with the words of the week written all over him. “Every dog has its day”

Dress like a dog, carrying a book with the title “New Tricks” X’d out (Can’t teach an old dog new tricks”

Cat

Couple- One dresses like a cat with a little brown bag, bloodied…the other is himself, but with fake blood all around his mouth “Cat’s got your tongue”

Dress like a cat, carry a bag – “Cat’s out of the bag”

Couple- one is a cat, the other looks disheveled, unkept “Look what the cat’s dragged in”

Heaven, Hell, Devils, Angels

Dress like the devil, carry bells -”Hell’s Bells”

Dress like the devil, tie a plastic ice cube tray on top of your head “Hell freezing over”

Dress like the devil, carry a mirror. When someone asks what you are, make them look in the mirror..”See you in Hell”

Dress like an angel and put a 7 on your chest “seventh heaven”

Dress like an angel and carry a stuffed animal pig “Hog Heaven”

Queen of Hearts- tiara and red hearts all over your body. King of clubs-crown and a golf club.

Queen Bee- tiara and a big B on your chest.

Pat on the back-  sign “Pat” on your back.

Brain freeze- ice cube tray tied on top of your head.

Ice Princess- gown, ice cube tray tied on top of your head.

3 children- Indians with the numbers 1,2, 3 on their backs-One Little, Two Little, Three Little Indians

Stuffed bunny tied on the top of your head-”Hare-Brained”

Husband, Wife and Child- Child-baby bee (lowercase “b” on its chest)  Wife-Queen B, Husband-Bee Keeper (3 or 4 necklaces with B’s)

Get a sweatshirt and velcro a deck of cards (minus one) all over and go as ” 1 card short of a full deck.” (That’s what I am going to school as I think)

Draw a picture of a shark on poster board and cut it out and just carry it..”Card shark”

Draw a square with the number 1 inside of it and put it on your back “Back to square 1”

Roll some guaze around your neck a couple of times and put a sign on your chest that says Charley- “Charley hoarse”

Buy one of those fake birds and just throw it at people when they ask what you are and you can say, “Flippin you the bird.”

Wear one of those yellow slickers and put a big check mark on the back and go as a “raincheck”

Make a red heart and put it on your sleeve “Wearing your heart on your sleeve”

So, if you decide at the last minute to dress up for Halloween or if you really don’t want to, but your significant other is pressuring you to dress, I hope you will be able to use one of  these quick and easy costume ideas.

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*My Puntastic Title was suggested by http://abeautifulrind.wordpress.com/  Check out her blog!

Queen of Halloween Costume Ideas…’Tis True

Update:  Need a Halloween costume? I have put all of my ideas collected over the years into an ebook on Amazon.com

2 Bee or not 2 Bee: 430 PUN-tastic Halloween Costume Ideas   at Amazon $2.99

Don’t have a Kindle? No problem. You can download a Kindle app FREE.

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For Halloween, I want my fellow teachers to dress like medical professionals and put a sign on our backs reading, “Staff” Infection.  I don’t know why they just look at me like I have a third eye. I think it is funny.

Every since I was in college in the 70’s, I have been the Halloween costume “Go to”  person.  Sure, people are posting ideas on the internet, but yeah, most of them have come from me….’Tis true.

In college, a friend of mine wanted to go to a Halloween party at a bar, but you had to dress to go. He wanted to look good and wasn’t into wearing a mask. You know you make the face behind the mask, right? You know you do. Anywho, I told him to wear a suit, and put a tape measure around his neck and one of those tomato pincushions on his wrist  and go as Elizabeth’s Tailor. I know, creative, right?  He got in not really wearing a costume.

Ok, how about if you want to wear a costume, but your spouse/significant other does not. Well, dress as an old man and put a big C on the other one’s chest and go as Old Man and the C.

One year at school I just wore a tiara and a B on my chest and went as The Queen B

Two years ago I wore a white sweatshirt, put on some bunny ears and tail and put one of those plastic dusters  around my neck and went as a dust bunny.  Last Halloween, I just wasn’t feeling it, so I just got a huge cardboard quarter and put in on my back and went as a  Quarterback

If you don’t have much time to make an outfit, cut out pieces of a map and hot glue it to a cap and go as a Head Trip

If you want to look pretty, wear a gown and a tiara, get a box and a rope and go as a Drag Queen

I wanted my daughter to wear a tacky gold outfit, everything gold, and spray paint a kid’s plastic shovel and go as a Gold Digger

 Get a witch hat, a lab coat and stethescope and go as a Witch Doctor  or  a couple could dress like doctors and have a sign on their backs Which Doctor

I dressed my kids as bees and put the letters on their backs 2 Bee or Not 2 Bee

Black Eyed Peas- Blacken your eyes and wear the letter P all over your shirt.

Don’t really want to dress up?  Cut out little clock faces and tape them on your hands..Too Much Time on Your Hands

Illegal Alien-My daughter dressed like this when she was younger and was pissed because only the teachers understood what she was.  Jailers outfit, green face with alien antennae.

For a guy, Make a cardboard window, with saran wrap as the window pane (or nothing at all), write Tom on the window and he can go as a Peeping Tom

This is too old for many, but I had a friend name Judy in college and I gave her the idea to wear a Christmas garland wrapped around her neck like a boa and she went as Judy Garland.  I guess your name wouldn’t have to be Judy. Just put the name Judy, on our chest and the garland.

For a guy who doesn’t want to dress up, just carry an umbrella and go as Rain Man, you know, like the movie, (I just made that one up..’Tis true…)

A group could carry plastic hatchets and knives and put B’s on their chests and go as Killer B’s

Dress like any kind of animal and wear a party hat with it and go as a Party Animal

Couple-Guy could be a Knight, girl could go as the sun-  Knight and Day

 I guess I could keep writing for a while.  Coming up with a Halloween costume is fun and a little creativity goes a long way.

If you need a costume, drop me a line. I am the Self-Proclaimed Queen of Halloween Costume Ideas after all.

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Enjoy this story? Jumping in Mud Puddles is now an ebook. Have a look see.  :)  My literary debut. Amazon.com for $3.99.

Jumping in Mud Puddles: A Memoir of a Picky, Hyper, Big Fat Liar

Old Wive’s Tales

I have a sore throat.  It made me think of homemade remedies. Which made me think of old wive’s tales,

which made me think…I wonder how many were made up out of spite? I mean, if I didn’t like someone, couldn’t I easily make up something that would be funny, and not work?

For example, let’s say a friend who really isn’t my friend tells me  that they were going to the beach. I could say, “Don’t forget to pack some glue…..in case you get stung by a jellyfish. Pour glue on it and then rub it in with sand.”   And then add, “I read about it on the internet.”  And if you don’t lie, write it on your blog, read it, and then it isn’t a lie.You did read it on the internet.  There are all ways to cover yourself from going to hell.

Years ago, people didn’t have the communication options that we now have. They lived far apart from each other and had to travel a long way to get to town. You had to make due with what you had on your homestead. So, if  you got injured or sick, let’s say, burned, you  just went and stood in the backyard, and thought, “hmmmmm, what to do, what to do…” and then  you would grabbed some butter from your cold storage place and rubbed it on a burn. Actually, placing butter or similar greasy ointments directly on a burn is counterproductive since it can seal in the heat. People used plants like purple cone flower and herbs to help. Trial and error. Someone had to be the first to try it. I always wondered about the first person who drank milk..”See that cow over yonder…I think what I am going to do……”  Yuck.

My mom used to tell me things all of the time. I am sure they were passed down from her mother, and so on and so on. Momisms..I have used a few myself. But, not the ones my mom used.  Here are some of the Old Wives Tales  my mom used to tell me…

1. “Quit cracking your knuckles. You will get arthritis like Grandma.”- Well, hell, Grandma’s fingers went every which way but they way there were supposed to. I could stare at her fingers forever. Well, not forever, because that would be stupid, but I couldn’t take my eyes off of those fingers. There were like bird claws. She was in pain alot. That’s why she took her “medicine.” Yeah, Grandma was a regular Granny Clampett. For real. I did ask her one time, “Grandma, did you crack your knuckles when you were little?” She replied, “Why do you ask me that, Vickie?”  Well, hell, Grandma, take a look at your knuckles… I really wanted to know if her toes looked like that. She did walk weird…

2. “Don’t sit on the cold cement. You’ll get hemorrhoids.”- We didnt even ask what those were when we were little. I thought they were butt boils, but kept that to myself.

3. “Wash behind your ears or you’ll grow potatoes back there.”- I mean, seriously?  Like I was going to fall for that one. Who the hell made that one up?

4. “Quit wrinkling up your nose. It will stick like that for the rest of your life.”- Ok, that only happened once…on an episode of the Twilight Zone. I always wrinkled up my nose. I was a picky eater, so that went hand in hand with, “Vickie, eat your carrots…..Quit wrinkling up your nose, it will stick like that for the rest of your life…..What do you mean, name one person?……Vickie, eat your carrots…..I can think of plenty of  people whose faces have stuck……..Well, Reverend Harold for one.”  Ok, I almost believed her then, but what I didn’t know is that Reverend Harold had a stroke, so every thing on one side of his face drooped. Harsh.

5. “Don’t swallow your gum. It will stick in your stomach.” -Well, I think it would be wrong if you shoved 5 pieces of bubble gum in your mouth and then swallowed it. You are just asking to choke and die. But, my mom said that gum stays in your stomach for 7 years, so if you keep swallowing it, your stomach will stick out. And then she added..like a Biafran baby. Well, I knew what a biafran baby looked like..we had the National Geographic in our house. That would be sooo politically incorrect nowadays. But, that’s mom for ya!

 

6. “Don’t so close to the tv. You will go blind.” Sometimes she would change this to “Don’t sit so close, you will go cross-eyed.” -Uh, wrong Mom…I could see going to school on a Monday with glasses and a cane. “Awww, poor Vickie, she must have been sitting close to the tv.” But, we liked sitting close to the tv while watching Casper and Romper Room. We didn’t have color..Just static from the rabbit ear antennae.

7. “Put that toad outside! It will give your warts!”- I was always bringing critters into the house. It was nothing to bring home salamanders, lizards, or baby bunnies on any given summer afternoon.  She always told me I was going to get warts. I never did. Well, I had planters warts on the bottom of my foot. I guess she would say that is from walking barefoot where toads hopped..

8.” You have to wait a 1/2 hour to get back in the pool or you will die!”  We heard that one all of the time. Like we were going to jump right back into the pool and do 50 laps. Come on!   We splash and yell, “Hey, Mommy, look.” We are not going to get cramps. Other kids were able to go swimming. Not the Mendenhall kids. We sat out, with our towels wrapped around us, watching the big clock on the pool house wall. I didn’t understand. “Mom, why can’t we go back into the pool?”  “Vickie, do you want to die? Do you?”

I enjoy reading Old Wive’s Tales. They are amusing and possibly painful.  So, the next time your kid swallows 7 pieces of bubble gum,…..

Get ready to do the Heimlich Manuever..

The Pistachio Nut

When I was little, I was allergic to Mohair and bee stings. I was a tiny, fragile thing, probably no bigger than a chihuahua. I had an intense love of animals and had my first experience going into anaphylatic shock after putting a wasp to my cheek after I accidentally stepped on it with my shoe. The poor thing was half-dead, so I picked it up to console it.  It promptly  perked up and stung me. Yeah, I wasn’t too smart. I was rushed to the hospital.

Fast forward many years. My family is hanging out in the kitchen, chowing down on some food. I know it was around Christmas, but I can’t remember how old my son was when this happened. I am pretty sure he was 8 or nine. He looked at me and held his hand to his throat. He was able to talk, so we knew he wasn’t choking. He said something was stuck in his throat. My father-in-law had a sliver of a fish bone stuck in his throat one time, so I was thinking whatever it was needed to be dislodged. Drinking water didn’t help.

Einstein here decided that he should try to swallow a small piece of bread to see if he could dislodge the item stuck in his throat. That didn’t work either. I decided not to mess around and got my shoes on and told my husband I was going to take him to the emergency room.  “Why you taking him to the hospital?”  He asked. Mother’s intuition. Something was not right.

On the way to the emergency room, I asked him to tell me everything he had eaten. The last thing he said before he mentioned that he was having a hard time breathing were the words, pistachio nuts. Uh Oh!   My heart raced. Oh shit….I felt my foot press harder on the accelerator. My son was having an allergic reaction to pistachio nuts.

Yeah, took me a while to figure that one out. And here I was, trying to get him to eat bread. Sheesh. So, after sitting at 2 hospitals (the first one didn’t see us as quickly as I wanted) and a shot of epenephrine or something, we came home with a diagnosis. Adam was deathly allergic to pistachio nuts.

Hundreds of people have died from a severe reaction to peanuts. It made me a very nervous mother.

We did pretty well watching what Adam ate when he was growing up and it wasn’t until he was 18 that he had his second attack. We were all sitting at a wedding reception near the table with the mounds of dessert. Adam remarked that he must have eaten something with pistachio in it, because his throat was closing in. Thank goodness we were about 2 minutes from the hospital. My husband decided to drive him. After all, he drove like Mr. Magoo and could get there quicker. The only thing I said as they left was, “Make sure they give him a shot of epinephrine.”

They weren’t gone very long and we hopped back into the car for the ride home. I was mad because they didn’t give Adam a shot or anything. The only thing they gave him was a pepcid for an upset stomach. We were pulling into the driveway when Adam said he didn’t feel well and his voice sounded gurgly. “Oh my God, he is going into anaphylatic shock, damnit.”  We jumped out of the car and my husband raced Adam back to the hospital. They had to put him in ICU under oxygen and shots to settle it down. I was so mad at the hospital for giving him a pepcid and sending him home. What a crazy place. He could have died. Can you believe the hospital charged me twice? After threatening a law suit, they took off the second bill.

Adam didn’t have anymore episodes. I was nervous when he told us he was going to study abroad in Morocco for 6 months. I had him go to the doctor to get a prescription for an epi-pen. When he landed in Morocco, the custom people didn’t understand what this strange thing was. Adam performed sharades for the people, and I guess they understood what it was for.

Adam had to spend Thanksgiving Day away from home. It was nice, though, because the university people in Ifrain cooked up a great turkey dinner for the Americans who were studying there. Adam was excited, because he was hungry for some American grub. When they brought out the turkey, it was smothered with a pistachio paste of some sort. Adam couldn’t eat any of it.

Adam is 25 now and has stayed away from all things pistachio.

And I stay away from that stupid hospital… Giving a person a pepcid and sending them on their merry way….

That’s just nuts….

Homemade Halloween

One of my favorite things about being a mom was making Halloween costumes for my children. It is not a requirement for motherhood, of course, but I took Halloween very seriously. I didn’t have a sewing machine, so I sewed everything by hand. I was Little Susie Homemaker.

2 bee or not 2 bee…..

I dressed my son, Adam, for Halloween when he was 1 month old. I did. Of course, he just sat in his little seat as I passed out Halloween candy, but he looked adorable. I made him a little jesters outfit out of his onesie.

The picture on the right was my first real test at Halloween costume design. It’s a bit rough, but remember, I didn’t have a sewing machine. I had letters on each of their chest to read, 2 Bee or not 2 Bee, mainly because I am a sick individual, but I took them off right before we took off in the neighborhood.

I think I know how pageant moms feel. Well, not really, but I was loving the compliments my kids were getting. It validated me as a good mom. Halloween was fun. I would sit at the table and jot down ideas for crazy Halloween costume ideas. Some of my best costumes came from watching The Benny Hill Show.

Some of you young grasshoppers don’t remember Benny Hill, but he was an ornery British comedian who had wacky skits. He was hysterical. I used to watch his shows and then try to sketch some of the costumes people wore on his show. And then I put them on my kids for Halloween. One year, my son, Adam, won for best costume at McDonald’s. I dressed him like the scarecrow riding Piggy Back on the tinman. I don’t know why. Benny Hill had some man riding piggy back on an old woman. It looked so real. I even dressed my husband like that for one of our adult parties. It looked pretty good.

After the little parade walk at McDonald’s, we bought him his first hamburger and when they announced that he won, he started crying because we took the hamburger away from him so he could go get his picture taken. There was a picture of him in the newspaper and I was just beaming. I knew he was going to win because there were only a handful of homemade costumes. And homemade costumes always trumped an expensive store costume every time.

Another Benny Hill costume I took was the GunSlinger. Adam was dressed like a gunslinger, with his arms crossed, but actually his real arms were behind his back.  Benny Hill had a skit where he was dueling with another gunslinger and all of a sudden, his real arms took the guns in each holster and shot his opponent. I liked that. Now, Adam looks a bit possessed in this picture. He was mad about something.

possessed gunslinger

It was a little obvious that his arms were fake, but hey, a mom can do only so much. I thought he looked like a bad guy. Maybe the manic expression was a bad boy image.

He looks a bit scary.

Now, at first, my daughter, Alexandra, loved letting me sew costumes for her.  One year I dressed her like a baby chick coming out of an egg. I hand sewed each of those damn yellow feathers on her costume. She won the McDonald contest the next year.

I have to admit that I did get a bit goofy as the years wore on. Alex looked adorable the next year as a doggie. But, what you don’t see in the picture is the homemade window I made for her to carry.

How Much is that Doggie in the Window..

Yeah, that’s right. She went as How Much is That Doggie in the Window. She got mad because I made her carry it. I’m sure she didn’t understand my purpose. I didn’t even know the damn words to the song as I tried to get her to understand. she did look cute. I even found a little plastic bone to put on top of her head.

I took the scarecrow/riding on the tinman apart and Adam was just a scarecrow one year. That was the year he decided he was done with homemade costumes. I guess some kid at school called him Farmer Jones at school all day and perhaps for the rest of the year.

Well, that was the end of the homemade costumes for Adam. The next year he designed his own. He wanted to buy the Ninja turtle costume in the store, but I talked him into creating his own. He did pretty good. Alex was a cat that year.

He made the goggles out of a paper bag and brown crayon. I was proud of him.

As they grew up I had to let them do what they wanted. That’s the part of being a mom that is hard. Letting go.  That year Adam was a Pittsburgh Penguin killer?? and Alex was a witch. I made the design on my sweatshirt, so that’s what was homemade that year.

The kids grew up and wore what they wanted.  Alex turned into her mom and created great costumes for herself in college. I was so proud. She sent me a picture of herself in Japan when she had a hard time finding things for a costume. She ended up going as Cupid.                   Have a great Halloween!

Stick a Fork in Me Cuz I am Done

I was a stay-at-home mom until my youngest was a junior in high school. I wouldn’t have traded the time I was able to spend with them for the world, but it was just too much “staying at home”.  It was at its worse when my son, Adam, was in third grade.

We had just had a terrible winter and the kids never had school. I was so tired of the Snow Bird  report on tv early in the morning. “Hey kids, there’s no school today in Marion County.”  I wanted to kill that damn penguin.

One day I told the kids I was driving them to Wetzel County because they had school that day. Gonna drop them off at the door. I think they believed me. I had a bad case of cabin fever. Cabin fever like Jack Nicholson in the Shining cabin fever.

My niece and sister-in-law used to call me early, before the announcement was  on tv. They had connections. Or a scanner.  Anywho, they would call and just say,”No school”, or “2 hour delay.”  I always had some smart-ass remark for them, especially as the cabin fever became more pronounced. “Stick a fork in me, cuz I am done” became my phrase, I guess.

One day, when the snow had finally melted and it looked like I would be able to send their butts to school,  Adam became sick again. Poor Adam was sick so much when he was little. He had pneumonia several times. There is nothing worse than a child with a 105 degree fever. He had drainage all the time. It was so bad that his teacher sent me a note that his clearing his throat was driving her crazy. Well, she didn’t write that, but that is what she meant. So, after trips to his pediatrician, who I swear put him Augmentin 300 times, I took him straight to an ENT, who announced that his adenoids were so huge, he could see them. I guess you aren’t supposed to be able to see adenoids. His tonsils had to come out. The scheduled surgery was right when it looked like school was going to be back in session after the perpetual snow event of that winter. Figures..

Adam;s surgery went well and when he came home I made him a bed on the couch in our Hearth Room so he wouldn’t have to go up and down the steps for awhile.  I made the HUGE mistake of giving him a bell to ring for me. I walked in after only 2 hours, and snatched the bell away from him. So, the mute improvised, and started tapping his pencil against his glass of water. I created a monster.

I really don’t remember how long he stayed home from school after he had his tonsils taken out, but I think it may have been 6 months. Ok, not 6 months, but it felt like that. His tonsils were healing nicely and he was ready to go to school. Well, that would have been nice, but that’s not what happened. He woke up one morning, and said he didn’t feel well. I felt his forehead and he felt a bit warm. I noticed that there was something on the tip his nose. At first I thought it was a booger. Kids wear boogers sometimes. I hurried and raised his pajama top. Shit. “OH MY GOD!” I said out loud. I never cursed in front of the kids, but if I did, I would have said something like this-” Are you shitting me?…… Damnit!”  Yeah, Adam was breaking out with chicken pox.

Chicken pox. A stupid disease. I mean, what the hell? I was just in the house all winter, then he had his tonsils removed, and now chickenpox. Real funny. Poor kid…… Poor Poor Mom.

So, in the house we stayed. We played with PlayDoh and colored and played with Lego’s. I loved my time with him, but I really needed to get out of the house. After another six months (ok, I exaggerate), he woke up one day, and was ready to go to school. Yay.

Not so fast. I have two kids.

Yeah, that’s right. Alex broke out with chicken pox.

What a rough winter. Don’t get me wrong. I loved being home with my kids. But, when you are stuck in the house because the snow has piled up and you are stranded, it just gets to you.  I wish I had a maze like they did in the Shining, so I could have chased my husband with an axe.

He got to leave every day. He got to see people.  “You got to see people at the hospital,” was his explanation.  Big Whoop. Like I wanted to enter Room 122 and talk to someone with The Elephant Man disease….I had to get the hell out of the house. I NEEDED  to get in the car and drive around. But, you can’t. It is snowing non-stop and Snowbird is singing his stupid song. Adam had a penguin collection when he was little. I swear it is because he anticipated the SnowBird Report every morning that winter and liked seeing that penguin.

I was pissed when a chickenpox vaccine came out for children.  That’s what’s wrong with the young parents of today. You  don’t have to walk two miles to school every day with a piece of cardboard placed in their shoe like I did. Ok, not me, but I heard that from one of my damn relatives. You young grasshopppers have it too easy. Your child should get chickenpox like everyone did before…… In fact, I think you guys should line up for a shot of polio to the shoulder like I had to…. And put butter on your burns…And breathe in some asbestos while you are at it…..

Sorry for ranting, but you get my drift. Or you will this winter.

My Lazy Boy Couch Tried to Kill Me

My cat, Whiskers, has led a charmed life. We rescued her from the animal shelter and put her under the Christmas tree as a present for my daughter 16 years ago. She was a 100% house cat. She did have a love of eating grass, which she promptly yakked back up, but for the most part, she never left the house.

After we built our house in the country, we had some field mice find a way into our home.  We knew they came from underneath the stove, but couldn’t find a hole anywhere. Whiskers would jump up on the island and sit and watch the parade of mice in and out of the house while we slept. I saw her one night when I came down for some Advil. We found a nest up on our mantle, behind the antique gingerbread clock. We found another nest in our older couch in the Hearth Room. That damn cat would just sit and watch the mice, with her paws crossed. Hell, she was fed, she didn’t need to eat scurrying little varmints.

Well, one day, Whiskers  somehow put her head through a Walmart plastic bag. The bag was dragging underneath her and she must have been scared, because she freaked out. She started running. She ran and she was stepping on the bag and it must have felt like it was strangling her. She was meowing everytime she came running by us. You can go from kitchen to Hearth Room to foyer to family room to the kitchen again. It was all open. One big circle. Well, she was running faster, and one time came by us and knocked over my floor lamp.

Alex was laughing but Whiskers sounded like she was in pain and was very frightened. We tried to catch her but then she ran behind the couch and stayed against the wall, crying. I tried to reach her, but couldn’t. We had a LazyBoy wall hugger that went right up against the wall. The couch was too heavy to move even an inch, so I decided to try to reach for her from the edge of the couch. I was able to get the bag off of her head. Shit. She peed in the bag. And probably all over the place while she was running. Cat urine house. Just great.

Well, my Lazy Boy has 2 sections that recline. It’s a wall hugger, so you can recline without it bumping into the wall. While I was sitting by the edge of the couch, reaching with my right hand as far as I could to the cat, the button somehow was pushed, and the recliner reclined….on my head. My head was thrown against the wall. I was in a couch vise.

Death by Lazy Boy.

My head was quickly and painfully pinned against the wall. I screamed, “Alex, help me!” Get the couch off of me!”

Well, I couldn’t see her, because my head was facing Whiskers, behind the couch, but I could hear the little shit. She was laughing at me.

“Alex….Get… the… couch….off…of….me. My head is stuck!”  Alex started cackling. I know how my daughter laughs. She moves around, holding her stomach and it turns into a belly shaking, silent laugh. I don’t think she understood how badly my head was hurting.

“Alex, my head is in a vise. It is squeezing my head.”  No help from Alex. She was too busy laughing at me.

But, Whiskers decided to walk along behind the couch and came right up by me. Urine head. Her stomach was all wet with pee. Great, now she wants to be my friend.

I started crying. It felt like the couch was squeezing my head. “Alex…..please help me!!” I tried to reach for the reclining button, but couldn’t find it. It looked like my one arm was flailing, I am sure. “Alex, Please help me!!”  Well, I was going to die. It  was like in one of those movies where the hero is in a trash compactor room that slowly crushes everything and the room is getting smaller and smaller.

Finally, after she composed herself, Alex figured out how to get the couch off of my head. She couldn’t quit laughing, and then ran to the bathroom. I don’t know how long the whole thing lasted, but I was so mad at her afterwards. The more I yelled at her, the more she laughed at me. Damn her. She is so much like her mom.

In the end, I didn’t suffer much brain damage. My floor lamp never worked right after that. Whiskers did the same damn thing several weeks later, but this time she managed to slip under the handle of a bucket full of sidewalk chalk. That was a fun one to watch as the chalk flew out of the bucket and she ran from kitchen to Hearth Room to foyer to family room to kitchen. She looked like a bronking bull with the bucket underneath her. Poor stupid cat.

I guess it isn’t every day that your couch tries to kill you.

Wisdom Teeth Removal Removes Wisdom

My son had to have his wisdom teeth removed when he was 17 and I had no idea when I took him that I would be laughing so hard on the way out. I really would like to have an injection or ingestion of whatever he had that day.

My husband had his wisdom teeth taken out when we were dating. My God what a terrible patient he was. Mean as a pissed off snake. He called me up several hours after I had taken him home and wanted to know where I “hid” his pain pills. Seems that the goof-ball head fell asleep with the gauze in his mouth and dreamed he was eating and started biting down or chewing in his sleep. I mean, who does that?

I was a good patient when I got my wisdom teeth taken out. I asked Dr. Wrobleski if I could watch the whole thing, so he swung over the big mirror and I watched everything they did. I am sure my Adam would be just like his mom. Inquisitive.

I was sitting in the waiting room at the oral surgeon’s office, reading a magazine when I heard someone laughing from behind the front desk. I looked up and could barely make out what they were saying, but the dentist’s assistant was laughing so hard that her mascara was running and making her look like a raccoon. I was intrigued because I knew my son was back there, and since I was the only one in the waiting room, I was even more intrigued upon that realization. Oh, Dear God, what is Adam saying to them back there?

He hadn’t been back there very long, when another assistant came out in the waiting, laughing hysterically, and  told  me that Adam wanted to see me before they started to remove his wisdom teeth. Well, ok…..I mean, seriously, what the hell is going on? At least her laughing meant he didn’t keel over and die or anything.

When I went back to the room, the Dr. was sitting beside Adam, laughing hard and the two assistant raccoons must have been wearing the same mascara. When Adam saw me, he yelled out, “MOM! Come over here and give me a big, wet, kiss.”  Oh Dear God, are you kidding me? You did not just say that??  The kid was as high as a kite.

“Hey, there’s my mom”…and he hugged me and continued..”My mom makes the best chicken…..She makes chicken….every night.”  Seems that he also proposed to one of his assistants while I was in the waiting room. “I asked her to marry me, but she said I was too young for her.”  He acted like he was pouting and then cracked up again.

The Dr. explained that they were ready to take out his teeth, but that Adam had something he wanted to tell me.

“Dr. Wrobleski is so cool, Mom.”  He looked at the Dr. and then asked him  to give him a high 5.  He gave Adam a high 5.  “Low five.” Gave Adam a low five. “No five.”  And with that Adam took his hand and lightly slapped Dr. Wrobleski across the face. And just burst out laughing.  Please tell me that you did not just slap the dentist across the face?

“I like you. Hey Dr. Wrobleski….I think you and I should go drink some beer together sometime. I think that would be fun. Maybe after you take out my teeth.”  He paused and then said. “I bet it would be fun to get high with you. I have never done it, but I will with you, Dr. Wrobleski.”  And then he cracked up laughing again. He then looked over at the assistant he proposed to and said, “Are you sure you don’t want to marry me?  I’m going to be rich….. Can you make chicken?”

Adam started talking about everything under the sun. Told the assistants they were too old for him. “Mom, she keeps asking me to marry her. Tell her I’m too young to get married.”  He burst out laughing again. Dr. Wrobleski finally patted him on his arm and told him that they needed to start working now. Adam replied. “People in the waiting room can wait. There’s a party going on.”  And made a little move with his arms like someone sitting in a wheelchair, making the wheels move…or a locomotive…I sure hope he didn’t dance that way.

Adam had brought his headphones and some music to listen to, and wanted to know if Dr. Wrobleski wanted to wear them. Dear God.  I couldn’t quit laughing, so I know that I wouldn’t be able to get him to quit. So I left to go back out in the waiting room.

When it was done, Adam couldn’t do much talking, so that was good. He wasn’t very good playing sherades, because we didn’t know what the hell he was trying to say. It took us about 20 minutes to get him out the door. Oh, but Adam wasn’t done, yet.

We got to the van, and I opened the door for Adam and I noticed that he had pulled one of those metal security system signs out of the yard that was right by the door and was getting into the van with it. “Adam, what are you doing? You can NOT take that sign home with you.” I started laughing again. Oh My God, this was going to be a long day. I tried to take it from him, but he got out of the car and put it in the yard right by the car. And made a gesture with his arms like “Ta Da!”…Shit..I got out of the van, and took it away from him and we walked back and put it back in the ground where it belonged. We then took off and drove home. I needed to go to Walmart for his prescription, but I didn’t want him to get arrested for shoplifting or proposing to Walmart shoppers.

Well, he was quiet in the car because he had a bunch of gauze in this mouth, thank goodness. I did have to go back to Dr. Wrobleski’s the next morning though.

Adam somehow pulled the security sign back out of the ground again and walked behind me to the van.

It was on the floor in the back seat.

Lightning Strikes Cows..and a Big Toe

I think most people enjoy watching a thunderstorm. I know a few who are afraid of the lightning.  I love watching them. Especially at the beach. I mean, I hate it when it rains when you are on vacation, but watching heat lightning over the ocean illuminates the night sky and it is just beautiful.

We built our house on a hill on a spot where an old dairy farm stood. The guy we bought the property from told my husband that the old dead tree on the property had been struck by lightning, and a couple of cows were killed by a lightning bolt, right where the house stood. Well, isn’t that lovely? I loved being out in the country, but when storms came through, it became ugly and menacing, yet beautiful at the same time. Well, not for the cows, I imagine. I think my kitchen is right over the spot where they were struck. Or maybe not.

One storm in particular scared me to death. We had a front porch that went along the front and then turned to join our side patio. We had a pavillion/gazebo on the back side. When we built the pavillion, we had it equipped with tv cable, electric and stereo speakers. Right beside it we had a water fountain, which I loved when the kids were young. We were wired for sure.

One  evening, a storm was brewing and I was watching the Weather Channel, as usual, because I am a weather dork. I love the weather and love watching a storm approach. I know all the names of the weather channel people. I’m sure that impresses so many people. It’s not like I say “Hey, guys, guess what? I know the names of all the meteorologists on the Weather Channel.”  Not a good way to win friends… or keep them for that matter.

My husband was watching tv in the family room, sitting reclined in a wing back chair. I decided to go outside on the front porch and watch the storm coming. The front came through with powerful wind, and then the rain began. I wasn’t getting wet because our porch was a tad bit wide, but I stood by the front door because I was a little scared, to be honest. The lightning bolts splintered off in many directions and the thunder was right above us. My outside cats jumped into the box I made into a cat house for them under a bench by the door. I was watching the water on the pond down in front of our house, and the cars coming around the corner, heading home before a tree came crashing down on their car. Well, we have a lot of trees on our road.

The storm was getting worse, and I was just thinking I better get indoors, when all of a sudden I heard a huge, unbelievably loud crack, and this rush of light seemed to wrap around from the back of the porch right to me. Oh my God, was I just struck by lightning? My hair stood up on my arms and my head felt weird. I ran in the house, intent on telling my husband that I think I was sort of struck by lightning, when I ran into him coming out to tell me the same thing.

My husband was struck by lightning. Well, his big toe was anyways. His big toe, you ask? Yep. It appears that lightning had struck the ground right by our gazebo and the lightning traveled with the wires under the ground and into the house, through the stereo speakers in our family room and out of the speaker and the first thing near that was his big toe, with the rest of him reclined.

He met me as I flung opened the front door. We both said at the same time, “I think I was just struck by lightning.”  As we were standing in the foyer, I happened to glance into our library and noticed that the desktop computer was looking pretty green. Oh Uh…The lightning had taken out our computer.

Well, lightning took out a lot of things that evening, besides zapping my husband’s big toe and enveloping me on the front porch like  the smoke monster on LOST, except in white light. The storm destroyed our stereo and speakers, our phones, our tv in the family room and the speakers out under the gazebo. The green screen computer survived, but didn’t didn’t last too long afterwards. Our doorbell sounded like something you would hear on the Adams Family show or maybe that dong sound on Law and Order.

I had been through storms before out on that property. There was another time when I was standing by the kitchen window looking out and lightning exploded in our backyard, and I swore that flash of lightning got me. I bet that’s where the cows were electrocuted.

I remember the first time I watched a movie where someone was struck by lightning. The Bad Seed was one of my all time favorite movies. The lead character, Rhoda, was a child who killed people who got in her way, and she was struck by lightning at the end of the movie. She had on a yellow slicker, and plastic boots, so I now associate yellow slickers with lightning…and death…. I don’t wear yellow slickers.

I think people should really heed the “if you hear thunder, get the hell inside.”

Because lightning is truly right around the corner. Trust me.

Circus Trauma

Years ago, people used to run away to join the circus.  I wonder how that worked. “Hey, where’s Ralph? I haven’t seen him in a while?”…..”Oh, haven’t you heard? He ran off and joined the circus.”  Seriously?  You could do that?   I would think that if you want to work with a bunch of clowns, many people wouldn’t have to go very far.

Since my dad was in the Clown Patrol with the Shriners, or whatever Osiris Temple is, we went to the circus a lot. I guess my dad felt a connection with the “real” clowns. They scared the hell out of me. They thought it was funny to sneak up behind you and honk that stupid giant-sized horn behind your head. What the hell is wrong with you, Bozo?  That is not funny. Probably why I have hearing loss in both my ears. Clown disorder. I also thought that they were a bit creepy, like sexually creepy. A couple of them would just stare at me. I was only around 12 at the time. They probably thought they could get away with creepy looks because they were basically hidden behind a mask. When I was little, we didnt’ know about “Stranger danger” and we didn’t have Amber Alerts,  but I am betting that  some of the clowns in the circus had some issues. So, they ran away and joined the circus so they could be with children. Yikes…

There seemed to be a lot of midget clowns. (We called them midgets back then because that’s what they were.)  Sort of made me mad that they got the really dirty jobs of walking behind the elepants with a pooper scooper, and smiling all the while like it was fun to clean up elephant poop. The elephants could have easily stepped on one. I worried about this.

I remember thinking that the circus was a dirty world. I felt so sorry for the animals and secretly wanted to see the lion bite off someone’s head. And I thought this when I was little.  They were kept in tiny cages and looked so unhappy. There were even little dogs that did tricks in one of the rings. Maybe they ran away and joined the circus too. Stray dogs put to work to earn their keep. Poor pooches. I decided very early on that if I was rich when I grew up that I would buy a huge piece of land and put all of the circus animals on it so they could just hang out and not have to do tricks every day. I was a wise child.

I noticed everything about the circus. Like how the girls wore fishnet hose with tears in them. First of all, why would they wear fishnet hose under their little costume?  They always had tears in them. Maybe swinging on the flying trapeze bars tore them up a lot. Which goes back to why they would wear them in the first place. I don’t know, I just thought everything was dirty. I knew then I had no desire to run away and join the circus.

My biggest concern with the circus was the tightrope walkers. The Flying Wallenda’s were a daredevil circus act famous for performing death-defying stunts without a safety net. They were also famous for being stupid. They had a 7 person pyramid with a chair and those long sticks to keep their balance, so they decided they didn’t need a safety net. Someone should have given them an IQ test. I knew that people came to the circus to see if they would fall. They did in 1962 at the Shrine Circus at the Detroit State Fair and two people died. They still didn’t feel the need for a safety net.  No one must have asked, “Hey, uh, Uncle Rufeo fell to his death last night. We gonna put up a net?”   More relatives fell and died. These people do not learn their lesson. I really had enough of the circus.

I remember my dad telling me about the Hartford Circus Fire. I think it happened in 1944. A fire broke out under the big top and 168 people died, along with many animals. I specifically remember him telling me about the fire while we were at the circus….sitting far away from the entrance…under a tent. Nice, Dad, scare the child even more. Most of the time we went to Wheeling Island Stadium, along the banks of the Ohio River. I bet the Flying Wallenda’s didn’t like the breeze from the river. But, back to the fire…I sat there listening to my dad tell me about the fire and I decided, once again, that we really shouldn’t go to another circus performance.

I don’t know how old I was when I went to my first circus. I do remember when I went to my last.

It was a flea circus. Yeah, a flea circus. A circus so small you have to look at it with a magnfying glass. I thought it was a joke. I was in college when I first heard about it. What is this world coming to? What are we going to have next, a cockroach rodeo?

Who the hell decided it would be a good idea to have a circus with fleas?

I’m thinking it must have been one of the Wallenda’s.

Old Lady Driver

When my kids were little, I ran them all over the place. It seemed like we were always in the car heading somewhere. And most of the time we were in a hurry. I was a stay-at-home-mom until my youngest was a junior in high school, so I chauffeured quite a bit. So, it wasn’t unusual for one of them to ask to stop to grab something to eat right after school, on their way to their sporting practice.

I picked up my son, Adam, after school, one day to drive him straight to football practice. We were running late, but he was hungry and wanted to stop at McDonald’s. I was driving my husband’s work car, a silverish Monte Carlo. It was a piece of junk, and I really don’t know why I had it that day.  Since we were in a hurry, he wanted me to just pull into a spot and he was going to run in and grab some food to go. I pulled into a parking spot and he jumped out.

It was pretty crowded, so I knew that this was going to make my son nervous. They would get in trouble if they were late for football practice. While we were waiting, another car pulled up beside me. My door was beside her driver’s door, so I got a good look at the driver. It was a silver car and I was amused to see a very old woman with purplish hair and she was wearing sun glasses that seemed to wrap around her face. They were black and huge and she barely could see over her steering wheel.

Well, she put her car in park, and was getting ready to get out of the car, when all of a sudden, her passenger door was flung opened, and my son hopped into her car and shut the door. He had his bag of McDonald food and a drink. The lady looked over at him, and didn’t say a word. She just looked at him. This all happened in less than 30 seconds, but I could see my son mouth ,”Let’s go!”  And then he looked over at her.

They just stared at each other.  They were both confused. I am sure he was thinking, “Who the hell are you and why are you in my mom’s car?” And she was probably thinking, “Let’s go? Are you kidnapping me?”  And I cracked up. He saw me through the window so I waved at him. He didn’t say a word to her, and hurriedly got out of the car.

When Adam got in the right car and shut the door, my daughter and I were already laughing so hard, we were crying. He was embarrassed. Then I happened to look at the old lady, thinking she already got out of the car to enter McDonald’s, but..and this is the best part..she was still looking at her passenger seat. She was staring with her purplish hair and her wrap-around sunglasses like he was still there.

I don’t know what it was, but I could not quit laughing. I had to pull over because the tears in my eyes were obscurring my vision while driving. Adam was not amused and was getting aggitated because we were running late. So, I tried to compose myself, and finally made it to the stadium without hitting anyone head on.

I guess I rank my best laughs.

And this was definitely in the Top Ten.

Ghosts in the House (Really)

You either believe in ghosts or you don’t.

For those of you who think there’s an explanation for those bumps in the night, you’re not alone. A poll by the Associated Press shows 34 percent of people believe in ghosts. Of those, 23 percent say they have proof ghosts exist because they’ve seen one, or been in the presence of one.  Maybe that is that cold chill that goes up your spine. And, for the politically minded, more liberals than conservatives are visited by ghosts, 31 to 18 percent.  My own poll states that 100% of  women over the age of 50 who have seen a ghost are highly intelligent, creative, humorous, and  very nice looking.

We used to go to Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia a lot.  It was a great place for dead people. John Brown was hung nearby. He is probably really in his wax museum, hanging around. (literally)  We went to an antique shop that was at one time some generals headquarters, and the owner told me that she was always hearing soldiers walking up the steps and that the main ghost activity took place in the basement. So, she took us down there, because I was so excited. I would love to see a ghost. They even had a ghost tour of Harper’s Ferry.

I have always loved ghost stories. And I loved to scare people. I remember when I was in about 7th grade, I stayed with a neighbor girl and we stayed up to watch Chiller Theater and watched House on Haunted Hill with  Vincent Price. Scared me to death. When we went to her room to go to bed, the closet door was open, and her mom had put a hose over her face and was just standing in the closet. I screamed on top of screams. I had never been so scared. I loved it!!!

In high school, we used to go to a cemetery on Green Mist Road (Even has a spooky name) on Halloween and scare each other. So fun to hear guys scream. Halloween is my favorite time of year. So, yeah, I am all about ghosts. Just didn’t know that my wish was about to come true.

My ex-husband did not believe in ghosts. Such a left-brainer…”They don’t exist.” So, he wrote me off when I told him we had a ghost cat. Yes, a ghost cat. I told him, “I hope you see a ghost some day and you poop your pants  while you are screaming like a girl.”

We built our house on an old dairy farm’s barn. This barn was used to sell milk and other dairy products to neighbors in the small hill-top community. Our house was built in 1991, so many of you will probably think it would have to be an old house to be haunted. But, just give me a minute of your time before you send for the guys to put me in a white jacket.

We rescued a kitten from the animal shelter and gave it to Alex. We had an outside cat, Tiger, who died a bit earlier, and thought we would get an inside cat for her. My husband hated animals in the house, but I talked him into at least going into the animal shelter, just to look at the animals. Well, there was a kitten who fell in love with Jay. He said later it was like she did a top hat and cane routine for him. Ok, he said, we will take this one home for Alex.  As soon as we got her home, she turned on Jay. Hated him. She lives with me now. Still hates him. Such a smart, smart cat.

Anywho, Whiskers used to stare into the foyer all of the time. Her eyes would be wide and her tail fluffy at first. Then she would just stare. Like she got used to the thing she was staring at.  Sometimes this would happen right after I complained about it being cold. Sometimes when she would be sitting on my lap on the couch she would stare right behind me. Like someone was standing behind me. That used to freak me out. Then I would just start talking to it. Yeah, I am a  ghost talker.

But, about the ghost cat…I don’t know what you call it when a cat marches in place. Some people say they are kneading bread…Tap dancing….Making biscuits…I used to think they were just smoothing out someplace comfortable to lie. But, they all do it. Like how all human men scratch their butts. (Can’t think of anything else)

My husband would not let Whiskers on the bed. I had a cute little box in the hall, and she slept on that most of the time.  Well, one night I woke up because Whiskers was doing that kneading thing at the foot of my bed. Except when I woke up, she wasn’t there. This started happening almost every night. I never said anything until Alex told me that she thought Whiskers was in bed with her and when she looked, Whisker’s wasn’t there. “Mom, I think it’s Tiger. Tiger is a ghost now.”  Out of the mouths of babes.

I didn’t think it was Tiger. I thought it was a cat from the dairy barn that was built where our house now stood. And the foyer was a portal, that’s why Whiskers was always sitting in the foyer, looking up. Or maybe Whiskers had some issues.

Haunted chair?

Well, not too long after that, I began hearing a loud whisper, “MOM!”  when I was alone. I thought I’d better keep that to myself for awhile. My family knows I am into ghosts and ghost stories, they are just going to think that I WANT to have these things happening. But, then the music started, which my husband and daughter did hear.  It was usually around 5:30am. It was faint, and didn’t sound like a music box, and I couldn’t make out what genre it was. But it was music and I was sure of it. When Jay heard it, I told him, “See, I’m telling you we have ghosts.”  We would get up and follow the sound and it was in the foyer. We had a 2-story home with an open foyer, and that’s where the sound radiated from. We couldn’t figure out what kind of music was playing.  He tried to find a logical explanation. “Maybe it is some kind of interference from an airplane flying by.  I would always say. ” Oh, please. That is such a stupid explanation. Why can’t you just believe that we have ghosts in our house?”  That’s when I told him about the MOM voice.

One morning I was listening to Alex sing in the shower. She would always get up around 5:30am or so for school. She was in the Madrigals, which is an accapella singing group that wore medieval costumes and they were unbelievable. So, I enjoyed hearing her practice a song I had never heard yet. “I loved hearing you singing in the shower this morning, Alex. You need to sing more often. I enjoyed it.” She looked at me like I was nuts. “Mom, I wasn’t singing. I never sing in the shower,”  And she wasn’t messing with me. Oh great, now we have a ghost singer.

The “MOM!” continued off and on for several years. Sometimes, I would go see what Alex or Adam wanted, because it was a child’s voice. I also tried to figure out when kids began calling their mothers, Mom. Was it the 1950’s? 40’s?  I started making up scenario’s for the cat and the kid ghost.

I think that maybe the dairy farm guy came in early and turned on a small transistor radio, hence the music. The ghost cat came from just having a cat hanging around the dairy farm. Ok, I don’t know why we didn’t have ghost cows or ghost chickens. (Skeptics, just shut the hell up). But, I think that the child was maybe hurt and was calling for his/her mother, or maybe hiding and whispering out. I loved it when Jay finally heard the “Mom!”

Alex had taken the car someplace and Jay was in the hallway leading from the garage and I was sitting at our kitchen island, doing something. “MOM!” came the voice, after being gone for several months, and the whisper was pretty loud. I said, “Is Alex home, Jay?” He quickly entered our family room/kitchen and his face looked white. “You heard that?”  I smiled and jumped up. “YOU heard it? You, the left-brained goober-head, the “there’s no such thing as ghosts” guy? Finally!”  I loved it that he heard it.

Christmas of 2008 was my last Christmas in our house. We were divorcing and I was planning to move out of the house. (Too much house land for me to take care of, so he bought me out.) Adam and Alex had stayed up late talking in the Hearth room. I went to bed and heard a door slam. And then again. Sounded like a door. The kids told me they got a bit spooked while they were down there. Adam told me that he got a quick glimpse of something that appeared between a blink of his eye and that it was an older woman with a lantern in front of her face, wearing a scarf on her head (tied in front, like a babushka)  and that she was gone “in a blink of his eye.”   He later told me that he made that up. Yeah, he is a left-brainer too. My dairy farm ghost scenario was the right one.

A couple months after I moved out and I was out at the house getting some more stuff, I asked my ex-husband if  he ever heard the “MOM” voice or anything any more. He said, “She is gone.” He then told me that one night he woke up and it felt like there were hands around his neck, trying to strangle him and so he called someone to get rid of her. He smiled after he said it. But, I know this man. She probably missed me and took it out on him.  Well, that’s what I am going with.  I always wanted to have a seance, and he would never let me. The catholic boy always said, “You may conjure up the devil.”  I had seances in college. Lit a lot of our sorority ceremony candles and invited people over, drank, and tried to bring back Houdini. I loved those parties.

Are there ghosts? Yes. Have I seen one? No. But, something was going on in my house.

So, the next time you watch Ghost Whisperer, think of me. 🙂

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