Archive for the ‘Life’ 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.

 

 

Cicada Love

I am here today to defend the poor cicada. I believe I am the only one on the planet who appreciates their dogged determination to live 17 years underground, emerge to have sex, and then lay eggs for the next generation. I find them fascinating and don’t think they are “gross,” the adjective I’ve been hearing a lot to describe them. They aren’t gross at all. They are harmless. Did you know they have five eyes? That right there makes them quite special, I would think.

But, no. My facebook friends, in general, do not share my love of these winged monkeys. I don’t know why. You can pick them up and pet them. This little guy in the photo below hopped onto my leg, wanting to be picked up. You can’t have too many friends, even if they only live about 6 weeks.

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When I was young, everyone called them “locusts.” I believe they were even called locust the last time they emerged in 1999. “The year of the locust.”  But, just to be straight, cicada is a member of the cricket family, where locust is a member of the grasshopper family.  Regardless, people aren’t afraid of crickets, so why should they be afraid of cicadas?  Could it be their red eyes?  One facebook friend said they were creepy looking.

Brood V made their appearance last week and I couldn’t wait to find one. Finally, one morning, I watched their arrival. They crawled out of the little lair and climbed up the tree from whence they fell 17 years before. They then struggled to get out of their bug shell, and once they did, clung to the tree bark for a few days to get ready to test their wings.

I had to laugh at a poster who took a picture of a cicada that just emerged and wrote, “omg, an albino cicada.” You have a lot to learn, Grasshopper. Cicadas all look like the photo below after emerging from their shell.

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Today was the first day I heard their chorus. It was loud, and sounded as if there was a spaceship hovering above the ground a la the movie “Day the Earth Stood Still.” It made me smile. I like the sound. It’s like the sound of spring peepers, but not really.

So, imagine my surprise (not really) when friends began posting on my facebook page  links to sites where people are making cookies out of the little fellows to sell at local Memorial Day festivals. What the hell, bakery guy?

Cicada abuse.

 

In the end, I hope all of you will step out of your comfort zone and approach a cicada and wish him well. He is only here for 5-6 weeks. He won’t bite you . All he wants to do is fly around, sing, and have sex.

And what’s wrong with that?

The Soap Sliver Dilemma

I keep forgetting to replace my old bar of soap when it gets down to being a little sliver of its formal self.  This morning I cursed when I had to use the thin, wafer-like bar.  The new bar of Dove was sitting on my sink counter, laughing at me.    So, I slid it into my hand and then noticed wafer #1 and wafer #2 were also on the chrome slotted shelf hanging under my shower head. Those were  older bars which I never bothered to throw away.  I decided to make a soap sandwich and piled them on top of each other.  That should do the trick.

Big fail.

I should have known that wouldn’t work. They slid off of my body and fell into the pool of water that rises every morning when I take a shower.  Over time my lovely fallen hair clogs the drain and I wait until the water is ankle-high before I bother to use Draino on the obvious hairy clog.  I had to play Marco Polo in order to find the wafers under the soapy water. One of these days I am going to slip in the shower  and hit my head, which will render me unconscious, and I will drown, just because I don’t know the rules for shower safety. I should wear a life vest.

But, the bigger picture is not the thought of floating naked in a bathtub with soap wafers  bumping into me until the paramedics find my body, but the thought of why I don’t keep an extra bar sitting on the chrome slotted shelf, waiting like a relief pitcher to be called into the game when the bar I have been using needs to retire.

I bet I am the only person who uses a baseball analogy for a bar of soap.

Anyway, as I was using the wafer,  I thought of Grandma Orpha. She  had a jar of soap slivers on a shelf in her bathroom above the towels. I thought maybe she was just a cheapskate. When I would stay overnight with them when I was young I was lucky I would get two inches of water when she ran water for my bath.

So, I wondered, “Are other people soap hoarders like some hoard  toilet paper tubes?  (My elementary school teacher friends can relate to that one).

Do people actually get creative with slivers of soap?”

I am not a frugal person, as I just toss the soap in the garbage when I get around to it. Maybe I should be frugal. I want to retire in four years, so maybe I should tighten my purse strings and learn how to “waste not want not.”

And so began my research.

I typed recycle soap into the Google search field and was sort of shocked with all the links to creative uses for old soap. There is no graveyard for soap slivers on these sites.  I think of myself as a creative person, but would I go to these lengths just to use up a bar of soap?

Oh, hell no.

I’m lucky I make my bed in the morning or put the dishes in the dishwasher right away after dinner.  I can’t imagine spending any time shaving soap slivers to use in another venue. But, I admired some of the creative ways people found for using soap slivers.

And I bet some of them were able to retire early.  I admire their tenacity and I admire myself for admiring their tenacity.

1.  Make a loofah- I’m not a loofah gal, but if you go down to your local dollar store and purchase a mesh bag, you are on your way to Loofah-ville. Place the slivers of soap in the mesh bag and use it in the shower  to exfoliate your skin.

2. Create soap balls- Use a cheese grater on the little slivers (remember to wash it after using it or your provolone will taste a bit different)  and then soak in warm water to make it easier to manipulate into little balls. It takes a few weeks to dry completely, but you will have pretty soap balls for your guests to use when they come visit you. They will be impressed with your creation and may even offer to buy you dinner the next time you meet out somewhere. (They may think you must be strapped for cash).

3. Liquid Soap-  I really don’t want to use my blender for soap slivers. It was bad enough I would have to use a cheese grater on the other idea. But, get about 6 slivers of soap, put them in a blender (ew) with a little water, and blend for about 25 seconds until you have the creamy texture you deserve. Voila! Liquid soap. Just fill, using one of the 3 almost empty liquid soap bottles sitting under the sink in the bathroom cabinet. (I don’t save them, but you know there are people who do).

4. Fresh as a Daisy- If you are one of those people who store out-of -seasons clothing and wish you could prevent that awful musty smell from permeating your clothes, stick a sliver of soap in with your clothes. You won’t smell musty,  but you will smell like you washed with soap and forgot to rinse off.

5. Soap on a rope- This is awesome because it brings together old pantyhose with a run in it and slivers of soap. This is a marriage made in heaven. Cut off the panty hose and place the soap down in the toe of the pantyhose and just tie a knot and you have yourself soap on a rope.  I can’t imagine getting in the shower and finding one leg of pantyhose with soap slivers hanging out in toe area. It would just depress me, knowing that I must be poor to be doing this.

6. Make a beautiful sachet- Make a sachet by wrapping a soap sliver  in a used fabric softener sheet (See how they never throw anything away?) Tie the top with a pretty ribbon, and place it anywhere you want a soapy scent, such as your car, or beside the kitty litter box.  (That one was my idea. Yeah, put it by the cat litter box or in a kid’s stinky tennis shoe (when they aren’t wearing them, of course).

7.  Put it in your toilet tank- Now, I would try this one to see if it would work.  This is supposed to keep your toilet bowl clean. I’m thinking slivers of Irish Spring soap would be awesome to use. Well, awesome makes it sound like I’m eager and chipper about this possibility. I’m not. But, I will try this.

Here are some links for those of you who would like to find a better home for your thin wafer-like soap urchins.

How to make a new bar of soap from old bars of soap. This is actually pretty good.

Howcast: Make a new bar of soap from soap slivers– They add oatmeal and some lemon in this recipe. Do I want to wash my face with oatmeal? Maybe.

And here is a message board where other soap aficoanados go to discuss their thrifty fun uses for soap slivers.

 

Here are my ideas for using soap slivers:

1. Practice your whittling. (Notice my whittling knife in the background) This actually helps the earth by not whittling on tree branches. I think. And your hands will smell nice and you won’t get any slivers in your hand….you know, the real kind of  wood slivers. I hate when that happens.

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2.  Shower with a friend.  I realize this is the same soap sliver from above, but I didn’t want to wasteful. 🙂

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3. Photography- Slivers of soap make for a pretty picture.  I could enter this in a photo contest. I am sure no one else would think of this.

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In the end, I have spent too much time researching soap slivers.

I’m not going to change. I’m going to leave the little fellows up on the chrome shelf until they get so thin they will either fall through the slots into the bathtub, or I actually pick them up and put them in the trash.

Or in a jar.

 

 

Bluey

We have been having quite the winter here in north central West Virginia.  Right now the wind chill is -15 and I have to go to Walmart. I hate the cold….and I hate Walmart, so I’m not looking forward to venturing out in this Siberian express of a mess. It just takes me back to when I was a child.

I might as well just get to the point. The neighborhood kids called me Bluey.  Oh, not all the kids, just the older boys who went sled riding down our backyard hill without permission. We lived in a subdivision on a corner lot with a decent hill with a nice bump in the middle which could make your sled jump in the air. It was hard to keep the neighborhood thugs away. And I call them thugs because they called me Bluey. 

You have to understand I looked like a poster child for anorexia, except for the fact  I really did eat. I loved homemade bread and ketchup sandwiches. Of course that has nothing to do why I was called Bluey, but everything to do with the fact I probably did just enough to keep a bird alive. I had to hear that idiom all the time.

“She is so skinny.  I bet she doesn’t eat enough to keep a bird alive.” I have yet to see a starving bird sitting on a sidewalk… Will fly for food.

So, yeah, I was quite skinny and my lips would turn blue when I got cold. My fingernails would also turn blue, but they were usually hidden under my mittens I was wearing at the time. I had mittens with the long connecting string that my mom would weave through the sleeves of my coat so I wouldn’t lose them. Of course, I did lose them at times, which even I have no idea how I accomplished that feat.

So, my mom would bundle us up while smoking a Salem cigarette in one hand until she had to zipper our coats, and that’s when she would put the cigarette in her mouth and try to talk out of  the corner of her mouth at the same time.

“Vickie, quit squirming.”

I was squirming because the smoke from the Salem cigarette was entering my nose and heading down to visit my weak, naive lungs. Well, I also didn’t want to go outside…… I really didn’t want to go outside.

But, it was a chance for my mom to sit at the table, drinking her Maxwell House coffee and smoking her beloved Salem cigarettes in peace as she had one child who was nicknamed Cricket  because she was so hyperactive, (and sometimes nicknamed Bluey by neighborhood thugs) and another child who could move objects with her mind in the middle of  a multitude of daily temper tantrums. The only normal child, my brother, couldn’t wait to get outside and sled ride all day long.  I can’t even tell you how many times he walked back up that hill after flying through the air down the hill. No, I can’t even tell you because I didn’t stay out there long enough to count past 3.

Yes, Bluey  here had a self- imposed time limit of outdoor winter fun: approximately 15 minutes or the time it takes to roll the bottom layer of a snowman. I never got to put a damn carrot into a snowman’s head. I always asked for a carrot, but would usually pass it to my sister or my friends who came up the street to play with me. They knew the routine all to well. Plus, I also had to pee as soon as I put on my snow suit.

And what really sucked is the fact that my mom,  now calm after being separated from a hyper Mexican jumping bean and a destructive screaming meemie for a little bit, would make us hot chocolate when we came in. I hated hot chocolate. I hated chocolate milk. She knew this.

“Vickie, don’t wrinkle up your nose, it will stick like that one day.”  (I’m 58 and it hasn’t stuck yet, Mom.)

“Vickie, just try the hot chocolate. It will warm you up.”   Uh, I don’t see that happening……See, this is why I was hyperactive. My mom was constantly enabling my active nature with more sugar.

So, I would just grab a handful of those little tiny marshmallows that for some reason are put in a cup of hot chocolate like a garnish, I guess. I never did understand how the hell hot chocolate and marshmallows went together. Does it remind people of tiny snowman parts floating in a hot chocolate bath? I didn’t get it.

In the end, I guess some people just love the snow and cold and learn how to ski and snow board and become  outdoor winter enthusiasts for the rest of their lives. I ain’t one of those people. I apologize for using bad grammar, but it seemed appropriate as I was writing.  I ain’t one of those people.

If I were smart, which apparently, I am not, I would own one of those fancy remote starters so I could start my car from the school building I teach in.  I am also not smart enough to own a scraper/brush and I have to use my $.99 Walmart gloves to wipe the snow off of my windows.  I don’t buy expensive gloves because, like sock monsters, there is something stealing just one of my gloves on all occasions. I need connecting mittens. I  also wish I could hire one of the kids who wait for the last bus to scrape my windows, but I am sure there are child labor laws for that kind of thing.

So, sitting here today, under a quilt and wearing a sweater on top of a sweater, I notice my fingernails are a little blue. Ok, that’s a lie. I have the heat cranked up to 72 degrees. My townhouse is three levels and my living room is directly above the garage, and seeing that heat rises, it is a sauna on the bedroom floor, and chilly on the living room level.  It’s cold.

So, this Bluey has decided to let the mail pile up for a few days. I will open the sliding door to my deck in order to fling bread out to the waiting crows, but that’s about it. We are under a winter storm warning tomorrow with a forecast of 5-8 inches of snow headed this way. You won’t see me heading to Snowshoe with skis strapped on the top of my car. No sir re Bob.

I hate the cold.

I hate snow.

And I still hate those thugs who called me Bluey……  I can hold a grudge.

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I may not like to build snowmen, but I pass judgement on them. This guy has no nose. This kid gets a B-.

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This is about what my snowmen looked like, minus the head.

 

 

West Virginia Day Tripper

I’ve started a new blog about my jaunts around the mountain state for those who enjoy armchair traveling. I thought I would keep it separate from my blogs here.  I have a lot of  photos of my travels and plan on doing more, so I thought it would be good to house them all in one place. I hope you will visit  West Virginia Day Tripper. Thanks!

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West Virginia Barns

As you can tell by my lack of  blog posts lately, I have become preoccupied with photography. I should be working on my third book or writing here more often, but it seems to have taken a back seat to what has become my passion: pretending to be a photographer.

My father was a photographer when he wasn’t working as owner and broker of his real estate company. He used a press camera which I wish to God I had in my possession. He loved taking pictures and vacationing through West Virginia meant getting out of the station wagon at each hairpin turn so he could get a photo of the “beautiful view.” There were at least 150 “beautiful views” per vacation. I didn’t mind because I was little and a ham for the camera. He has since passed, but I honestly feel him beside me when I frame a shot.

I love photography more than writing.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy receiving a royalty check each month from Amazon for my 2 ebooks.  It’s not much, but it still pays a bill or two, so that is nice. But, I’ve decided to concentrate on writing after I retire in a few years. My summer writing time has been replaced by day tripping and photography.

When you focus your camera, it is interesting to find out what your interests are. I had no idea when I started taking pictures that my eye would find old barns appealing. Old stuff. Maybe that’s why I like to haunt antique shops.

But, I credit my love of old barns to my grandfather.  He didn’t actually live on a farm, but purchased one to house his prized palomino horses. He named it Cherry Farm and I loved going there.  I believe he rented the house  to a family who took care of the horses. There was an old barn full of pigs. And I was sold. A couple of years later that barn and the pigs inside burned to the ground, but my love of barns lived on.

So, the first time I decided to take a drive, I was surprised what caught my eye. I seem to like old bridges, barns, and abandoned buildings. Who knew I would take back roads in hope of finding a wonderful farm to photograph. Here are just a few of the barns I have photographed in the past few weeks.

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Old Route 250 on the Marion/Taylor County line. It’s a goat farm and I love driving by it.

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Dean Drive. This is on the road behind my former home. I’ve driven by it hundreds of times…funny how it is now a

focus.IMG_2972Near Seneca Rocks, WV

The rest are from my little jaunt yesterday.

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I took about ten photos of this “truck graveyard.” Of course, that’s not really what it is.

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Near Watter Smith State Park

Near Watter Smith State Park

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Had to put the dead tree in this shot.

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This is the best I could do. It was on a winding road with no place to pull off. I rolled down my window, and aimed.

This is what happens when we finally get a break from the snow and the sun is shining on a Saturday afternoon. For those readers who are barn lovers, I drove from Fairmont south on I-79 and took the Lost Creek Exit. I drove on Route 270 from Lost Creek to West Milford and took Duck Creek Road (love the name) to Watters Smith State Park, which was CLOSED…bummer. I doubled back to get some photos I missed on the way and then took I-79 to the Jane Lew Exit in Lewis County and took Route 19 to Clarksburg. I had never been on either road before, so I had fun.

When I was young I told my grandma I had been on every road in West Virginia. She laughed at me and I got mad at her. In my defense, it seemed like I had. My dad couldn’t be away from his real estate business for too long (although I know now he really didn’t want to be in the car with my mom for very long), so our vacations were traveling around West Virginia.

I still love traveling around this state. The barns are becoming old and decrepit. Pretty soon a  new Walmart  or housing development will spring up on old farmland and  yet another barn will be just a memory. I hope to photograph a lot of them before time, or perhaps another derecho takes one down.

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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Pill Compartment Thingy

When people turn 40, 50, or 60, they usually get gag  gifts from friends who want to rub it in their faces that they are getting up there in the age category,  Black balloons add a festive touch to the marked occasion. And when the fun is over, the balloons burst and the gag gifts are put in a closet and forgotten about until they can be re-gifted when their next broken down friend reaches the golden age of creakiness.

I’m all about re-gifting goofy presents to the next birthday boy or girl, but wait a minute. What if you can actually use a gag gift? I think I can.

When I turned 50, I received some strange gifts to mark my creaky, decrepit, broken down, sapless body.  Some people receive prune juice, arthritis rub, or Depends undergarments. I was presented, among other treasures, a magnifying glass, a saggy boob bra, and a pill compartment thingy.

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It’s actually pretty big, you know, for all my medicine. I laughed when I opened this one, but after the party was over, I walked my rickety legs over to closet and shoved it somewhere to sit forever beside the rest of the gag gifts. I did later re-gift the bra to the friend who bought it for me since she was just a year behind me.

One day, a year or two after the wonderful birthday party, I couldn’t remember if I took my blood pressure pill or not. Strange. I mean, what the hell? Did I take it or didn’t I? Well, shit, this was frustrating. I didn’t want to take another one because maybe it would kill me or put me in a coma.

Hey, where is that pill compartment thingy my dear friend Debbie bought for me? I could actually use the thing.

And I have for several years now. Every Sunday morning I put a new week of blood pressure pills, calcium pills, and multi-vitamins in each little container so I won’t forget to take my medicine. Good grief, I am old!

When I travel, I really don’t have the room in my purse or bag for this giant pill reminder, so I carry pill compartment junior when I hit the road.

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Pretty sad, aren’t I?  I’m using my gag gift and purchasing more for my benefit. Yes, I am an old fogey now. But, I need to remember to take my medicine since I have little brain cells left.

But, take a look at the photo….

Yes, that’s right. You can barely see some activity going on in compartment M (which means Monday 🙂 Today is Saturday and on Tuesday I realized I missed my Monday medicine.

I obviously need a 24 hour nurse.

Etched in Tree

When my daughter graduated from NYU in May, I was hoping to squeeze in a visit to Central Park after all the activities.  We did and as usual, it didn’t disappoint. Spring had sprung and people, wildlife, and flowers were all around us.  I took pictures of turtles,

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my daughter watching ducks

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and just took in the beauty of the park.

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I then walked by and noticed a beautiful tree littered with initials carved into its base. I kept walking, but then smiled and turned around. It needed to have its picture taken and I immediately thought “blog post idea.” I’m just now getting around to writing about the  tree with the initial tattoo (ala The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)

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This tree had initials carved on it on all sides. I am terrible at estimating how old the tree is, but I am sure many of the initials were from long ago. I thought about the people who carved the initials. Long ago men carried pocket knifes. I don’t know if this is still the case, but I imagined people strolling along the path in the park, holding hands when they decide to mark that specific moment in time by carving their symbolic love in the tree, a permanent reminder of their love.

This custom has been around for centuries. I know one instance of tree carving, but decided to google and see what else came up on the subject.

Well, I’ll be damned. There is even a name for tree carving: arborglyphs.

The lifespan of an arborglyph ( I feel smart writing that) is of course limited to that of the tree. If a tree in the forest dies, so does its etchings…eventually. So, archeologists are confined to perhaps a few hundred years with the tree carvings, unlike petroglyphs, which may date back thousands of years.

Too bad trees don’t last forever. What a story that could be told!

Which brings me to a lesson I teach every year about the lost colony of Roanoke and a famous tree carving.

 

On May 8, 1587, a group of 117 men, women and children left England to sail across the Atlantic Ocean.  The colonist,s under the command of John White, headed for a destination on the Chesapeake Bay, but landed further south.

This colony on Roanoke Island was the first English settlement in the New World.  White, then governor of the colony–left the settlement and returned to England to get more supplies. Because of England’s war with Spain, there were no ships to spare. Three years passed before John White could return to Roanoke Island with the supplies. When he finally returned to the colony in 1590, he found the island deserted. The only trace left by the colonists was a mysterious ‘cro‘ carved in a tree, and ‘croatoan‘ carved in a fence post. Croatoan was the name of the nearby island and a local tribe of Native Americans.

It is possible that some of the survivors of the Lost Colony of Roanoke may have joined the Croatans. Roanoke Island was not originally the planned location for the colony and the idea of moving elsewhere had been discussed.

In this case of tree carving, it was done for the purpose of relaying a message. There was no heart with an arrow through this one. But, in the end, it was etched in a tree and made the fourth grade history book ever since.

So, the next time you want to  show your love by etching the big plus symbol between your name and the one you love, remember that  announcement  will  last a couple of hundred years.

So, be sure of it.

Driving Through Manhattan

My daughter usually takes the Megabus or Greyhound from New York City when she comes home to West Virginia for a visit. I don’t know what got into me this last visit, but I offered to drive her back to her upper East Side apartment so she wouldn’t have to take the bus back. Why did I do that?

I never wanted to drive in New York City. I have been there now about seven times to visit my daughter, and the traffic is a nightmare. I have either taken a plane or Amtrak, but knew I would never drive into Manhattan. Oh, I don’t mind sitting in traffic. That doesn’t bother me. What bothers me about New York City traffic is how other drivers don’t seem to mind cutting people off.  It should be called Sideswipe City.

But, I prepared myself. I had my trusting  GPS system, which I named Maggie, and I marked the route I wanted to take to avoid most of downtown Manhattan. She lives in Yorkville, which is in the upper east side. I was ready.

It was a nice drive for the most part. I really enjoy driving on Route 68 through Maryland. I have driven that route many times. But, I then had to turn north and head on Interstate 81 and then Interstate 78 in Pennsylvania and immediately noticed the heavy volume of long haul trucks. I mean, it was like being in the middle of a truck parade, minus truckers throwing candy out of their windows.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind driving in the least. I love taking road trips, but I had to wonder if this interstate is a main thoroughfare for truckers. Not only where there many many trucks, but there was a huge debris field of rubber tire pieces lying in the road and off to the side. It was a tire graveyard in some respects. Oh, sure, I see tire pieces along our Interstate 79 all the time, but this was different.  And then we got to see one in the making.

A truck had blown a tire and as we passed him we could see the tire shred right before our eyes. He managed to get off to the right side of the road, but not until he left a wake of rubbery debris in the middle of the road. It’s a wonder it didn’t fly up and hit another car.

Well, as I thought about this, a car in front of us ran over another tire shred and it flew up in the air and came right at us. And there was nothing we could do. It hit my front passenger headlight and then went under my car. Thank goodness it didn’t hit the windshield. I looked in my rear view mirror to make sure nothing was punctured and we continued on our semi-merry way.

As we approached New York City, after about 7 hours on the road, my GPS told me to take the next right. I looked up at the road sign that clearly said to stay on this road, as I needed to take the George Washington Bridge, but my daughter told me to follow what Maggie is saying.

Where are you , bridge?

Well, Maggie was banned to the glove compartment after she took us down by some loading docks along the river in New Jersey. This is after she made me go through a toll. I immediately turned around  as I  knew something was very wrong.  Maggie then took me the wrong way on the toll road.

“Dammit, Maggie, I don’t want to go West.”

After paying a toll three different times, I  found myself in front of the Holland Tunnel……..the $13 entrance fee Holland Tunnel. Seriously? It costs that much money to drive through a damn tunnel?  I was mad at Maggie, who made me backtrack three times and pay a toll three times only to drive me to the $13 Holland Tunnel. This is where she went into the glove compartment.

The Holland Tunnel is considered to be one of the most high-risk terrorist target sites in the United States. Is that why I had to pay $13 to travel through it? I didn’t understand.

Did not want to go this way…sigh

This was not good. The George Washington Bridge would have taken me along New Jersey and I would have been able to drop down from north Manhattan right onto the FDR Parkway, avoiding those mean Manhattan streets. But, now, with traveling through the Holland Tunnel, I would be deposited onto South Manhattan, where the street names don’t start with a number yet…..and I had to travel all the way to 95th Street. Great.

My daughter didn’t recognize any of the streets at first, but quickly got her bearings. I began seeing NYU flags on some of the downtown buildings, so I knew she would be able to pin our location. We were on the west side of town and we needed to get over to 1st Avenue, which would take us to her apartment. We passed through Greenwich Village via my daughter’s directions. I hoped she was going to do a better job than Maggie. After all, the glove compartment was too small for my daughter. I put my trust in the fact that this was her city and she was taking me on the right roads.

The traffic wasn’t so bad on the side streets. Oh, it was congested with a mix of cars and people on bikes with no bike lane, but it was manageable. You have to understand that I did not want to do this.  I was adamant in the fact that I was never going to drive through Manhattan. If there was a bucket list for things not to do before one dies, this would be #1 on my list. But, I now had no choice. I was in Manhattan…..in a car.  I’m not Catholic, but felt like doing the sign of the cross as we approached 1st Avenue.

Once we turned left on 1st Avenue, I gripped the steering wheel and charged on.

Drivers in this city are crazy. The best advice I can give is to never hesitate. Once you hesitate, a double decker sight-seeing bus will pull into your lane, even if you are there. I had to honk my horn, which is illegal in many places in Manhattan. We were almost side-swiped  more times than I can count on my fingers. Taxi drivers must have their own laws, bikers zipped in and out of traffic, and buses think they are the only ones on the road.

I found out quickly not to drive in the far left lane as delivery trucks will just stop there to unload and then you are stuck. People won’t let you back into traffic. Motorists in New York City aren’t courteous. They have places to go and people to see. My license plate clearly stated I was from West Virginia. And I was being eaten alive. I think other drivers smelled my weakness, as they were changing lanes right on top of me. I hope that some day they had to drive through West Virginia and were stuck on the top of Mt. Storm after a heavy snowfall. Yeah, city drivers, take that.

My daughter was nervous, as she was the passenger and on the side where most of the potential side-swiping was taking place. After driving about 45 blocks, with about 50 more long blocks to go, my daughter, who was holding on to something on her side of the car, looked over at me when we stopped at a red light and said:

“You’re sitting there, smiling, you weird-o.”

I was smiling. I couldn’t help it. I was driving in New York City! I guess I was having fun with the realization that I was doing something so brave, so daring, as to actually drive 95+ blocks through Manhattan. I deserved a prize or something. I was not scared at all. In fact, I was kind of enjoying the drive. I have been a guest in a taxi numerous times on these streets, sometimes wondering if I was going to arrive alive, but this time I was in charge of my own fate in my naive West Virginia Subaru.

I arrived on her street with no new dents or scratches. I was just going to drop her off and get the hell out of the city before rush hour.  But, she talked me into staying and I found a place to park on the street just one street over. We had a nice afternoon in Central Park north and we headed to a great Thai restaurant that is a requirement each time I visit.

I left the next morning at 4:15, hoping to beat morning traffic. This city never sleeps.  I followed the FDR right over the George Washington Bridge and back the way I was supposed to travel on my way in. It was so much easier.

But, I would never have had this experience. I can honestly say I drove through New York City.

Thanks Maggie. I may let you out of the glove compartment next trip.

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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Canadian Rockies Trip, Day 1: Arrival in Vancouver

Well, I am finally here in Vancouver…..  And it just really sucks. Ok, just kidding.  Everything so far as gone like clockwork. Thanks, Fresh Tracks Canada.

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Before I talk about my first introduction to this great city in the Pacific northwest, let me back up and tell you about my experience at the Pittsburgh airport before my flight. I wish someone would have been filming me.

I read where Air Canada is really strict about their carry-on dimensions.  And you know from a previous post that I was planning to just pack a carry-on because of my tight connecting flight timeline. So,  I went out and bought a nice piece of luggage that correlated with Air Canada’s carry-on policy.

I do try to be a rule follower.

So, when I got to the airport, I looked around and saw where my carry-on looked larger than everyone elses. Uh oh. I didn’t bring checked baggage. Oh, sure, I bought my old carry-on and left it in the back of my car….just in case, but  I had everything looking good.

So, I happened to see an Air Canada metal thingy, you know the apparatus where you put your carry-on in to make sure it fits to their dimensions for carry-on baggage. Well, it was in a little corner and there wasn’t an Air Canada person around, so I put my carry-on in the size thingy. (I’m sorry, I don’t know what the darn thing is called.)

It would not fit…. Not even close.

This is not good, Vickie, not good at all. So, I pushed it and manuevered the wheels, and scraped my fingers  pushing it down, and lo and behold, it finally plopped down!

Stuck

Stuck

And so I thought I would be a smart alec and I took a couple of pictures so that if and when the Air Canada people say, “Hey, you can’t take that monstrous bag on the plane,” I can just bring out my camera and show the picture, like, “Take that, obsessive compulsive Air Canada person.

Sounded pretty good except for one thing: I couldn’t get the bag back out. At all.

It would not budge.  I tried everything. I even had the metal apparatus on its side. I was working so hard I broke out into a sweat, although I think it was more because I was afraid I would have to check my bag AND the metal thingy with Air Canada.

Really really stuck

Really really stuck

So, there was only one thing I could do: I started wrestling with it….I mean, I was sitting on the floor. I was standing on the silver things on the bottom, I flung it one way and then flung it another way. I punched at that bag and jiggled its wheels.  I finally had to start pushing the whole thing out into the open and I was going to find a maintenance guy who had a welding gun…or something to break my poor carry-on free. Finally,  as I alsmost started to cry (not really, but almost),  I was able to free it.

I really wish someone had filmed it.

Anyway, back to my trip report. My flights were great and Toronto Pearson was pretty efficient I thought. I arrived in Vancouver and went to the baggage claim just like Fresh Tracks Canada instructed me to, and there was my driver waiting for me, holding a sign with my last name on it.  The driver was wonderful. He had two bottles of water waiting for me in the car and gave me a commentary about Vancouver: best places to go and history of the area. It was a great ride into the city.

When we pulled up to Sutton Place, the doorman got my bags and lead me inside. I had asked Fresh Tracks if they could get me an early check-in, and it was all taken care of before I walked in today. I was impressed.  Tyler from Fresh Tracks suggsted this boutique hotel since it was right in the middle of everything, and how right he was. This place is really great!

I really didn’t do much today in Vancouver. I bought a 2 day Hop on Hop off tour of Vancouver from the Vancouver Trolley Company, but stayed on the whole loop just to get a feel for the city and to give me ideas what I wanted to do in the morning. There is a trolley stop right in front of the hotel. All I have to do is flag one down as it comes by.

Really big trees in Stanley Park

Really big trees in Stanley Park

The concierge confirmed my sunset tour to the top to Grouse Mountain tomorrow evening, so I will be taking more pictures tomorrow.

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After I hopped off the trolley, I started to walk down Robson Street since I am right in the middle of everything. Robson Street is the heart of the city, some say. It s the most famous street in Vancouver, known for its shopping and dining establishments.

According to robsonstreet.ca, “Robson-goers may spend their day people watching and sipping coffee on an outdoor patio; they may start off shopping at unique boutique stores before being pampered at a day spa and then relaxing at a hotel. At night, the streets come alive with colorful buskers and performers. Visitors enjoy delicious drinks and fine foods at some of the city’s most celebrated restaurants. The street is recognized both on a worldwide level as well as locally as it remains Vancouverites’ favorite shopping destination. Robson is undoubtedly the street to see and be seen on.”

I had to look up what a busker is. I have never heard that term before. A busker is a street performer. The first thing that comes to mind when I think “busker, or street performer” is an organ grinder. I’ve always wanted to see one. I’ve only seen one on tv. But, here in Vancouver, they are called “buskers.”

“Maximum performance time is 60 minutes at any one location. After 60 minutes, you must move to a different location at least one full block away or in a different park.”  So, if you are busking and play a harp, be prepared to move every hour. Just sayin’.

I did walk down Robson, looking for a restuarant as I was starving. And because I’m always up for something new and exotic….and entered a Red Robin. I know, I’m pathetic. But, I’m tired. Tomorrow will be the day for pictures.

At least I won’t have to wrestle my bag anymore. It is sitting in the air-conditioned elegant room, sitting on a chair resting from being beat up on earlier.

Pretty sad when I try to bring a suitcase to life….I’m really tired.

I really like Canada so far.

Canadian Rockies Trip: Vancouver Eve

I’m ready to go. I have my detailed itinerary from Fresh Tracks Canada, my passport, Canadian moolah, and my camera with several memory cards. In a few short days I will be hearing the clickety clackety sound of the Rocky Mountaineer train as it takes me through the Canadian Rockies. But, up first, Vancouver, British Columbia.

I’ve decided to drive up tonight and stay in a motel close to the Pittsburgh airport. My flight is at 7:00 a.m., so I really don’t want to travel on Pennsylvania roads with suicidal deer and other critters with their red eyes looking at me while they pause in the middle of the interstate. No, I’ll find a hotel tonight that has an airport shuttle, you know, just in case my car doesn’t start in the morning. I have a neighbor who has eyes in the back of his head keeping an eye on my house and he knows under any circumstance should a vehicle or person be “visiting” me. The guy has a gun and he is craaaazy. (That should work, potential blog-reading-robbers)

You have to understand that I over-think everything. My main concern about this trip was the fact that I would be staying for six nights in four different hotels. What if Air Canada loses my luggage? I was watching the nightly news and they were giving statistics about how many bags are lost or delayed at the airports. How in the world would they catch up to me, depending on when (and IF) they locate my luggage? So, I have decided to learn to pack like a pro and just take a carry-on…and a computer bag…..and a purse…..and a jacket.

That may prove to be a silly dream. I need to take a jacket and clothing for 7 days. And that means 14 days in my world. I always over pack because you just never know. I will also need warmer clothing because one of the days I am going to visit a glacier. But,  I have been watching  youtube videos on “How to Pack for a Week in a Carry-On” and think I can do it. I’ve been trying to do it for the last couple of hours.

I don’t think I can’t do it..

not even done....

not even done….

I am supposed to land at 12:04 p.m. After picking up my baggage that I’m still thinking I won’t take, I am supposed to wait in baggage claims for my personal driver. I will have a personal driver…. You know, someone who stands at the airport holding a sign with  a name on it.   How special am I?  I hope he won’t be annoyed when I snap a picture of him. It will be hard for me not to talk to him, but I have learned my lesson from the New York City cab driver a few weeks back and will try to keep my mouth shut.

I’m excited to visit Vancouver. I didn’t realize it until last week, but I will be in Vancouver during our next “Super moon.”  And not only that, the photo opportunities will be greater the next night when I travel to the top of Grouse Mountain on the “Sunset Tour.” It is almost like I did that on purpose. I hope the weather cooperates.

It’s not supposed to cooperate….well, now it is as I go to post this. Yeehaw!

For those of you who don’t know a lot about our northern neighbor, let me tell you a few things about the vast country up above us.  Canada is divided into 8…. or maybe 10 provinces. (Be right back) Ok, Canada is divided into ten provinces: Alberta, Nova Scotia, British Columbia, New Foundland, Ontario, Saskatchewan……damn, I’m not very smart. (Be right back)

…..and Prince Edward Island, Manitoba, New Brunswick, and Quebec. There are also three territories. Vancouver is located in British Columbia, which is way over there above Washington state. My grandparents lived in Spokane, Washington, so that is the closest I have ever been to British Columbia. When you look at the atlas, it is amazing how enormous British Columbia really is. And I get to go there tomorrow.

canada

*Vancouver is one of Canada’s warmest cities…uh oh, and it’s wettest…. There’s just no way it better rain on my parade. The Weather Channel online states that the weather in Vancouver this weekend will be partly cloudy on Saturday, 20% rain on Sunday,and 40% rain on Monday. Bummer for Monday. I think Weather.com  may be lying. After all, this is a trip of a lifetime, so it can’t rain.

*Vancouver is a very diverse city. 52% of its residents do not speak English as their first language  Over 30% of the population are Chinese. I will have to remember that if I get lost roaming the streets of Vancouver. I wonder if they will know what “pop” is, because I’m sure as hell not asking for a soda. (Be right back)…………… Ok, good, both British Columbia and Albert say “pop.”  I knew I liked these provinces.

*35% of Vancouver’s population is foreign born, the highest figure in the world.

*Vancouver is North America’s second largest Port (in tonnage & physical size) – after New York

*Vancouver is the second or third largest film production centre in North America. The X-Files was filmed here as was the Twilight movies.

*Vancouver is probably the only place in the world where it is possible to ski, play golf, and go sailing all in the same day.

*-Vancouver is the birthplace of the one of the worlds largest environmental organizations – Greenpeace

*Vancouver sits atop one of the worlds most dangerous faults. Well, that’s nice to know. There is also a sizable active volcano (Mt. Baker) close to the city in nearby Washington state. Well, I guess I am close to the famous “ring of fire.” My students learn about earthquakes and volcanoes each year. I hope I don’t have a story for them when they return to school this fall.

*Stanley Park, Vancouver’s largest, is 1001 acres—making it 10% bigger than New York City’s Central Park. I was just at Central Park last month. I will scope it out and compare the two. I can not imagine any park being more beautiful than Central Park. We shall see….even if it is raining….sigh.

*The Vancouver Aquarium ranks in the top 5 around the world. I plan to go there if it is raining. I keep a penguin cam from the Vancouver Aquarium up on one of my computers in my classroom and turn it on at the end of most days. The camera is right in front of the penguins and it is fun to watch. I just may have to pay them a visit and wave into the camera for someone like me who is watching the penguin cam.

Well, I think I have everything. The next time you hear from me, I will be in Vancouver, British Columbia, day 1 of my Canadian Rockies adventure. If you don’t hear from me, that means I am still at the airport or the wi-fi sucks at the hotel. We shall see.

I guess I could always find a Starbucks. The have free wi-fi….  Vancouver has over 200 of them.

Too bad I don’t like coffee.

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.”

Go Directly to Jail, Little Token

When I have played Monopoly in the past, I have always reached for the iron as my token. I know for a fact I have never played with another token. I never came across another friend who just had to have the iron too, so I guess that was good because I wouldn’t have played. I guess when you find a right fit  you just have to go with that one each time. And the iron and I made our way around to pass Go many, many times. So, imagine the horror when I heard today that Hasbro, the maker of Monopoly, is going to send one of the little steel tokens to jail……and they can’t even pass Go first.

What a great marketing ploy. Hasbro has set up a Facebook page and is letting people vote for which token gets to stay and which one will replace it. I went to the site to see how this was going to unfold.  The choices to vote for are the car, thimble, shoe, dog, ship, hat, iron, and wheelbarrow. I wish we could vote for which one gets to go, but alas, we were only allowed to vote for which one we wanted to stay.

It’s funny, but I think baby boomers are going to feel the same way about this that I do. Oh, sure, in the whole scheme of things, I really don’t give a rat’s ass about the impending doom of one of the Monopoly tokens, but yet again, off I went to vote to save my beloved iron.

The options to replace the permanently jailed token are a helicopter, a diamond ring, a cat, a robot, or a guitar. I immediately voted for the diamond ring. It makes sense and goes with the game. What the hell does a robot or a guitar have to do with Monopoly? Ok, I guess an iron doesn’t make much sense either, but you know, whatever.

So, baby boomer friends of mine, what token did you use when you played Monopoly?

 

 

 

Everyone Watch The Rose Parade, Ok?

I used to watch the Rose Parade every New Year’s Day for years before I was told all the floats were made of flowers. Maybe I just didn’t listen much to the commentator:

“And here’s a float from McDonalds…blah blah blah blah..roses.”

I was hyper when I was little, so maybe I just couldn’t watch and listen at the same time. The floats were beautiful. And it was named after a flower. Hence, the name, Rose Parade. I thought maybe it was named after a woman…….Rose McGillicuddy of Pasadena…..Ok, I made that name up. But why roses, I asked? Why not the Purple Cone Flower Parade or The Natural Material Parade?” I didn’t ask that when I was little. I’m asking that now when I am older and still challenged in so many ways. But, since I love to learn about insignificant things, I headed to google, king of all kings.

So, it looks like The Rose Parade started way back in Pasadena, California on January 1, 1890. The Rose Bowl football game was added in 1902 to help fund the parade. I thought that was pretty interesting.

The whole reason the parade started was to showcase the mild California winters. Many members of the Valley Hunt Club, the organizers of the very first Rose parade, were former residents of states in the east and midwest. One member announced at a meeting, “In New York, people are buried in the snow. Here our flowers are blooming and our oranges are about to bear. Let’s hold a festival to tell the world about our paradise.”  I would think the man should have said the oranges were ready to be picked, but I guess that’s how the hell they talked back then.

And so they did organize a little parade to show off how wonderful Pasadena is in the winter and how putting flowers on moving things made the freezing New Yorkers jealous enough to withdraw all of their money and move to their sunny community. What confuses me is the fact there was no television in 1902. People elsewhere would have to read about it in a newspaper. So, in the end, I am thinking the Valley Hunt Club wanted to ride down the street on their horses.

They had horse drawn carriages adorned with flowers. After the parade, there was a chariot race, tug-of war and other games which drew about 2,000 people. After a few years, the parade got too big for the Valley Hunt Club, so the Tournament of Roses was formed and later a football game replaced a chariot race, which was a big deal of the whole celebration.

The floats of today take about a year to construct. According to Wikipedia, “It is a rule of the parade that all surfaces of the float framework must be covered in natural materials (such as flowers, plants, seaweeds, seeds, bark, vegetables, or nuts, for example); furthermore, no artificial flowers or plant material are allowed, nor can the materials be artificially colored.”And this is what bothers me.  I mean, it bothers me just a little, but enough to gripe about it. Isn’t this a waste of nature?

I’m beginning to think somebody in the Valley Hunt Club was a florist.

Think about it. I bet you there are more florists in the Pasadena area than anywhere else. Ok, maybe flowers are shipped in from other flowery places. Tulips from Holland, perhaps. Acorns from a forest in the Applachians. I don’t know. But, this has got to be a boon for florist owners and growers. I guess that is a good thing for the economy. But, what happens to the flowers and natural materials after the parade. Do they go into the biggest compost pile in the world?

So, being that my mind is still a bit hyperactive and all over the place, I wondered about other wastes…..like Christmas trees. I have a bit of a problem with cutting down beautiful pine trees, dragging them home on top of a car, sticking them in the corner of a room and putting things on it….only to throw it away come New Years Day. Poor pine tree.

But then again, everything is like that, isn’t it? Chickens are raised only to have their heads cut off so they can be served on our dinner plates. Corn is grown on farms just so we can eat popcorn and cornbread stuffing. I guess I could go on and on. So, in the end, flowers are grown for the Rose Parade. I guess I have to live with that.

That being said, I think it is our responisibility to watch the Rose Parade to see the beauty of Pasadena’s mild winter and of course, the magnificent floats. They are beautiful. Band members nation-wide fund raise their little asses off to be able to be part of the parade. Our very own East Fairmont High School was able to participate in the Rose Parade several years ago. That was a big deal. And it was exciting to watch on tv.  I didn’t notice the sunny environment of California, however.

Is this still the objective? Regardless, watch the parade tomorrow. Kudos to the Valley Hunt Club of 1890. They came up with a great idea. Look how many people are now living in California.

 

 

 

What The Hell, Seagull?

I saw a seagull today. I realize that is not an unusual observation for many. People always see them at the beach. After all, that’s where they belong. So, why the hell are they flying around my local Walmart’s parking lot? In West Virginia.

I came to Fairmont to go to college in 1974 and there were a few seagulls in the Middletown Mall parking lot. I was confused then and I am confused now. They have no business being in the mountains of West Virginia. That is against the laws of nature. Why, that would be like seeing a polar bear on a Miami beach, a rattle snake crawling along in the Arctic, or a moose hanging out in Central Park. So, after going through more “animals out of their element” scenarios, I decided I needed to learn more about seagulls and why they are in Fairmont, West Virginia. We only have streams and rivers. And they aren’t even cool rivers, like the Columbia…..or the mighty Mississippi. No, my seagulls are near the Tygart and the West Fork Rivers. There is no sand, no waves, no crabs to peck at. Why, oh why, are they flying above me in the freaking Walmart parking lot? The search was on.

Many people are perplexed as well. A woman wrote from Iowa about seeing seagulls in her Kmart parking lot. Many other land-locked puzzled people were wondering the same thing. Is it a migration route? And if so, where the hell are they coming from or going to in Iowa? That makes no sense at all. Iowa is too far away. And a blogging friend informed me that the seagull is the state bird of Utah. Utah!  Seems that years and years ago locusts were eating a lot of crops and all of a sudden seagulls appeared and ate the locust. The Mormons saw that as a sign and the next thing you know, they’ve got a state bird. Apparently, the seagulls in that state like the brine in the Great Salt Lake.

Maybe the seagulls think West Virginia is part of Virginia. They, afterall, have Virginia Beach, seagull capital of a small stretch of beach. There are a lot of geographically challenged people out there who think West Virginia is western Virginia. Maybe the seagulls think the same.

Years ago, near Point Pleasant, West Virginia, people thought they saw a strange flying “thing” that was dubbed Mothman. Hysteria reigned in that small Ohio River town for many years afterwards. Mothman supposedly had red eyes, a large wingspan and could pick up a German Shephard and carry it off. There is even a statue to Mothman and a Mothman festival. But, a wildlife biologist said all along it was a sandhill crane,  a large American crane almost as high as a man with a seven foot wingspan featuring red circles around its eyes. He said  the bird may have wandered out of its migration route.

I guess not all birds know what the hell they are doing. Sure, Canadian geese flaunt their knowledge of their ABC’s by flying in a V formation. They fly south for the winter. Well, they used to until they decided that since these silly Americans are  feeding them, they’d just stay all year long. We can’t get rid of them or their trail of slimy algae green poop.

So, maybe my Walmart seagull got lost on his way to Bora Bora or Aruba or where ever they fly on their migration route. I had no idea there were so many varieties of gulls. All I know is that they can attack. I know this because I watched Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. Tippi Hedren got pecked in the forehead by one.

In the end, I guess I feel sorry for the seagull who is living at the Walmart parking lot. Where does he sleep at night? Sitting on a light pole can’t be fun. Doesn’t he miss the sound of the ocean waves lulling him to sleep?  And if he doesn’t leave, will the crows let him hang out with them? They are usually a tight group, not making friends easily.

I did just read that we may be confused by their name, as it implies the “sea.” Someone wrote there is no such thing as a “sea” gull.  Gulls can adapt inland. Well, then maybe their name should change. Canadian geese are no longer Canadian….. Hermit crabs are quite social……a teddy bear hamster is not a damn teddy bear……

and a jumbo shrimp is not a big little thing. Whoever is naming animals is on drugs.

Let’s Drop Something

It all started with Groundhog Day, you know. There was a famous groundhog prognosticator in Pennsylvania, and soon after cities came up with their own weather fortune teller whistle pig. Such is the case with the big New Years Eve ball drop.

When you think of New Years Eve, all those who don’t live under a rock know about the ball drop at midnight in Times Square in fantastic New York City. I took a picture of it from the top of the Rockefeller Center when I was there this summer. It’s just not the same, I guess, as being there smooshed up against thousands of people on a cold, drunken New Year’s Eve.

IMG_0670

 The first ball drop in Times Square took place on December 31, 1907. According to Wikipedia:

“The first New Year’s Eve celebration in what is now known as Times Square was held on New Year’s Eve 1904. The New York Times newspaper had opened their new headquarters at One Times Square (at the time, the city’s second tallest building)  and persuaded the city to rename the triangular “square” surrounding it for their newspaper (which the city later did on April 8, 1904). The newspaper’s owner decided to celebrate the opening of the company’s new headquarters with a midnight fireworks show on the roof of the building on December 31, 1903. Close to 200,000 people attended the event, displacing traditional celebrations that had normally been held at Trinity Church. After four years of New Year’s Eve fireworks celebrations, the newspaper’s chief electrician Walter F. Palmer constructed an electrically lit time ball that would be lowered from the flagpole on the roof of One Times Square. It was constructed with iron and wood, lit with one hundred 25-watt bulbs, weighed 700 pounds (320 kg), and measured 5 feet (1.5 m) in diameter. It was first lowered on New Year’s Eve 1908 (December 31, 1907).”

The Times Square ball drop is one of the best-known New Year’s celebrations, attended by at least one million spectators yearly.  The Times Square ball drop has also inspired other drops across our great nation. So, if you can’t be there in New York City for the ball drop, and don’t really care to watch it on tv, you can always check to see if your city has a creative drop of their very own. Not all cities drop balls. Some cities use their famous icon to ring in the new year. It  is obvious the state of Pennsylvania loves to share their symbols on New Years Eve.

*  Eastport, Maine- a maple leaf is dropped. There is also a sardine drop in the city also. The Great Sardine and Maple Leaf Drop

*  Saint George’s, Bermuda- a Bermuda onion wrapped in Christmas lights is dropped.

*  Key West, Florida- A gigantic conch shell is dropped.  There is also a gay bar that drops a giant ruby slipper with a drag queen inside. Fun times.

*  Miami, Florida- The Big Orange Drop. Well, Florida is the orange capital of the world. “Mr. Neon” was recently renamed, “La Gran Naranja,” which I am thinking means the big orange. I really know my spanish.

*  Atlanta,Georgia- The Peach Drop. Georgia loves their peaches.

* Gainesville, Georgia- Chuck the chicken drop in honor of the humane society.

*Harrisburg, Pennsylvania- strawberry drop.

* Tallapoosa, Georgia- they drop an oppossum. It started out as a joke and has now grown as their biggest yearly event. I hope it isn’t alive. The Possum Drop

*  Winder, Georgia- A jug drop.

* Easton, Maryland- a crab drop.

* Havre de Grace, Maryland- a duck.

* Princesss Anne, Maryland- a muscrat.

* Niagara Falls, New York- A Gibson guitar is dropped from the Hard Rock Cafe.

*  Black Creek, North Carolina: A large red heart drop represents “A Small Town with a Big Heart.”

* Eastover, North Carolina- a flea is dropped….. A flea.

* Charlotte, North Carolina- a crown is dropped.

* Mount Olive, North Carolina- The New Years Eve Pickle Drop.

*Raleigh, North Carolina- Acorn drop

* Elmore, Ohio- a sausage is dropped.

* Marion, Ohio- a popcorn ball is dropped. Marion is the popcorn capital of the world.

*Port Clinton, Ohio- a walleye fish named “Captain Wylie Walleye” is dropped. Walleye Madness.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3qPNV-88Aok&feature=player_embedded

* Cincinnati, Ohio- A flying pig is not dropped, but flown, maybe to show there is at least one time “when pigs fly”.

* Allentown, Pennsylvania- a replica of the liberty bell is dropped.

* Akron, Pennsylvania- a gold and purple shoe is dropped.

* Beavertown, Pennsylvania- a beaver is dropped. I hope to God it isn’t real. PETA would be all over them.

*Bethlehem, Pennsylvania- a Peep is dropped. Yes, one of those yellow Easter peeps. The company that produces Peeps is based there. I was happy to see they aren’t dropping baby Jesus in Bethlehem that night.

*Blain, Pennsylvania- a wooden cow is dropped from a silo. Moo.

*Cleona, Pennsylvania- a pretzel is not dropped, but raised. Why, Cleona, are you raising the pretzel? Not cool.

*Carlisle, Pennsylvania- an Indy car is dropped.

*Cornwall, Pennsylvania- a Cannonball Drop.

*Dillsburg, Pennsylvania- two pickles are dropped. I guess one should drop a pickle in Dillsburg.

*Duncannon, Pennsylvania- a sled is dropped….without any kids holding on I presume.

*Easton, Pennsylvania- a crayola crayon is dropped early in the night to accommodate little kiddie’s bedtimes.

*Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania- a giant M& M is dropped.

*Falmouth, Pennsylvania- a stuffed goat is dropped.

*Frogtown, Pennsylvania- a frog is dropped. This is getting sort of redundant, no?

*Gratz, Pennsylvania- a wildcat is dropped.

*Halifax, Pennsylvania- a hemlock tree. Oh, come on, now!

*Harrisburg, Pennsylvania- a strawberry is dropped. My son has been to this one.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wvjwtM37CmY

*Hershey, Pennsylvania- a Hershey Kiss is dropped. Well, this makes sense.

*Hummelstown, Pennsylvania- a lollipop is dropped.

*Ickesburg, Pennsylvania- a french fry is dropped. These people are just bored.

* Lebanon, Pennsylvania- a giant stick of bologna is dropped.

*Lisburn, Pennsylvania- a pair of yellow pants is dropped. Can’t wait to read the history on this one.

*Liverpool, Pennsylvania- a canal boat is dropped.

*McClure, Pennsylvania- a kettle is dropped in honor of their Bean Soup Festival.

*Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania- a wrench is dropped. The Wrench Drop

*New Oxford, Pennsylvania- an antique trunk is dropped.

*Palmyra, Pennsylvania- The Giant Shoe is dropped.

*Pottsville, Pennsylvania- a bottle of Yuengling beer is raised. I bet those attendees are having fun that evening.

*Red Lion, Pennsylvania- a cigar is dropped.

*Shippensburg, Pennsylvania- an anchor is dropped.

*Strasburg, Pennsylvania- ping pong balls are dropped.

*Shamokin, Pennsylvania- a chunk of coal is dropped, turning into a diamond when it hits the bottom….like magic…oooh

*Hilton Head Island, South Carolina- a giant golf ball.

*Fredericksburg, Virginia- a pear is dropped.

*Mobile, Alabama- a moon pie is dropped. Yes, a moon pie and then the manufacturers of the moon pie hand out about 5,000 of them to revelers.

*Wetumpka, Alabama- a meteorite is dropped in honor of the meterorite that hit the city. Um, ok.

*Fayetteville, Arkansas- a hog is dropped.

*Panama City, Florida- a beach ball is dropped.

*Pensacola, Florida- a pelican is dropped.

*Des Plaines, Illinois- a diamond is dropped.

*Manhattan, Kansas- “The Little Apple” is dropped. I get it. Cute.

*New Orleans, Louisiana- a gumbo pot was dropped for a while. The new drop is Fleur-de-lis. Like I’m supposed to know what that is.

*Bartlesville, Oklahoma- an olive is dropped.

*Memphis and Nashville- a guitar and a music note.

* Plymouth, Wisconsin- a cheese wedge is dropped.

*Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin- a dead carp caught by locals is lowered.

* Show Low, Arizona- a deuce of clubs cards is dropped.

*Flagstaff, Arizona- a pine cone is dropped.

*Tempe, Arizona- a giant tortilla chip.

*Honolulu, Hawaii- a pineapple is dropped.

*Vincennes, Indiana- watermelon drop. Many engineering students across the nation drop watermelons and pumpkins throughout the year.

So, there you have it. There are New Year’s Eve celebrations all across the world. Many more cities just drop a ball,  but some places use their representative symbol to usher in a brand new year. Happy New Year to all!

I have decided to have my own celebration….. I am going to drop a few pounds.

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Enjoy this story? Jumping in Mud Puddles is now an ebook  that you can download on your Kindle. Don’t have a Kindle? No problem. Amazon will let you download their Kindle app FREE…Yes, free.  Have a look see.  :)  My literary debut….. Amazon.com for $3.99. It’s sort of funny.

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

Daylight Saving Time Ends….Again

For those of you who have been following my blog for several years now, you know it is time for my Daylight Saving Time rant. Yes, it is time for all of us to take down our  clocks and turn them all back an hour tonight. Well, it ends at 2 a.m. I am sure there are some people out there who are OCD enough to wait until exactly 2 a.m. to turn them back. The rest of us will change them before we go to bed tonight. I shall be mumbling and cursing as I change each time machine.

I just re-read my Daylight Saving Time posts from the past and it is clear I have issues with the stupid time change. And it is stupid. My economics professor son told me once there is a savings. I say “No way, Jose!”  It messes up the workings of my inner clock and that’s all I care about. It takes me almost two weeks to feel normal again. Well, as close to normal as one can feel.

All I know is that it will now get dark earlier until Daylight Saving Time begins again on March 10, 2013, when we spring forward yet again. I find this yearly thing a little monontonous, especially when there are problems associated with this procedure…. My beside alarm clock adjusts itself. Well, my former clock adjusted itself and it is now in a landfill somewhere nearby. It decided to change back an hour on a Wednesday in the middle of October. I woke up an hour later than reality and barely made it to work on time. Damn Daylight Savings Time. I got to school and realized that I only put mascara on one eye. Maybelline hates Daylight Saving Time too, I imagine.

I think the only good thing about Daylight Saving Time is that it is also known to be a time to change the batteries in your smoke detector to make sure they work. The Energizer battery company endorses that, you know. So, you will be reaching and dusting and changing clocks and changing batteries tonight. Life just sucks.

Arizona, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, U.S. Virgin Islands and American Samoa do not observe Daylight Savings Time. These are the smartest people on the face of the earth. There are also 75 countries that do not observe the time change. Again, smart people. The rest of us should rise up against the machine. I have no idea what the hell that means.

Here are my Daylight Saving Time rants. I would write more today, but how many times can one beat a dead horse?  Apparently, I try more than three times. See you in March for my next rant. I am not a happy camper when that one enters the picture.

Peace be with you, Daylight Saving Time people.

Spring Forward into the River   Hello Circadian Dysrhythmia    Go Fly a Kite, Benjamin Franklin

You know, this is all George W. Bush’s fault. Yes, I realize he has enough blame on his plate, but he is the one that changed it to the first Sunday in November. I remember the day well:

On Monday August 8, 2005, then President Bush signed into law an energy bill that extended Daylight Saving Time by four weeks beginning in 2007. Since 1986 the United States had observed Daylight Saving Time from the first Sunday in April through the last Sunday in October. The new bill calls for Daylight Saving Time to begin three weeks earlier on the second Sunday in March and end on the first Sunday in November. Why? Why can’t this madness just end? No, Georgie wanted three more weeks of Daylight Savings Time….so we all could save what? I don’t know.

The mastermind behind Daylight Saving Time is Benjamin Franklin…. inventor, statesman, and someone who played out in lightning storms one time too many. He wanted to save candle burn time. Well, guess what? We now have freaking electricity.

In the end,  I’m not saving a damn thing that I can tell.  I’m wasting. I’m wasting time writing about Daylight Saving Time when I could be doing something more productive……like changing the batteries in my clock or something.

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Enjoy this story? Jumping in Mud Puddles is now an ebook  that you can download on your Kindle. Don’t have a Kindle? No problem. Amazon will let you download their Kindle app FREE…Yes, free.  Have a look see.  :)  My literary debut….. Amazon.com for $3.99. It’s sort of funny.

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

NYC Trip Report: Scoring tickets to the Colbert Report

I’ve been to New York City to visit my daughter several times, and let me tell you, it is exhausting. Every time I come home I am pissed at myself for being out of shape. And people, if you plan to visit New York City, you will walk. Oh, sure, there will be some of you who taxi from one place to the next. That is the smart thing to do. I am one of the stupid tourists.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I had a great time in New York. I love New York. But, my daughter walked me all over the damn place. And I will admit that I need to lose weight. I was able to lose 22 pounds last year and did pretty well hoofing it around NYC last summer when we went apartment hunting. Oh, hell, that’s a lie. I was ready to have a stroke. Like I said, I’m not very smart. I picked 90+ degree weather to walk around the city. I’m beyond stupid. This year was the same.

My journey to NYC is not quick. First I have to drive two hours to Pittsburgh International Airport. I have to park in the extended long term parking lot, which is not close to the terminal. By the time I make it to the building, I really want to just stand on that people mover thingy. When I hear someone coming up behind me, I will start walking, but I don’t wanna.

After my nice flight with Jet Blue, I arrived at JFK airport. I like airports. Just thought I would mention that. I don’t know why taxi cab men scare me, but I feel like I am imposing on them. So, I head outside to the ground transportation area and buy a $15.50 ticket to ride the NYC Airporter bus. It takes a while to exit the airport, as the bus driver stops at each terminal.  I didn’t mind. As long as I didn’t have to drive through New York, I don’t care if I was on the back of a donkey. Again, quite a lie. I would care.

The bus dropped me off at Grand Central Station, where I have to find the 6 Local Uptown train. Again, it’s easy. Well, except that I found out while I was on the subway that the Local 6 was not working this particular day. What? I’m on the local 6. Well, apparently it is allowed to change to be called the Express 6 which bypasses my stop. Someone sitting next to me tells me that I can get off at 125 and then take the local 6 downtown to my stop. What?

So, I get off the stop and walk across to the train going in the other direction and hop on, hoping it is the right one. It was. I then walked a couple of blocks to where my daughter was meeting me for lunch. I could see her smiling at me. I know that smile. I am doing somethig stupid.

“Mom, you are such a tourist. You don’t need to look both ways when it is a one way street.”

We had a nice lunch and walked back to her apartment so I could drop off my carry-on. Our plan for the day was to head to the Brooklyn Bridge and then head over to High Line. We walked the several blocks up the hill to the subway. I had to stop several times on the way up. I am weak. We got off the subway on Chambers Street. I had never been this far south before. So, there was the Brooklyn Bridge. And it was all boarded up on the sides of the bridge for construction. I had no idea we were going to actually walk over to the other side. What?

My daughter on the Brooklyn Bridge

Well, we had to walk over to the other side. I don’t know why. Because everyone else was doing it? There was nothing to see for quite a while. We stopped and wrote our names on some plywood…because everyone else was doing it.

It took us forever to get to the other side. And it was 90 degrees and 2:00 in the afternoon. Where the hell are the clouds? I was complaining a lot. My daughter told me to stop. I stopped.

It’s a 1.3 mile walk, but it takes a long time to walk due to the amount of foot traffic….and baby strollers…..and people like me who take pictures along the way and complain about the heat and stop alot. But, I was glad I did it. Because when we got to the other side, there was a park. And that park had a water taxi. Oh, hell yeah, I was on that thing.

The water taxi cost $25 and takes people around the statue of Liberty, past Ellis Island and Battery Park and up the Hudson. It makes stops along the way for those who want to get off in a different stop. I sure as hell didn’t want to walk back over the Brooklyn Bridge.

It was pretty cool. The taxi was huge and besides those who just wanted to look from inside the air conditioned lounge area, there was an upper berth and lower outside viewing areas. It was nice. We opted to get off at one of the piers on the Hudson, Christopher St., Pier 45 on West 10th Street.

This is also Grenwich Village, which was pretty darn cool. We walked past a Bareburger, where we had an early dinner. After that, my daughter wanted to take me to High Line Park. We had to walk again.  I thought she was taking me to a normal park. Boy, was I surprised when I saw High Line. High Line is a park built on an elevated freight line railway. The freight line wasn’t in use since the early 1980’s. It was slated for demolition as it became an eyesore for those who lived in the neighborhood. One man’s crusade led to the development by the city of New York to create this elevated park. It is magnificient. We walked along the park until a storm hit us. That’s not the best place to be when a thunderstorm approaches you. Luckily, there were places for all of us to hide. We then hailed a taxi and headed back to the apartment. We had great aspirations for the next day. We were going to wake up early and head to the local bagel shop for breakfast and then rent bikes in Central Park. However, we ate a huge breakfast and opted to go back to bed for a little bit. We then showered and headed via subway down to visit the Top of the Rock.  I’ve always wanted to visit Rockefeller Center and see the ice skating rink and the NBC Studios. It didn’t disappoint. Several blocks are pedestrian only, and it is just a really neat area. We finally found the place where we were to buy tickets to the Top of the Rock. I wanted to see Central Park from the top of this building. It was great.

After we left Rockefeller Center, I looked at my watch. We were late. My daughter wanted to go to the Colbert Report Studios to see if we could get standby tickets to that night’s show. We were supposed to be there by 2:30. So, we started walking. We had to go to 54th Street. We were on 50th Street. The Colbert Report was filmed on 54th Street. We had to hurry. Oh, but wait. We got to 54th Street. Alex asked a doorman and he told her it was about four blocks to the west. What? Four long ass blocks. We walked some more. And walked some more. We passed by where The Letterman Show was filmed. Nope. We kept walking. I was ready to give up. We had to be there in ten minutes. Not going to happen. I really thought she got the address wrong. We were headed into a less commerical area, one that had auto repairs and……nothing else. My daughter was laughing at me. Finally, we found it.

It was 2:40. We didn’t make it. Alex walked up the steps and a guy stepped out of the office. He told her that we needed to go stand by that garbage can. He pointed to….a garbage can. Someone would be out at 4:00 and hand out stand- by tickets if there were any to give out. It was a slight chance that we would get tickets and we had to discuss this.

Well, right by the garbage can was a narrow covered alley and there was a guy sitting there eating lunch. He told us he was in line for tickets. Except he had tickets. Oh. So, we were screwed. We stood there talking to another couple who came to stand in line. They too had tickets, but came to stand in line, because if wasn’t a certainty even with tickets that you could get in. I was ready to give up when the couple told us they had 2 extra tickets that we could have. What? Omg.

So, we sat and stood in line from 2:40 until they came out at 4:00 and took our information from our driver’s license and then left. Now there were two lines…one for ticket holders and one who were stand-by’s.

We were now full fledged ticket holders. They let us go into the studio at 5:50. We had to go through a metal detector and hang out in the lobby for a long time. We took pictures.

So, we got to watch the Colbert Report being filmed. Since, we got there so early, and they took us in after the VIP people, Alex and I were #7 and 8 to be seated. It was great. By the time we got out, it was time to hail a taxi and head to a Thai restaurant in Upper East Side. We then walked to her apartment. I was one tired tourist/mom.

 I left early the next morning. I hope to return in the fall sometime when the weather is a bit cooler. I’d like to see the 911 Memorial this time…and Central Park again. I missed it this visit.

I just love visiting my daughter.

Travels with Atticus the Cat

I just got back from taking my son to the Dulles airport. I wrote earlier that Adam was moving to Tbilisi, Georgia, which is pretty far from West Virginia. And he decided to take his cat, Atticus, with him.

This wasn’t an easy feat. First Adam had to make a flight arrangement with an airline carrier that would permit a cat on board as carry-on. I guess some frown on letting a mewing cat hang out under a seat. Turkish Airlines would let Atticus travel with them. But, hold on. They looked through the reservations, as they only permitted one cat or dog per flight. I guess that makes sense. I wouldn’t want to travel with five barking dogs on one flight. But, as my son pointed out, crying babies are just as bad. So true, Adam, and they don’t have to be put into a carrier and shoved under the seat. Not yet.

There are too many reports about animal deaths and loss after being checked as baggage. I would have let Atticus stay with me if Adam couldn’t keep him on the airplane. Most cargo compartments are kept unventilated. Delta Airlines doesn’t permit animals in the cargo area during the summer or winter months. Sometimes dogs or cats get loose somehow during transit. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, 224 dogs were lost, injured, or killed during airline travel between 2005 and 2009.  Airlines currently do not have to report the deaths, so that number could be much higher. So, checking Atticus as baggage was out of the question.

So, Adam was able to book a flight for he and his cat for June 19. Well, that was easy. Oh, but Adam had only started. There were so many procedures that Adam had to follow:

1. Quarantine or No Quarantine- Each country has a different protocol for pets entering their country. Adam had to first find out if Atticus would be warmly welcomed or thrown in the slammer for a certain amount of time. Adam found out that Georgia would welcome Atticus with no problem, whatsoever. But, he also had to make sure that since he had a layover in Turkey that Atticus would not be taken into custody and thrown into a Turkish kitty cat quarantine for a while. Adam had to have the vet examine Atticus, however, and sign the proper health certificate that he was a healthy cat. It was his passport, so to speak. He also had to have a USDA endorsement on the health certificate, I think.

2. Vaccinations and shit- While Atticus was at the vet’s office, he also had to have entry-required vaccinations that were quite expensive. I am sure one was the rabies vaccination and another may have been a feline shot. Throw in a prescription for kitty cat Xanax, and he was on his way.

3.. Pet carrier- Adam couldn’t just shove Atticus into the carrier that most people use. You know, the metal white carrier with the door and bars on the front.

No, Atticus had to have an expensive one that could be put under the seat on the plane.

I really liked the pet carrier Adam purchased. There was also a zippered compartment where he could put Atticus’s leash and Xanax..

4. I can not stress the Xanax enough. The vet wrote a prescription for Atticus. It was a “real people” Xanax that would calm Atticus down. Because, he had quite the adventure ahead. First of all, we had to travel by car for four house from West Virginia to  Dulles Airport, outside of Washington, D.C. Adam told the vet that Atticus freaked out in the car just to get to the vet’s office. After the drive, there would be a 2 1/2 hour wait for his international flight. The fight was then twelve hours to Istanbul, Turkey. There was going to be a seven hour layover before boarding again for another 1 1/2 hour flight and then the drive to the university. So, yeah, Atticus needed to be knocked out, or at least given an anti-anxiety drug. Hell, I would need to be knocked out for an itinerary like that.

5.  Pretty blue harness- Atticus could not wear just any collar. He would be able to slip right out of  a collar. Some people have their pet microchipped. That probably would have been a good idea for Atticus. I don’t think he had any identification on his body whatsoever. That probably wasn’t a good idea.

5. Animal diapers- Oh yes, Atticus was going to have to wear a diaper. It was going to be a long day. Adam quit feeding him right before we left for the airport and gave him 1/2 of a Xanax right before we left.

Ok, so we were ready to head to Dulles. Atticus was given a Xanax and Adam put the blue harness on him. He had a hard time walking with it on, and I have no idea why. We put the kitty litter box in the far back of the car since we were going to let Atticus hang out inside the car. I was going to drive while Adam played baby sitter to his cat.

Well, he was fantastic. The Xanax just made him mellow out and he sat on Adam’s lap the entire trip, listening to music and letting the air conditioner hit his face. He really enjoyed the air. When we pulled into the parking lot, Adam put a diaper on him, which was hysterical, because Atticus just lay on his back and let Adam put the damn thing on him. There was a hole for his tail. It was too small, so I am sure it came off during the flight.

Adam put Atticus in the cat carrier and we were on our way into the airport. I left as soon as he checked in with his airline and he was headed to security.

I drove the four hours home and while I was driving, got a text from Adam. I pulled over to read it, and smiled. Adam had to take Atticus out of the carrier and lead him through the x-ray machine at the security check-point, diaper and all. I hope someone was amused. Adam said the cat was excellent.

Adam has arrived in Tbilisi and sent me a Facebook message that they got in safe and sound and that Atticus did great. Of course, I read where there were only two pieces waiting at the baggage claim for Adam, instead of three. I sure hope it isn’t lost forever.

Because it could have been the suitcase that had Atticus’s kitty litter box and food.

In the end, if your pet must travel with you, make sure he will be comfortable. There is no way that Atticus could have gotten through everything that he had to go through if he was not doped up. Just sayin.

You tore up my couch and terrorized my cat, but I’m going to miss you, you little shit.

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.

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Scarf on Head

     I recently found a picture of my roommate and great friend, Jeri, and myself  that was taken in 1976. Or maybe 1977.  We were either at the beach or we had just come home. Our faces were  peeling and we looked quite ugly. So, what do you do when you are looking ugly?  Of course, you put “scarf on head” and head to the mall. We headed right to the photo booth to capture our beauty for all to see. We looked like lepers. I bet neither of us knew that 30+ years later, one of us would be posting our mugs on facebook.

The “scarf on head” look was very popular on our college campus during the 1970’s. I’m pretty sure that it was like that everywhere. We didn’t wear silky scarves. That would have been silly. And we didn’t tie them in front like a babushka. That was saved for Russian women and Queen Elizabeth.

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?

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