Saturday, October 30, 2010


Self worth.  Self esteem.  No matter what term you use to describe it, it is about learning to love your self.  Where do you learn to love your self?  How do you learn to value your self?  Society tells you to be giving, compassionate, kind.  What society doesn't tell you is that those feelings and emotions should first be directed at self, your inner person, that part of you that affects how you interact with the world outside of self. 

If you are lucky, you grow up with loving parents who give you a sense of what's right, and teach you to be a strong person in a tough world.  They give you the tools to cope, and if you have truly insightful parents, they nurture you and teach you to rely on and to value your self.  This is the truth for those of you who are lucky.

What about those of you who weren't as lucky?  Who had a crappy childhood or parents who were dealing with their own demons and wouldn't or couldn't give you what you needed to value your self?  What then?  Do you spend your life railing against what is wrong with you, blaming everything on the belief of your own worthlessness, or on those who made you believe you are worthless?  That is the truth for many of you.  You are the broken spirits among us, who are trapped inside a small box that won't allow you to grow beyond it, to escape.

I have a friend who has overcome tremendous odds.  Who was not valued as a  child or taught the lesson of self worth.  Who spent years trapped inside that box, seeing self as victim.  Angry, with no way out to be found.  Then something wondrous happened.  That person began to question.  Why the trap?  Why not escape that box?  What was the thing preventing escape?  And that person realized.  The only thing preventing escape was....

self...that is right...the most powerful lesson you can learn is simply that the only thing holding you back is self.  Anger and hate breed only more anger and hate.  It limits your self, it prevents you from valuing your uniqueness.  Learning to love self, is not wrong, it isn't bad.  Because to learn to love your self is to learn the most powerful lesson of all...that you are important, that you have value, that you have worth as a person.

There is no way to measure self is intrinsic...and unique.  You can't measure unique.  We are all unique in our own self-ness.  If you don't believe that, and believe in your self, then you have not learned the lesson, and are still trapped inside that box.

Open that box if you dare, explore your uniqueness.  Learn to love your self.

about my daughter on her day of days

Today is my oldest daughter Jennifer's birthday.  She hit a milestone today.  Forty.  It seems like only yesterday she was a baby.  I am sure I am not the first mother to say that....we all say it as our children grow older.

How did she get from there to here?  Time flies and I have so many memories.  So I will share just a few words.

She was with me on my first trip to Alabama, my first child born in a strange place far from my home, before Alabama felt like home.  My mom karma was good, Jen was the perfect baby.  She never cried, slept well from the moment of birth, and was a placid, happy baby.  She crawled so well she didn't walk until she was 13 months old.  And she was a wonderful big sister to her brother and baby sister when they came along (although Jim might dispute that fact since she blackmailed him into playing Barbies with her).  Jen thought Deb was her very own baby and treated her like a baby doll.

Jenny was the valedictorian in her high school class.  Always focused, she did well in college and has a good career as an accountant.  She's always had a life plan and worked toward it.  That included the twins she gave birth to over five years ago. 

Those are the facts about Jenny.  It was how she dealt with the things that happened in her life that weren't part of her life plan that make me the proudest.  Those things that cause you stress, anger and grief.  She never complained, never asked for help.  Just dealt.

What made my daughter such a strong woman?  She is kind, patient, honest, compassionate and loving.  She has a sharp sense of humor, and a soft heart, but can be tough when she has to be.  She strives to be a better person, but doesn't realize that she is a better person than I will ever be.  She is the woman I wish I was, the mother I wish I had been, and the adult I always knew she would be. 

Looking at her recently I thought to myself, how did time go by so fast?  Why didn't I enjoy each minute of her life more?  How I wish I could go back just one day and hold her in my arms again, that happy baby that I loved.  And still love.  And am proud to call my daughter.

My favorite oldest daughter.  Jennifer Ann.

Monday, October 25, 2010

head karma

Karma has landed again.  This time it isn't plane karma...this time it landed square in the middle of my head...

It started out a few weeks ago with a broken biggie I thought I can deal with it when I see the dentist in November.  After all, there's no pain, and no pain means everything is ok usually.  I check it with my tongue every now and then and make SURE I brush, floss, gargle and chew on the opposite side.  I don't usually chew on that side, and that means I have bitten holes in my cheek a few times because my bite is skewed, but heck, this isn't nearly as bad as some stuff I have dealt with in my life.  My dentist would be proud of me too.  After about the third day of flossing, my gums stopped bleeding...and my teeth actually look better than they have in a while.  This broken tooth might actually be a good thing in the long run, making me less lazy about dental hygiene.  (By the way, why is it called hygiene?  That word always makes me think of someone who has B.O. and needs to be scraped clean like a muddy windshield.)

Then about a week and a half ago or so, I am not sure because I didn't notice it wasn't going away until it didn't.  And that would be the headache.  It started out feeling like a stress headache, you know the kind you get that starts in your shoulders when you get tense and stressed about something, then travels up your neck and lands on your head, making it hurt to move or turn.  Well, I realized after almost a week that I WASN'T STRESSED ABOUT ANYTHING!!!  I mean, life is good right now.  My friend from Alaska is visiting and life is sweet.  Then a couple days ago I notice that my shoulders don't hurt.  Just my is starting in my neck and goes up my head.  I tough it out because I have such a high pain threshold, until it gets on over the top of my head to my eyebrows, then I take Ibuprofen or Excedrin Migraine, even though I know by now it isn't a migraine.  I've had those and this one is centered right in my neck... sheesh what else can happen I am thinking...

Then on Friday night I find out what else can happen...I am cleaning the house a bit and just dinking around, killing time until I pick up Manda from the airport...when all of a sudden I see these black streaks in my right eye...kind of like cobwebs...they are kind of fascinating and I watch as they turn green and yellow...then go away... and a bit later I notice these flashing lights around the edge of my vision in the right eye...kind of distracting...very distracting in fact...

I tell Steve and he says "do you want me to go to the airport with you and drive?" and I know that I will be leaving for the airport about an hour after Steve is usually in bed and I figure it is easier to deal with flashing lights in my vision by myself, rather than have to deal with flashing lights AND Steve half asleep at the wheel.  So I tell him no, I am fine and can drive just fine.

I lied...I had my distance contact in the right eye and my reading contact in the left eye, which meant I was pretty well blind in both eyes, but my guardian angel was sitting on my shoulder and I only took one wrong turn the whole time I was gone, got Manda and made it home fine.  The hard part was figuring out which flashing lights were headlights from oncoming cars, and which were the headlights that were a permanent part of my right eye vision...

So here I sit this morning waiting to go to the doctor and get a referral to a specialist for what is probably a tear in my right retina (being a nurse can really suck when it is you as the patient and you know too damn much about medicine), and I am hoping it is only a tear and doesn't detach too...because I know there is a one in 10,000 chance the retina will detach, and involve lots more than just a tear does...

I also know my luck sucks and I never win anything...and I figure this will be the one time I do win and am one of those unlucky 10,000.

Oh hoo as my favorite chef Julia Child I have head karma...

This too, shall pass.

the learning week

I've tried three times to write this blog entry, and three times I stopped because I was so angry I wasn't making any sense, just ranting in text.  And that isn't what I want to do.  I can rant in private, where no one can see or hear what I am saying, and get it out of my system.  I had just about decided not to write about Maddie's week last week, then I woke up this morning with her face in my mind.  She was looking straight at me and had a somber look on her face.  And suddenly I knew what to say.

I could tell you all the details of what happened, and about how angry it made me, and how Maddie suffered humiliation, but the details aren't important.  What is important is how my daughter Jen, her mom, handled it and how Maddie learns from this experience.

For those of you who don't know Maddie, she is five years old and a wonder.  Maddie is smart, athletic, curious about the world and just seems to soak up knowledge like a sponge.  She has a wonderful sense of humor. and is very protective of her twin brother, Duncan.

Last week, Maddie experienced humiliation. It wasn't anything she did herself, it was something that happened to her because of what her teacher told her.  Maddie, although she understands things way beyond her five year old comprehension, is still only five, and did not understand the meaning of something her teacher told her.  Because she didn't, and wouldn't speak up for herself, she had an accident. 

She was humiliated beyond words.  What upset me when I found out was the fact that the teacher was angry with Maddie because it happened.  After my anger passed, I realized that what that woman did was done in ignorance. 

A child will learn in a positive atmosphere.  Safe to ask questions and explore their world, they will thrive and absorb things around them like a flower absorbs water and flourishes.  If you humiliate and treat a child with anger, they shut down.  They learn to hide their thoughts and feelings, and turn them inside where no one will see them.  Children who learn to hide what they think and feel grow into angry adults.  I think that Maddie's teacher must have been treated with a lot of anger as a child, because she deals with the children very often in an angry manner.

In steps my daughter Jen, to explain to Maddie on the way home what the teacher had neglected to explain.  And to repair the damage that had been done.  Jen is wonderfully gifted at explaining things to children on a level they understand.  Because she fully explained things to Maddie, they were able to move forward.  (She also made sure the teacher's supervisor understood the incident from Maddie's point of view.  Because Maddie trusts her mommy, she told her exactly what had happened, and Jen was able to put the whole puzzle together.)

We, as adults, can make growing up mostly positive for children, and help them grow into adults with strong self esteem, a thirst to learn, the ability to love and forgive, and a better understanding of the world around them.  Or we can teach them to hide their feelings, to feel as though they have no self worth, and to grow up with prejudice and fear, anger and hate.  It is up to us.

Every day a child lives is a chance to make a difference in their lives and how they deal with things in life, both the positive and negative experiences.  We can't totally protect them from the negative, but we can lessen the impact, and teach them how to deal with bad things that happen.

Humiliation wasn't the only lesson learned by my Maddie last week.  She was still searching for that green tray, so she could win a trip to Disney World for her mommy, daddy, and brother.  Jen discovered when she read the box, that the contest had ended weeks ago, at the beginning of October.  So Maddie learned another important lesson.  She learned how to deal with disappointment.

My girl is strong...she will survive both these hard lessons.  It hurts me to see her have to learn these lessons, but I know it is an important part of growing up.  In my mind, I see Maddie years from now, strong, beautiful, compassionate, with her quirky sense of humor, and a keen understanding of the world.

And that will be my reward for not going to her aftercare and knocking the shit out of that teacher for hurting my girl.  SO I guess I have learned a lesson too.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

deep earth

I was laying in bed wide awake in the middle of the night last night.  Listening to the sounds of the wind blowing softly.  Ok, it wasn't the wind, it was Steve's C-Pap blowing in my makes a soft whooshing sound and I like to pretend I am in the woods and the wind is blowing through the trees.  Once in a while he gets a kink in the hose and it starts squealing...that is when it sounds like a pig dying in the woods...but last night it was behaving and whooshing in my ear...
I was laying there letting my thoughts drift like they tend to do in the night...nothing to distract or interrupt...and thinking about life as it is now...and then somehow I remembered how it was when Steve and I met (I was barely 17) and how our lives had changed and the path we'd traveled over the years as husband and wife.

I wondered if Steve has any regrets...he isn't the type to talk about things like that, he lives firmly in the here and now, except when he gets worried about something and drives us all nuts...

He's never said much about what he would do differently.  I was thinking about his thoughts last night, it wasn't "me" oriented thinking, but I was trying to put myself in his body, thought-wise.  And I started thinking about how hard he has worked all his life  (he works still, finding more to do every day than he can possibly get finished), and how well he has taken care of all of us.

While we were all busy, the kids going to school, growing up, me running my own business, and then going to college to become a nurse, Steve was just...being himself... going to work everyday to support us and give us all a sense of safety and providing us with a home we could always feel protected in...

It wasn't an easy job.  Steve worked as a coal miner for over 30 years.  For those of you not familiar with what coal mining is like, imagine being dropped in a crowded cage straight down into deep earth, and working in that deep earth with nothing to protect you but steel toed boots, a hard hat with a light on the end so you could see what you were doing, and a self rescuer on your tool belt to remind you every day you worked of the possibility of being trapped, with that little piece of equipment to buy you time and air, while someone hopefully was able to dig or blast their way to you...

Watching the Chilean miners wasn't easy for Steve...miners are a brotherhood, and there are no borders or cultural differences or politics when fellow miners are trapped somewhere in the world.  Men who make their living digging things from the earth are close knit.  I have watched Steve suffer when men were killed in mines in China and other places in the world.  Steve chafed at not being able to help the Chilean miners, and rejoiced when they were rescued.

This is the other thing you may not understand unless you have lived with a miner.  Every day he went to work might be his last.  Over the years he lost friends to cave-ins, to equipment that failed or was operated by carelessness, to disease caused by breathing coal dust.  And I realized every day he went to work he might not come back.  That was always in the back of my mind while I took care of our kids and ran my daily routine.  And death wasn't the only risk.  I can still close my eyes and see Steve's daddy coming through my front door trying to prepare me and keep me calm at the same time while Steve followed behind him with both hands wrapped in gauze like a mummy.  He'd gotten into some live electricity at work (by now he was working as an electrician in the coal mine) and had severe burns on both hands.  That was the day I learned the reality of being a miner's wife as I bathed my husband and helped him dress.  It was a lesson I never forgot.  Steve has also lost many friends over the years to disabilities caused by mining accidents.

All this ran through my mind as I laid there last night listening to the whooshing of the wind in my ear.  And as I laid there I felt suddenly overwhelmed.  With gratitude, for all that Steve had done for us.  For always feeling safe because of him.  For all that he probably gave up, all the dreams and wishes he might have had and quietly put aside for us.  All for us. 

And I realize that I have nothing to complain about.  And that a big part of who I am today is because of him.  And his steadfastness.

Thank you Steve.  For living in the deep earth for us for 30 years.  For being you.

Friday, October 15, 2010

from there to here

Vix, and Dooj and I sometimes have conversations that start in one place and end up in a whole different spot.  Similar to getting on a train in Grand Central Station and getting off on the train ride at the Nut Tree.  Yes there was a place in California known as the Nut Tree, and it had a cheesy little train ride. 

Vix and I were laughing about my first job, "real job" when we passed the old pharmacy I worked at in high school.  I had entered the yearly Halloween painting contest sponsored by the city I think, with high school students assigned a window at most of the businesses in town.  We painted them and then they were judged and ribbons awarded.  In my junior year I won third place for a painting of two giant pumpkins in a patch wearing facial expressions like the old Greek comedy and tragedy masks.  I guess the pharmacist/owner was impressed, because I got a part time job that Christmas wrapping gifts for customers.  I learned how to wrap a gift without wasting one INCH of paper, and could tape an entire package with one strategically placed piece of tape, taught by a gruff old woman who turned out to be kinder than I first thought she was.  And I had one marvelous older gentleman customer in all the dozens of gifts I wrapped that season who tipped me 50 cents and told me thank you for doing such a good job.  I think he really felt sorry for me though, because the woman in line in front of him had hollered at me for taking so long to wrap her items.

I was rehired at the end of the year to do inventory with another girl I went to school with.  She was a senior and a personal family friend of the pharmacist so she basically was my supervisor (I have never been one to buck the system if I can just be left to do a job and not be harassed).  We worked fairly well together and worked for days with an adding machine counting every item in the pharmacy.  Then we hit enter when we finished.  And realized that the total was WAY over what the value of the merchandise was worth.  I panicked and Sandy was about panicked too, and we thought we were going to have to redo the whole thing, which was depressing.  Then someone, I am not sure who, realized we had hit one too many zeroes or something, and come out with an extra million dollars on the total.  It was fixed and even though I was embarrassed, I realized anyone could hit a million by mistake, it was probably a pretty common error, really. 

Vix laughed hard when I recounted that story, then she said we had a lot of jobs covered between us.  So I started listing everything I had done in my life:

babysitter- why I never liked pediatrics as a nurse (until Alaska that is...Eskimo babies are different...cuter)
gift wrapper-see above
inventory expert (snorking on that one)
fruit cutter- (in the orchards in the valley- earned $75 working all summer long and bought my school wardrobe with it)
political sign maker- (mom's friend running for city council needed some cheap signs that looked good and paid me $5 I think)
nurse's aide (certified)
seamstress- my crowning glory was a Princess Di replica I spent 6 months making and sewing 27,000 seed pearls and sequins on, and no I didn't hit an extra zero on that one....
air brush artist- fancied myself living in Florida doing Tshirts for a living...well I did the Tshirt part anyway...
designer- women's clothing
manufacturer-hand painted women's clothing
jewelry maker- paper (yes you can wear paper on your ears and call it jewelry)
nurse (registered)
nurse manager- no life outside work on that one
nurse instructor- fun to work with nursing students
travel nurse-see the world at someone else's expense
photographer- similar to instant painting, and instant gratification
nurse supervisor- again, but lovely job this time
artist/teacher- my current way to be able to be in two places at once

...and artist is interspersed among all that because I have painted on nearly every surface imaginable that can be painted on: faces, bodies, clothing, walls (murals), windows, signs, paper, canvas, cement, asphalt and more with most every type of paint manufactured.  Don't give me a brush with paint on it unless you need something painted, because it will get covered.

It is just interesting to me how many directions my life has taken, and is still taking.  Every day is a new adventure.  Not all days are positive ones, and sometimes the mood on me isn't conducive to more than just getting through the day.  I guess I am just lucky that most of the time, even in times of stress or sadness or anger, I eventually center myself again and realize there is still too much to do and see and I don't want to miss any of it.  And I just hope I can realize every day how lucky I am to have been on the journey to here.  I have no regrets.  And though I say I would change some things if I could, I am lying to myself.  Because if I had changed them, then I wouldn't be here.

No regrets, no regrets.  Except maybe that inventory job.  I still won't touch an adding machine.  Ask Vix.  She handles the register in our studio...I hate anything that makes a whirring sound and spits out paper with numbers on it.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

sister wine

Yesterday was one of those days you have occasionally.  The kind of day when everyone and everything is where it needs to be in the universe.  The kind of day that is indelibly printed on your memory forever.  The type of memory that you can bring out like a special gift and hold and feel and experience again and again.

My sisters and I always have a good time together.  We have the occasional disagreement and sometimes even a hot argument.  We can set each other on fire with our words, because we all feel strongly about things.  No wimpy girls here, lots of passion and laughter and every emotion a human being can experience.

Since Dooj was leaving this morning going home (she always arrives last and leaves first we joke with her), we decided yesterday to visit a couple wineries, one of our favorite pastimes when we are together.  We usually buy matching wine shirts also. 
We started the day at the Purple Pearl, a new (to us) winery in Dixon, California and had fun talking to the people there.  We had to dodge a yappy little dog my sisters thought would bite, but I just told them "no touch, no talk. no eye contact and we'll be fine."  The Dog Whisperer works every time!  I got a few photos (Big Girl was with me as always) and tasted some really delicious wines.  Dooj bought a case of mixed wine and had it shipped home.  Unfortunately, I live in a state that won't let you have wine shipped in, so I have to take mine home with me, packed in my suitcase and wrapped in bubble wrap.  I've been lucky so far and never lost any wine, but I am waiting for the day my underwear ends up died Cabernet purple.

We found the shirts we wanted at the Purple Pearl.  (Dooj had spied it at the Art, Wine and Chocolate Festival last weekend and decided that would be our next sisters shirt.)  So we purchased the shirts, a case plus some 6 more bottles or so of wine, and even found a pair of beaded earrings for mum that looked like her poodle Milly.  What a score!

We tasted several different kinds of wine, and as  usual, I liked them all.  I am not a picky wine drinker, I like most wines unless they are really crummy.  Like people, I can find something good in almost every wine I meet and that makes it hard for me to remember the occasional wine that is extra special.  I guess you could say my palate is uneducated, but I just prefer to think my palate is friendly.

Before we headed to the next winery, we stopped by the cemetery so that Vix could show us the headstone she had chosen for her husband's grave.  It was an odd moment, but one I find I usually get through without too much angst.  You might wonder how we could go from a winery to a cemetery and then to a winery, but there was a kind of symmetry to it.  Grapes come from the earth, and Donnie, Vix's husband, grew up and spent his whole life around vineyards and orchards.  Donnie has been gone for about 2 1/2 years  now, so the sting of his death has passed for Vix, and we spent a little while just enjoying the peacefulness of the place.  It is one of the oldest cemeteries in the county, and beautiful as only an old cemetery can be.  We did see a woman in one of those low slung beach lawn chairs sitting by a headstone.  I thought she was dead, but Vix and Dooj assured me she was reading or something.  I still think she looked pretty stiff though, and she never moved the whole time we were there.

After the Purple Pearl we headed to a favorite old winery we visit every time we are at home, Wooden Valley Winery.  Vix and I belong to the Wine Club, so we picked up our wine, had some more tastes and bought some wine glasses (theirs are the perfect size and shape for either reds or whites) and talked with Laura, our pourer, for a while.  More photos, and tastes and I was feeling pretty mellow, and just soaking up all the good from the day.  Wine can do that you know....too much can lay you flat, but just a little can open your eyes.  I stopped while my eyes were still open and before I ended up flat....

Yesterday was pretty perfect...we ended it with mom and spent some time with her, laughing and talking and eating some Chinese food we had bought on the way back to her house.  It's hard to convey how special the times I spend with my sisters are, but one thing I know is that when I am with them, I  feel complete.  They understand me probably better than anyone in the world, because they are so much like me in so many ways.  I will end this blog for today with  a little video I shot of us yesterday, so that maybe you can get a taste of what being with my sisters is like.  They bring such peace to my life.....

Friday, October 8, 2010

just yesterday

Just yesterday I was holding my babies in my arms.

Just yesterday they looked at me with such love and innocence in their eyes.

Just yesterday I was running at every day like it was a race.

Not paying attention to the speed of time.

Not realizing then that little arms that stretched to hug my neck would one day easily encircle my shoulders.

Not realizing that one day I would wish for days like that again.

Not realizing that life goes by leaving....



Being part of our family is not for the faint hearted.  We tend to tease hard, and have wicked senses of humor.  I am saying this to prepare you for the story I am about to share.  So you will understand.  Maybe.

Wretch hates dolls with evil stares, especially troll dolls.  The kind with the mohair fuzz on the head and bug eyed stare.  They were popular when I was a kid and still turn up every now and then.  I was gifted with one dressed in black for my 40th birthday and with another of the ugly little buggers dressed like a nurse when I graduated from nursing school.

Wretched Daughter, my youngest, (I'll explain her nickname another day) hates those trolls with a passion, and with good reason.

One night, many years ago when she was a young girl, I was reading in bed and Steve was on the couch watching TV.  All of a sudden Wretch came ripping through the house (I could hear her feet pounding the floor as she headed to me) and rushed into my room hollering.

Wretch: the troll in my room just MOVED!!!!!
me: no honey, it didn't.
Wretch: YES IT DID!  It was turned one way and when I looked up it had moved and was facing me.

(The doll was located on her dresser or thereabout.)  I talked to her for several minutes and convinced her that it was her imagination.  This was back during a time in her life when I still had a little influence over what she thought and did.  She finally headed back to her room, calmer than when she had entered my room.

About 30 seconds later, Wretch came running and SCREAMING through the house.  She flew into my bedroom again and jumped square in the middle of the bed, almost on top of me and screamed:

me: (calmly so as not to feed her hysterics) I am sure you are wrong it couldn't have moved, let's go have a look. (She had insisted she was NOT going to go back to her room, so I was forced to action.)

We walked to her room, she still in hysterics, and when we got to her room, I saw the troll.  It wasn't on the dresser.

It was sitting in the middle of the floor.  Facing Wretch's bed.

She was convinced the doll was possessed.  I knew something was up and about that time I looked around at Steve and saw him.  Laughing.  Not out loud but that silent laughter that makes you shake all over like you are having a seizure. 

I said "STEVE you ought to be ashamed of yourself!"  (By this time Wretch was crying as well as hysterical.) Steve had moved the doll the first time just a little bit, while she was in the bathroom, then when she came to tell me about it, he snuck in and moved it to the floor.  And she had a meltdown.

It took me about an hour to get Wretch calmed down enough so that she could go to bed.  Steve was unremorseful.

I didn't laugh until I knew Wretch was out of earshot and it was safe. 

Steve still tells the troll story.

Wretch still hates trolls and when she comes home for a visit, I know she is going to open the glass cabinet and turn my trolls until they face the back of the cabinet.  So she can't see the eyes.  I guess I should get rid of them.

But every time I look at them, I laugh.  Trolls are evil that way...

Thursday, October 7, 2010


If you have read any of my posts, you already know I hate to cook. Except for the occasional special meal when we are having guests, or holidays.  I can tolerate those.  But the daily grind of preparing something to swallow so we can go on living?  I hate it.  But there was a time....

When I first got married I wanted to be a good wife.  I kept our first apartment immaculate.  I kept all our clothes clean and pressed.  And I cooked.  Or tried to....

Remember me talking about not being allowed to help in the kitchen?  And learning to cook from my mother-in-law when I moved to Alabama?  Well, this is about that little window of time between leaving my mom's home and starting my own, and before I landed in Alabama.  I am thinking of a particular meal that has become a running joke in our family.

I was doomed to fail you see.  First, because of my ignorance of all things food, and second because at times I am more obstinate than the most stubborn mule alive.  You tell me something or try to make a suggestion, and I dig in my heels and do it MY way just to prove I can.  Which mostly works for me....

Except with butterbeans.  I was humbled by a lowly butterbean not long after Steve and I married.  Y'all may know them as limas.  Dried limas caused my downfall as a new wife and cook.  Not those tiny baby dried limas you see in bags in the rice and bean section of the grocery store.

NOOOOO...these are LARGE limas.  They don't look too intimidating just laying around in the plastic bag.  It is when you add them to a pot of water that they turn evil and rise against you.

Now fade to a summer day in California....beautiful weather and we are going to the boat races.  Being the good wife, I don't want my new husband to miss a meal because we are going out, so I decide to cook the beans and put them on low heat while we are gone.  I figure they will just lay there in their warm little bath like happy little butters....

Except for this conversation (this was the beginning of the end for me and the butterbeans):

him: honey what are you doing?
me: putting the butterbeans on.
him: isn't that a lot of beans?
me: no, mom always cooked a whole bag at a time.

let me add here that navy beans do NOT equal butterbeans in size, not before or after they are cooked.  Butterbeans are the Goliath in the dried bean world.

him: I don't think mother ever cooked more than a couple cups at a time.
me: I know what I am doing...I am cooking enough so that we will have extra for leftovers next week.
him: you do know they swell when they cook?
me: (snorking at him) of COURSE I do, now leave me alone and I'll be ready to go in just a minute...

So I put the whole bag in a 5 quart dutch oven on top of the stove (this is 30 years before crockpots exist). 

Did I mention it is a 4 pound bag of beans?  I put them on low, put a lid on the pot, and off we go to watch the boat races.

Two or three hours later we come home and I walk to the stove to check my beans, which should be ready by now, I am thinking to myself.  And I see...

Beans.  Everywhere....the pot is full, the beans (which aren't cooked much by the way) are pushing the top off the pot like a monster emerging from the deep....there are beans on the stove top, beans running down the front of the stove and piled in the floor... beans...beans...beans....everywhere I look.

Steve is standing behind me at some point with his mouth hanging open like a fly trap...and I just turn to him and say...


But secretly I am thinking I have never seen ANYTHING swell that much...

So I start dividing the beans that are still trapped in the pot into other pots so I can at least cook those...and I spend quite a while scraping the bean victims off the stove and floor and burying them in the trash.  I end up with a 5 quart pot and three 4 quart pots filled with beans, after they finally finish swelling and cooking. 

We ate those beans for over a week, maybe two, and to this day I avoid cooking them more than maybe once a year.  When I do cook them, I cook a handful at a time now. 

I did learn my lesson you see.  I just wouldn't admit it to Steve.  To this day he tells the story of the butterbeans.  And I act like I planned it that way the whole time....

And I don't mention the three pounds of lentils I cooked just a couple years ago....that was when I found out that dried lentils multiply like rabbits when you hide them in a pot of water.

I think I will just forgo cooking dried beans forever.  It's safer.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

the long black limo

 This smiling woman is my Mom.  She is smiling because yesterday we surprised her.  The tiara and necklace are to let her know we think she is a queen.  I will explain how this all happened.

Mom turns 80 in December.  On Christmas Day to be exact.  She was born early because Grandma was going to midnight mass on Christmas Eve and fell on an icy sidewalk and the result was my mom arrived on Christmas Day. 

This year Mom will turn 80, and my sisters and I began talking about her birthday several months ago.  We didn't have any idea what to give her for her birthday, because there is nothing she wants.  What to do?  We racked our brains until Mom offered the solution with 6 simple words:

"I've never been in a limo."

BINGO!! Problem solved.  Debbie started getting the information and basically organized the whole thing (she organizes so well... I didn't dare offer because my organization skills are lousy).  She let us know what we owed, where to be, and when.  We kept it all hush hush and not many people knew what was going on. Mom mentioned several times over the past few days after I arrived in California that she wished she could ride in a limousine.  That last mention was at dinner with Vix the other night when the subject somehow came up and the three of us just looked at Mom discussing it with some friends and then looked at each other with innocent eyes and snickered when Mom looked away. 

So yesterday, October 4, 2010 was the big day and after a close call with the sitter arrangements for Vicky's son Chris, we were at Mom's, distracting her while we waited on the limo driver to arrive.  On our way there Vicky and Debbie were musing on whether Greg (G.W.) would be young, good looking, etc.  I told them I didn't care how he looked as long as he didn't wreck us.

Then he called.  G.W. was evidently looking for Mom's place in the wrong location.  Vicky had to go outside, where I was parading Mom's dog around and telling her to hurry up and pee, and tell him how to find us.  Then we both beat a path back into the house to make up more lies to keep Mom busy.  Mom couldn't understand why we weren't ready to go, and Vicky told her we had bowel problems from what we had eaten the night before (a bit too close to the truth after my experience with Smooth Move).  Vicky had also invited a couple of Mom's gambling buddies, because the ruse was that we were all going to eat out and go to a local casino about 45 minutes from Mom's house.  We planned to go in Melody's car.

I heard the limo pull up outside and a couple minutes later a knock at the door.  Mom said "who is that?" and I told her to answer the door and find out.
mom and g.w.

There was G.W.  He gave Mom a big hug and handed her a bunch of balloons and told her Happy Birthday.  Somehow I was the only one who made it to the door to see this.  Vicky and Debbie were busy, one with the dog and one in the bathroom I think.  Melody and Elaine were somewhere behind me.  I was right there seeing the look of bewilderment on Mom's face.  One thing  I can do right is to be where the photo opportunities are.  I had Big Girl in my hand ready to go.  I took  a couple of shots and then while G.W. went back to the limo, I told Mom we were ready to go. 

Mom: but these are for Vicky, he got the wrong person.
me: no he didn't Mom.
Mom: are you sure?
me: yes I am sure.
Mom: how are we going to get there?  All this stuff (meaning Hugo, her rolling walker with the built in seat) won't fit in the car.
me: (pointing to the limo) ...yes it will Mom, because there's your ride. 


She looked at the limo.  Then back at me.  Then at the limo again.  Then the realization started to sink in. 


This WAS her ride.  The limo ride that she had never had was about to happen.  And being Mom, that was when the tears started.  I stopped for a second to hug her and kiss her, then I kept snapping, because I realized I would never get a chance to catch a moment like this with Mom again.

I hollered at the girls inside to get their purses so we could get going.

We all filed out to the limo, Mom walking down a red carpet G.W. had put out for her.  We got our stuff stored and stopped long enough for a group photo or six, then climbed in and were on our way.

And the party started.  Pictures are worth a thousand words, so I will post a few here:

giving her the crown jewels

adjusting her tiara

dooj sings


melody and dooj sing

mom still can't control vix
And we had such fun!  Mom won money at the casino and enjoyed the ride of her life.  By the end of the day we were all worn out, but in a pleasant way. 

Something I learned that day was that not only is there pleasure in giving someone something they have always wanted, but the memories it creates give back to the giver.  This was one of the best days of my life, spent with some of the people I love most in the world. 

And that is priceless.

the queen waves

Monday, October 4, 2010


three glasses, three sisters
If you aren't blessed to have at least one sister in your life, you don't know what you are missing.  I have two, so it is double the fun.

I can't remember not having Vicky there.  We were born fourteen months apart.  So I can't remember a time in my life that Vix wasn't there.  I remember Dooj's arrival on the scene though, because I was 5 years old when she was born.  She was like having a live babydoll, and was a perfect lookalike for the Gerber baby.  We had a lot of fun with her when she was a baby.  She was the perfect baby. 

The sisters and I have been close our whole lives.  Nothing keeps us apart, and our strength is each other.  We have been through the normal gamut of life experiences, but what makes us strong is that we rely on each other.  There have been untold times in our lives when we called each other because of some stressful thing we were dealing with, or not dealing with well.  I can remember calling Vix one time years ago and telling her I just wanted to hear the voice of someone who loved me because  I was having a terrible day and didn't think I would make it through.  One of those days you remember because it was so nasty and stressful it was almost like you were living someone else's life.

vix and dooj walk and talk

And Vicky said something.  I don't remember what now.  The words weren't important.  What I remember is the soothing calmness I felt after I talked to her.  I was less stressed, strengthened, and better able to deal with what was going on.  That is what we do for each other.  When one is in need, the others step up to the plate and share strength.  We give support and remind each other that we are not alone.  We are SISTERS.

Many times my sisters or I have called each other.  And many times I have received those calls shortly after I was thinking about them.  We have called for advice, to gripe, to gossip, to tell each other how much we loved and missed each other.  Computers and social programs have enabled us to keep closer contact with each other, as have cell phones which make phone calling so affordable we can do it as often as we want or need to.

flying high

it begins with a flash

When our dad died ten years ago, one of the biggest wake up calls for the three of us was that time is fleeting and  you can't get back what is past.  It is gone forever.  It was a big regret of Dad's that he didn't spend more time with us, but one he couldn't undo.  But we decided after Dad's death that no matter what came up in our lives, we would find time for each other every year, and more often if possible.  We have taken several road trips together, and the time spent alone as sisters has just deepened the love I have for them, and I am sure they would respond with the same answer.  It is our time to reconnect and relive old memories while making some new ones, and there have been some very special moments together.

the ham sisters
Most of all my sisters make me laugh.  Oh, we have our share of fights and disagreements.  But we never hold grudges.  The three of us were just not made that way.  We know we don't agree about everything, and sometimes we hotly disagree about things.  But in the end we are still sisters, and that is more important to us than any disagreement we have.  We accept the differences.  We are all uniquely different and we appreciate that in each other.  We find humor in almost everything.  That is one of our strengths.  That even when we are in the midst of a disagreement, one of us can make a  remark or crack a joke and we all laugh.  Every time.

will you turn that camera OFF?

That is part of our strength you see.  We complement each other.  We are stronger as a whole than as individual parts of the sum.  We see the humor in everything, and we have a wicked sense of it, often almost to the point of absurdity.  But we GET each other, and understand what the joke is about even if those around us are looking dumbfounded at us and scratching their heads.  Right now as I sit writing this about my wonderful sisters, they are interrupting me making jokes.  And I stop.  And we laugh.  Because that is what we do.

What can I say about my sisters?  That they are part of me.  That I understand them.  As they do me.  That I admire and love them and would do anything they asked of me.  That they are strong, courageous, wise women and I am proud to be their sister.  That had I had a chance to pick out the sisters I wanted when I was a girl, I could not have chosen two women any more perfect to be my sisters.  And I will always be grateful to them for all they are.

Even when Dooj is wearing my panties on her head to get a laugh, and Vix is snorking tea through her nose because I said something stupid.  That is what makes them perfect.

cath, vix,, and dooj

Friday, October 1, 2010

smooth move

I flew in from Alabama yesterday.  And my famed plane karma didn't manifest itself....I had a great missed planes, getting off at the wrong airport, getting banged in the head with the stall door in the ladies room or anything.  The flight even arrived early to Phoenix and I had time to lollygag my way to Starbucks for a cup of chai.

So I am counting myself lucky.  And then yesterday afternoon I am looking for some tea in Vix's cupboard while she is gone on some errands.  I spy a box called....

Smooth Move.

And I read the box...a gently stimulating tea for relief of temporary constipation...and it has all these marvelous flavors mixed together...licorice and some others I can't remember at this time because.....

it wasn't...smooth....

oh at first it wasn't too bad...the tea was yummy...I steeped it for the fifteen minutes it recommended.  And sipped it slowly.  Of course the cup I  used held about eighteen ounces...

I figured that I would wake up this morning, smooth move and be on my way...


about 4 AM I wake up.  Farting these horrendous loud gaseous bubbles of noxious fumes.  My sisters and I were all sharing a bed and Dooj was catching the worst of the farts escaping me, because she was sleeping in the middle.  And sleeping through it.  Now one thing I know...when you are farting like that in your sleep and it wakes you up, that isn't gonna be a good thing...that last fart escaping me was loaded and I woke up in a gut filled panic and rushed for the toilet.... hour later I struggle limply back to bed with a toilet seat ring imbedded on my butt...I won't explain what happened in the interim....some things are better left unsaid....

I laid there for a little bit and then another pain hit....ok so it will take two trips I was thinking to myself...that means it is doing a thorough job, right?

WRONG... thirteen hours  later, my eyes are sunken in my head from dehydration, my butt is turned wrong side out and I have a permanent toilet seat impression pressed into my butt...the toilet and I are intimate friends by this time and I am thinking I am going to die...killed by Smooth Move....

So my sister Vix tells me it is time for Immodium...the cure to all butt flush ailments...and I weakly agree....she comes at me and shoves this vile liquid down my throat...and says...

"Donnie got this before he died and it works well."

Wait a second I say....Donnie died two years ago...

me: "what is the expiration date on that bottle?"
Vix: "ummm....2008"

...and I realize I've been poisoned....

I am going to die...killed by Smooth Move and Immodium....and if I die in bed tonight, one thing I know for sure...

Vix and Dooj will sleep through it....

grandma's hankies

Years ago, when I was an adult and visiting my grandparents with my husband and children, my Grandma told me there was something she wanted to give me before she died.  Now you have to understand my Grandma (Mom's mom) was giving away her mementos for years before she died.  I think she just wanted to be sure she knew who got what, because we made several trips to Indiana and she always gave me something.

On this visit I was wondering what she was going to gift me with, it was kind of like Christmas in July. 

There was the visit she gave me her cookie book, because that was one of the few things I enjoyed cooking, and Grandma was famous for making HUNDREDS of cookies to give away every year at Christmas.  She would set up card tables in her living room to hold all the cookies she made.  She saved coffee cans all year long (this was back when they were made of metal, and recycling was unknown) and would carefully pack cookies with layers of waxed paper in the cans and freeze them, then ship them so they'd arrive before Christmas.  Grandma didn't make just one or two types either, but would always make what she knew were favorites for each family member and friend.  My mom always got Springerles, which took days to make (Google the recipe if you don't believe me) and we'd have favorites like chocolate chip and other kinds to savor.  The day that package arrived was always an important day in our family, and mom would make those cookies last longer than I thought possible.

This time Grandma was on a different mission.  She took me into the living room and went in another room and returned with a large clear plastic bag and laid it in front of me.  Inside the bag were hankies.  The kind a woman carried in her purse when she went out, especially to church.  She opened the bag and began to take the hankies out.  And as she showed them to me, she explained how she had collected them.

Years before, when my mom and dad married, my grandmothers began to correspond with each other.  Not only did they send letters to each other, but they also sent cards on special occasions like birthdays, Christmas, Mother's Day and the like, and hankies were in many of those cards.  Grandma showed me all kinds of hankies, and though I loved the holiday hankies, the ones I loved the best were the ones that had crocheted edges.  There were also hankies with cutwork, shadow embroidery, and applique, but I  recognized the crocheted ones as my Grammy's work.  (Grammy was my dad's mom.)  As I touched the edging that I knew had been held in my Grammy's hands, I grew warm inside.  She and Grandma spent a lot of time and thought on sending those hankies, and even though I never got to see the ones that Grammy received from Grandma, I knew they were probably a lot like the ones I was looking at and holding.

You see, my grandmothers never met in life.  Phone calls and those cards and letters were as close as they physically got.  But I looked at the hankies and knew that each hanky was sent with thoughts of love.  And I knew that those hankies were the tangible evidence Grandma was giving me to show me how much she loved my Grammy.  Grandma talked about how much she always cared for  Grammy, how they had remained close even after my parents divorced, and that she wanted to make sure those hankies stayed with our family.

I took those hankies home, and have taken them out often to look at them and remember.  Remembering my grandmothers, and how much I loved each one.  How different and unique they were as women in my life and the influence they each had on me.  And on a few occasions in my life, I have given a hanky to someone special in my life, who had made an impact on me and changed my life in some way.  It makes me warm inside to know that out there in different parts of the world are symbols of the love my grandmothers had for each other.  Each time I gave a hanky away, I told their story of friendship that never wavered.  Grammy died many years before Grandma, but they were friends til they died.  The remainder of the hankies (and there are still many) will go to my daughters and sisters, and the first time we are all together we are going to pick what we want.  Democratically, because that is the way Grandma and Grammy would want it to be done.  Shared hankies, shared love.

I have started crocheting edgings for linen hankies.  For my girls to have.  And for my granddaughter Maddie to hold and look at some day.

And grow warm inside remembering the Grammy who worshipped her. 

I can't give the hankies to her now.  She is five years old.  She'd blow her nose on them.