June 25th, 2009

Summer Car Trips

Joy, it’s summertime. People are once again filling gas tanks and hitting the road. Despite high gas prices, one can still get from here to there without breaking the bank. And I do hope you take the back roads occasionally. The good stuff hides there. Little old people on porches, holding hands and watching the sun slide down, an unexpected parade, a wild patch of sunflowers, men in faded overalls, whittling sticks on a store front corner.  Once our girls got older, we took back roads whenever possible.

I remember when they were young, traveling the twelve hours to Missouri every summer. We took the interstates then, our goal, to get there in record time. Ten miles down the road whining would commence. They were so good at it, I always suspected they’d rehearsed. Conversations went something like this.

“How much longer?” One would ask.

“Eleven hours and fifty minutes.”

Another chimed in, “I’ve gotta go to the bathroom.”

“For crying out loud, we just left the house. Can’t you hold it?”

“You want me to pee my pants? Pull over!”

“What a pain.”

“Why’d you have me then, huh?”

“I had no idea it was going to be you!”

Boy, did we have fun. Those early travel memories are sweet, magical moments in time.  I can still see their sleepy eyes. How their heads would wobble and finally give out. The sun playing on their blond hair. I can hear the giggles, see the sparkly eyes when we’d stop and they’d get a treat.  The squeals of anticipation when rolling down the window, sticking our arms out, and getting  truckers to honk. They loved this and I did too. I also remember them laughing as I tumbled into the backseat to read them stories. The four of us, all cozy under a blanket in the middle of nowhere, happy as clams.

We’ve done road trips as far back as I can remember, the memories priceless.  On the weekend we’ll be taking another. This is the first time two of the girls won’t be going. One is attending summer school, the other working. The trip will be strange without them, but our youngest daughter will keep us well entertained.  I’m thankful to spend time with her while I can. She’s growing up too fast.

Enjoy your summer and keep making miles and miles of memories!

June 17th, 2009

North Beach Diet

Diets do not appeal to me. My thighs, however, love them. That said, my whole family has climbed aboard the South Beach Diet boat. I still don’t know how I coaxed them, but we’re paddling all the same. Yes, we’re arriving somewhat late, but better late than never. Or is it?

Since Sunday we’ve been swimming in eggs, salads, meat, and ricotta cheese. Waves will be high the first two weeks.  The thunderstorm of eggs already has me shaky.  If I even imagine an egg now, I cringe.  This, and we’re only on day four. Good thing I have my V-8 juice. Great thing I like it.  We’ve already consumed more spinach than Popeye, and I half expect to wake one morning and scare my own self to death with bulging muscles.  Oh, did I mention we can’t eat fruit for two weeks? I now fantasize about apples and oranges. Sad, I know.

Last night we had a prolonged discussion on cheeseburgers and M&Ms. I finally put a stop to this. Food talk hour is now off limits, punishable by extra eggs. Pretty sure this will work.

Now back to the ricotta. With this diet I’m supposed to whip up dessert every night with this white pasty cheese.  You add slivered almonds,  almond extract, artificial sweetener, and serve it chilled.  Yuma!

Just kidding.

It tasted a bit like gussied up glue. The expressions on family faces ranged from horrified to disgusted.  A bit discouraged, the next night I added cocoa powder and baked it. Like a cheesecake, I thought. Oh, I love cheesecake. But I can’t talk about that. Anyway, it was better, but still far from cheesecake. Did someone say cheesecake?

Well, the good news is, weight is dropping. Three pounds down all around. If we can make friends with the egg we’ll have it in the bag.  On the third week, we’ll see our precious fruit once again. Be introduced to a potato.  If you don’t hear from me in the next ten days it means I’ve slipped into an egg induced coma. Someone please call a chicken. But really, this is a fine diet, as far as diets go.

If I could have it my way, though, I’d create the North Beach Diet. Only those who eat chocolate cake, cheeseburgers and French fries could participate.  No bikinis on this beach. Skinny people are not allowed.  Thighs flap here and have a grand time. Triple chins are all the rage.  Sunsets would swirl with barbecue smoke.  Eggs, ricotta cheese and salad would be curse words punishable by law.

But meanwhile I must go toss a salad.

June 16th, 2009

The Gooseberry Family

You might not know this family, but Mrs. Gooseberry can cook. Mr. Gooseberry builds fabulous birdhouses and bonfires. The boy tells grand stories. All three living among flame colored birds and a stream in back, brisk and swollen with fish. In spring mushrooms hide in their woods, shooting from warmed soil like fleshy bullets.

When seized by morning sunlight, the Gooseberry family rises to the tinkle tinkle of creek noise floating in through screened windows. All are open. Every one.  Mrs. Gooseberry eats her eggs, then rolls Swedish meatballs for dinner. She stuffs them in the crock- pot, the smell eventually simmering in every nook and cranny.  Nightfall finds the family sitting among stars and fire and tree frogs. A breeze blows. They are  like eggs in a nest of land.

To find the Goosberry’s one would twist and turn down dirt roads, past fragrant honeysuckle, draping like spotty lemon-colored quilts above the road. Keep going past trees exploding with tiny orange persimmons, a fat hornets nest buzzing up one. Then cross a wooden bridge that goes click clack, click clack.  A stand of cedar next, big, small and medium. Tucked beside green, their tiny cabin, glass panes gleaming  like sunlit diamonds.

They do not own a TV, not and never have. Books and music are consumed daily. Woods are walked. Gardens tended. They have watched blossoms transform to apples, and bees disappear into flower cups; life up close and personal.

In summer the boy roams the woods, plucking blackberries and gooseberries. When he returns, bucket brimming, mother will make green gooseberry pie.

She would never tell someone new to gooseberries how tart they are, though. But she will watch you take that first sweet/tart bite and grin when you pucker like crazy. Yet she knows you will finish every last bite, curiously satisfied.

Mrs. Gooseberry likes this.

On sunny days, when work is done, Mr. Gooseberry hits plastic golf balls in back, which sometimes plop in the creek, floating downstream like bloated white fish. Other times he inadvertently aims at Mrs. Gooseberry, sitting quietly reading her book.  She’s been popped on the noggin enough with golf balls to automatically flinch when he whacks them, yet still comes outside.

“EXCUSE ME!” she will shout when he accidentally hits her. And if she feels it’s intentional, she pulls out her wide vocabulary and uses it. Mr. Gooseberry then kisses her on the forehead, an easy apology.

Those wacky Gooseberry’s can be found down a country road.

June 10th, 2009

Emotional Rescue

Do you have a  tender heart and experience strong emotions? Can you cry for no decent reason, and laugh a few minutes later?  Does it feel like other people’s emotions sometimes invade your own?  What about intuition and knowing things you shouldn’t? If  you said yes to all of the above then welcome to the club.  When growing up, I wondered if I’d been inflicted with a mysterious ailment.  Was this a blessing or curse?

Sad movies, even when I’m cozy with plot, still manage to make me boo hoo every time. Little Women for example; Beth gets sick. She dies young. “Get the Kleenex ready,” my children say. “Moms watching Little Women.”  They find my reactions humorous, but touching too.

Emotional types tend to laugh loudly too. They usually know how to have a grand time. This flip flop of feeling, I finally realized, was not a curse. We are the way we are for good reason. Better to belly up to our personalities so we can live down to the bones. This takes courage in a world that pops your hand when not conforming. Follow the rules. Do this. Why can’t you be more like so and so?  Now how would you know that? Quit crying.  Stop laughing. Conform, conform, conform, dang you.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always skirted around the rules I could. Walked outside lines. Questioned. It’s surely not the only way to go, but the route is quite lively.

However we choose to go through life, we fight, cry, laugh and dance along as best we can, with what we know.  Just when we’ve grown quite fond of old habits and worn out ways of thinking, change barges in and turns our world topsy turvy.  Shaking us like  coin purses, we crash and pick ourselves back up. Our purse can then be filled with new, shiny change.  At least I think that’s how it works. I’ll get back to you on this.

Be kinder than necessary for we are all fighting a battle. This is a golden sentence. I’m not sure who said it, but they were extremely wise.  Despite our personality types we are on equal  battle ground here. The best we can do is pick each other up when we stumble.  And remember to laugh!

Emotional rescue at its finest.

June 5th, 2009

Light My Fire

Happy for no reason; lighted candles dress up my mood this way. So does moonlight and starlight and turn your head smiles. Sorry if you thought this post was jogging a different direction. I’ll try not to steer you wrong. You see, I have this aversion to those who buy candles and never light them. When they leave the room I want to pop around. Fire them up.

Quick! Where’s the lighter? Matches?

Two vanilla tapers on the mantle. The flicker would be magnificent. Oh, and another two on twisted metal stands by the window, topped with cinnamon colored chunks. Perfectly formed, flame never touching wax. Imagine the whirl of white blue, soft, dreamy, reflective.

These are not my candles so I can’t light them. I shouldn’t. Couldn’t. Can’t. But sweetie I want to say, you don’t know what you’re missing. I want to say life is too fast not to light slow burning candles. Do it and I’ll buy you more. But I say nothing. The candles remain dusty, intact.

My aversion actually covers anything unused. Everything in my home can be touched, sat upon, walked over, enjoyed, worn. There are no mysterious sitting rooms too huffy for human consumption. If I had one, we’d be…hmm, sitting in it. Laughing in it.

When a dish or glass falls victim to my tile floor, I don’t flinch. The lesson came from a then four-year-old daughter’s eyes  when she’d accidentally dropped an heirloom German mug brimming with lemonade. Yelling, I was upset. As I looked in those sky blue eyes blooming with tears, a revelation came. She and her sisters are and always will be my most precious walking, talking everyday heirlooms. From then on I was a changed woman. Not to say I never yell, just not about broken glass.

We have always stopped to smell the candles. Still do. And now that they are teenagers, I can leave candles burning without them playing with hot wax, or trying to start a bonfire. I have loaded up on them. Lit by day, night, anytime I’m feeling vulnerable or romantic or happy or sad.  I even pack them in my suitcase when we travel. On and on and on.

Please excuse me now. I must go light my fire.

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Eleven-year-old Marnie Evans longs to be precious. She wishes on stars for parents who adore her, even though her family is dysfunctional. She also believes that jack rabbits and a boot-wearing Texas angel show her mysterious signs of things to come. Continue Reading

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