Thursday, June 21, 2012

Straddling a porcelain throne

A long time ago, before George and Morgan towered over me, they had gotten into the shaving cream.  When they heard Mama coming, Morgan ran to wash off. It was a natural reaction for a toddler.

It was not natural this morning at dawn to see my husband straddling his toilet in the wrong direction. Think bareback riding backwards. I thought he had spritzed the floor and decided to save himself from my wrath.

"Why are you peeing sitting down AND backwards? Miss your aim? Need a Cheerio target?"

"Ahem," he looked me in the eye. "I am fixing the tank on my toilet. The chain came off."

I really yanked his chain!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Camp Wyman and Little Big Mouth

The first day of summer is a big deal to me because it was also my late mom's birthday. My daughter used to say that my mom reminded her of Sophia, (Estelle Getty), the little grandma on The Golden Girls. Mom was outspoken, fun, funny, caring, and did I say outspoken?

Mom had four sisters, a brother and a rough time as a child. She was flighty, fidgety, had no mouth filter and a "one track mind" according to her parents who thought she was difficult to handle. Having witnessed my mom flit from subject to subject and pace constantly, and her inability to complete a sentence, I recognize the signs for what we now refer to as ADHD, attention deficit hyper activity disorder. Life wasn't easy for her or her parents during the Great Depression. But one positive experience of her young life was so significant she talked about it all the time: Camp Wyman, a summer camp for underpriviliged city children. Those two weeks of her seventh summer were so significant and such a positive experience.

In 1997, I'd read about the upcoming Centennial Anniversary of Camp Wyman. The facility was open to the public for a huge celebration on that weekend. I surprised my mom and stepdad with a drive to Eureka, near Six Flags where Camp Wyman is located. She was mouthy about not wanting to go to Six Flags. Due to construction, I had to take a detour down a two lane country road. She could not figure out where I was taking her. She saw a sign advertising Camp Wyman and said, "Oh, I went there when I was a child." And she began reminiscing about her experiences.

I parked the car near the back of a bank of cabins on a hill and said, "I think I'm lost. Let's see where we are."

My mom nearly fainted with excitement when she realized that she was standing in front of the cabin she'd stayed in as a little girl. She walked inside, and suddenly all of the stories she had told repetitivley over the years came alive for both of us. She was seven again pointing out this and that.

We walked to the main lodge where they had all sorts of memorabilia on display. My lively, little 67 year old mom was in her glory. She didn't find any photos of herself, but she did recognize some of her friends. And then, a gentleman in charge greeted us. When I told him that my mom had attended Camp Wyman he wanted to interview her. She was thrilled. She fluffed her graying curls and raised her head higher than I'd ever seen it, and beamed a smile that could have lit up the night.

He took our family into a room and told her to sit in a comfy arm chair. I sat on the arm, and then he turned on a video cam and said, "Virginia, tell us all about your adventure here. Just talk naturally into the camera."

I rolled my eyes. Oh crap! Our Little Golden Girl was about to let it spew. I knew those stories by heart.

"Well you see, those two weeks of my young life were the most memorable. I got to get away from home and have fun. I remember Mrs. ___.  She was big and matronly and mean. She wasn't very nice to kids. She called me Miss Pee-Pee because I wet the bed every night, and she made me walk the plank, that area between the cabins..."

"Mom, no! Tell a good memory."

The man said, "Let her talk. We want candid accounts of former campers' experiences."

And talk she did. She shared her fondest memories of eating in a mess hall, doing arts and crafts, and swimming in the biggest pool she'd ever seen. She spilled her guts about the good, the bad, and the ugly. While the gentleman laughed, and I cringed, the camera rolled. My contorted facial expressions, gasps and forehead slapping (mine, not hers) are on video somewhere in Camp Wyman archives.

On this day, when my mother would have been 82 years old, I put my hands together and applaud her for survivng her own life, giving me mine, my brother his, and for adoring her grandchildren and especially her great-grandchildren. For a job well done, doing the best she could, I send a prayer heavenward. Mom, I hope you are dancing with the angels in heaven today.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Niagra did I

Nik Wallenda tightrope tiptoed across Niagra Falls. I didn't deliberately set out to span a wide body of water, and I didn't have the TV cameras on me. Unlike Nik, my confidence is as bad as my balance and I just knew once I was hovering above the water I'd be taking a dive.

My son and his family were on vacation and he said I could use their above ground pool. My daughter-in-law's twin sister lives next door, and she had the key to the ladder lock, but she was occupied, and rather than wait for her to finish an important phone call, I said, "Nevermind, I'll manage."

I pulled the picinic table over to the side of the pool and yanked a chair up to the table, and climbed up to the rail. I hiked my lard butt over and plopped in. Something about floating with a large rubber ducky made me relax. But I kept smelling an overpowering odor of chlorine. How did I know the ducky held a four inch chunk of solid chlorine? I shoved that duck to the other side of the pool and enjoyed my swim. Okay, float.

My daughter-in-law's young nephew came over and offered me the key. I smiled and said, "It's okay, I'm already in. Thank you."

I didn't think about getting out.  An hour later, I climbed up the ladder, threw my left leg on the railing and did the splits as my right thigh and inside of my upper arm hit the ladder when it shifted and slipped out from under me. I bobbed a time or two, looked around to see who saw, and when I saw no one, I tugged myself out. I yanked the table and chair back into place and pretended I was fine. The ladder is lopsided and the bottom is dislodged. My bones aren't broken and my unsightly bruises will eventually heal.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Worse than a cock-a-doodle

If that loud-mouth red head keeps it up I am going to have to toss something at him. Bill has ruined him and all the rest by tossing out breakfast at dawn. Today, when I can sleep in, that cardinal is on the telephone wire screaming like an infant hungry for his two o'clock feeding. I swear he's worse than a rooster. And by the way, what is it with all the chicken coops around town? One of my blog buddies calls her feathered darlings her "frhens."

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Up the nose

July 4, 1969: America celebrates her freedom and I am looking forward to my first taste.

My first airplane ride: heart pounding as the plane took off down the runway with more G force than the time we drag raced in Larry Pelts suped-up GTO down Hall Street at 100 MPH with my head pinned to the back of the seat, the hot rod's RPMs and my pulse competing for high number.

Off to Alaska: to join my soldier husband in a remote little frontier town, Delta Junction, formerly called Buffalo, because a free-range herd roamed the town located at the end of the Alaska Highway .

Fourth of July celebration two days after I arrived: Full Bird Colonel Rhodes the keynote speaker on the parade grounds where dependents sat on bleachers and observed in complete silence (because if we disrupted, our soldiers received the dreaded Article 15...enough of those and families were sent back home.)

The honor guard, carrying a variety of flags representing country, state, military etc. preceded the esteemed speakers. The first guy, carrying the American flag looked just like scrawny actor, Don Knotts. The wind gusted at times to 30 mph and dust swirled. This guy gave it his all, walking against the wind, bent like the hunchback of Notre Dame strutting across the parade grounds trying to balance the flag pole on his midsection. The wind died down and the flag bearer stood up straight. The colonel rambled on and on, and the wind kicked up.

I have always been observant. I nudged Sheila, my neighbor and pointed at the guy with the American flag trying to stand perfectly still without shifting his eyes or weight while the flag fringe flew up his nostrils every time the wind gusted. We giggled under our breaths and had to put our hands over our own mouths to keep our husbands from getting that dreaded Article 15. I can't watch The Ghost and Mr. Chicken without laughing out loud at the memories of the color guard with fringe-filled nostrils.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Three Cheers for the red, white and blue

Thursday is Flag Day and my bet is there will be few flags flying in the breeze. How quickly people become incensed and band together for a cause, and then how quickly they forget.

When my kids were small, Cherokee Street was still a thriving six-block-long shopping district. Independently owned store front businesses specialized in shoes, jewelry, clothing ... they sold everything that the big box stores sell today. There were four, 5&10 cent varitey stores: SS Kresgee's, Woolworth's, Morris Variety and Neisners. This was before air conditioning. The stores had overhead ceiling fans which moved the hot air around in summer. I loved the "dime stores". Kresgee's served counter food. Greasy sloppy joe meat sat all day in warming pans and hot dogs rolled endlessly on electric heat rollers at S.S. Kresgee. The wafting smell of popcorn, peanuts and candy displayed in glass cases made my mouth water. Woolworths had booths and counter stools to spin on. Favorite Bakery across the street baked the best butter cookies. Proper Shoe sold the extra wide high tops my little boy required. We could have bought a week's worth of groceries for what we paid Gerry Mandel's dad for those white baby shoes ;)

The highlight of the beginning of summer was the Flag Day parade and kiddie carnival set up at the intersection of Nebraska and Cherokee Steets. When the band marched by, my daughter, 5 and son, 2 marched in place at the curb waving their little flags. You know how sometimes you get caught up in the moment and lose yourself? My little guy's legs were going a mile a minute. He was waving his flag like a sparkler on the 4th of July.  Momentum took over and he took off, right into the street to march with the band. Yikes! I embarrassed easily back then; now I laugh at the memory.

Tomorrow I shall hang Old Glory and refelct on the freedoms she represents. Tomorrow I shall tell you about a Flag Day in Alaska. Please come back.

Saturday, June 9, 2012


Earlier today I did a presentation on the topic of writing creative non-fiction, personal essays and how to write a character sketch. I discovered that I enjoy teaching people of all ages. I like tripping over little kids and big words. I would like to do more writing workshops and maybe go on the $peakers circuit.

On my way to the workshop location I lost my breath for a minute and my heart raced when I caught a glance of her. I kept my eye on the petite older woman wearing a summer sun cap with a wide bill like my late mom used to wear. For a moment I thought it was her. I felt a wave of euphoria  wash over me, but in a split second I exhaled when I realized it was a little old lady walking in the park. I really miss my mom today.

Today several characters made me gasp. We were shopping at Burlington Coat Factory, a well known department store in town. I saw an old friend and her sister; we were highschool classmates. It was such a nice surprise. Gasp!

I also sucked in my breath when we got in the car and a middle-age man walked out of the store wearing what appeared to be ONLY a T-shirt and shoes. Turned out, he was also wearing a black Speedo. EWWW! If this were a beach town or resort area, I could understand...maybe. Gasp!

We stopped for ice cream, and a mother exited her car and allowed her toddler to flit around the parking lot AS CARS WERE ENTERING AND EXITING and honking. Gasp!

I spied several guys with dime-size black button earrings in their lobes.  Perhaps someone told them that pierced ears eventually close up when one quits wearing earrings. No way with these guys. They will forever have two more permanent holes in their heads. Gasp!

I saw a teen girl with piercings all across her bottom lip and in her eyebrows. She looked like Bride of Frankenstein. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I know. Gasp!

I also saw an elderly woman waiting at a bus stop. She had the sweetest grandmotherly face and more  bicep tattoos than a biker babe. Gasp! Well, maybe she WAS a biker babe.

Characters everywhere today! How about you? Care to share?

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Surprise! Surprise! Surprise! as Gomer once said

I had such a surprise last night at critique group. My fellow WWWPs, (wild women wielding pens) presented me with so many wonderful gifts for my birthday. You know you are getting old when you tell everyone you work with that you're a year older than you actually are, and they correct you! I've begun to question my sanity.

I saw three of my critique group members sitting in the livingroom, so I walked in. The hostess was wearing a wrist support for carpal tunnel, and her hand was up to her throat.

The minute I opened the door they all looked stunned. I swear I thought she had been injured, broke her neck, had her throat slit (writer's mind, sorry).

"What's wrong? Oh my!" I was serious!

They smiled, then looked at each other and laughed nervously. "Tell me what happened to you." I begged. "What is going on?"

"Uhmm, we thought you were (the other member)." Well that was some welcome!

Then they all laughed at me standing there looking and acting utterly foolish. The place where I sit on the sofa had a giant card, turquoise (my favorite color) six feet tall, with a dozen kinds of candies and the most wonderful messages: You're a Lifesaver, and a Three Musketeer... some I can't share, because we really ARE WILD WWPs. It was the most fun, unique card/sweet gift. Not to mention the chocolate wine, the lusicous cheese cake, the yummy pinwheel sandwiches, and the dozen little beach-related gifts tucked into a wonderful straw hat.

I was thrilled, stunned, hurt because only one wished me happy birthday on FaceBook. Last night was a laugh a minute, a lot of fun and a great surprise. I am thankful for my writing budddies who helped me critique an essay last month that I submitted to Sasee about exercise. And to my added delight, I just received notice that it was accepted for the July issue.

To my WWWPs: I love you, ladies!

Our critique group is a women's support group for about half an hour, and then we get down to business. My friends each have a unique writing voice and style. I am amazed at their talents. If you do not have a critique group, form one or find a writing partner, because we all need a fresh perspective, someone else's point of view.

Oh yeah, I am happy. Thanks for all the birthday wishes and all of you who visit my blog. Hugs.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Feather Heads

Ahhh, the good earth. We have an abundance and variety of birds in our back yard. Every morning a fat daddy cardinal, a brown mama with the reddest beak, a loud mouth blue jay, or an orange bellied rotund robin sit on the fence waiting for Bill to come out and whistle. The black starlings inch their way in but get chased away by the other birds, ususally. Some days they get a piece of whole grain bread, other times, strawberry or watermelon rinds. It's the mocking birds that have tripped my hubby's trigger. They come this close to us and beg for fried eggs. The mama swoops within inches of us and takes a bite off the egg and flies to the fence to feed her wailing youngster. Nature at its best.

Mother Nature's gift to me on my birthday.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

One sweet thought after another

I grew up on bakery goods. I'm not talking those airy donuts and brick hard ones that two companies offered free on donut day. There used to be German bakeries all over town where you could get your fill of pastries, donuts, cream puffs and especially coffee cakes. They were baked in jelly roll pans, so they didn't rise more than an inch or two and they were sliced and sold in 4"x8" sections, wrapped in white paper and tied with a string. They were slathered with fruit pie fillings, or my favorite, crumbs, big sweet crumbly, melt-in-your-mouth buttery sugary crumbs. Bill's favorite and a close second for me was peanut cake, smeared with thick white icing and topped with red skinned peanuts. Cheesecake filling was another favorite.

One year we went to Boston to visit friends. We ended up in the North End, Little Italy. We ate a delicious meal and then went with our friends to a coffee house where I ordered a fruit pastry and Bill ordered what he thought was a cream horn made of phyllo dough stuffed with sweet cream and powdered sugar. When he bit into that ricotta cheese-filled cannoli, I thought he was going to throw up. Proof that looks can be deceiving. Italian pastries are bit different from German pastries.

One look at me, however, and you can see evidence of years of coffee cakes and cream puffs. My maternal grandmother was German, my maternal grandfather was Italian. If you grew up in North St. Louis, Koobs and Knoodles Bakeries were catch phrases for "day olds" and delectable sweets.

Now for a tell all: when Bill was called Billy, he took his church offering, skipped down the alley and knelt at Koob's altar of sugar and lard.

Today he took off on his three mile hike at 6:00 a.m. I walked the opposite direction and met him half way. He said, "Hi babe, what do you want for breakfast?"

"Crumb cake, peanut rolls, cheese Danish."

I ate a bowl of whole grain cereal with almonds and fresh strawberries.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Missed My Vacation

Twenty something years ago, when we were thin and young, my honey and I took a brief jaunt to Nashville. It was a fiasco.

We headed for the heartland to visit tourist sites;
just a mini vacation, only for three nights.
We chugged up Look Out Mountain to see what we could see,
Bug guts on the windshield affecting visibility.

My honey pulled to the side of the road, and rummaged through the trunk.
He finally found the glass cleaner among all our travel junk.
He scrubbed the windows front and back, and then he washed the sides.
He hustled over to where I sat, and sprayed Windex in my eyes.

“I thought you had the window up!” He shouted as I wailed.
“I thought that you could see I didn’t, and now my vision’s failed.”
We drove down Lookout Mountain. I didn’t see a thing!
We ended up in Nashville where the country singers sing.

We saw Rheiman Auditorium and toured the historic sight.
Then we got a hotel room and prepared to spend the night.
We found our room at the top of the stairs; the door it stood ajar.
So, we placed our luggage on the bed and headed back to the car.

We ate a lovely meal; it really was the best.
Our bellies were so full; we decided to take a rest.
My honey put the key in the lock; he twisted it and he turned.
We had to find the manager, and this is what we learned:

our luggage was in room 201 A, where we could plainly see,
but the room we rented was 201 B and 201 A didn’t have a key!
We waited for a locksmith. We were exhausted tired and crabby.
Then we boarded a shuttle bus, driven by a former, crazy cabby.

We made it to the Grand Old Opry, saw Hank Jr. and many more.
Hank sang this tired old gal to sleep, and I began to snore.
Yes, we went to Look Out Mountain and the place where the country singers sing.
I can honestly say we went there, but I didn’t see a thing.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Tenting it

This crazy weather is downright nippy and out of season, but then who knows why we had summer weather in March? It feels like camping weather. Lying in bed with the cool breeze blowing in the window, I had to chuckle as I thought about a time when the children were little and we were tent camping. It began to rain, so I had a bright idea. Rather than lie on the ground on sleeping bags, I suggested to the kids' dad that we erect the tent over an over-sized, sturdy picnic table and sleep off the ground. It was a great idea that worked well. Well, that is, until I woke during the night and had to go to the bathroom. This city girl didn't know how dark pitch dark could be. Rather than trot across the road to the bathroom, I decided to sneak behind the tent and pee. As I was hiking my drawers up, I heard rustling nearby. I imagined Big Foot, a killer, and then I saw this monster deer coming towards me, so I ran like a crazed woman, bare butt shining and darted headlong into the unzipped tent...and crashed into the picinc table. Kaboing! I saw more stars in that tent than in the night sky.

You'd think I would have knocked some sense into myself, but no. When hubby #2 asked if I liked to go camping, I smiled and nodded, which is best in many situations. I did request a cot. He packed up the equipment and we headed to Branson on the hottest day of summer. That evening he put up the six feet long army cots and iserted them into the five feet long pup tent.

I love being out in nature, but these days I prefer a real bed and bathroom.