Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Back to being Froggy

This big guy towers over me these days. We were present the day he was born. When he was placed in Grandpa's arms, Bill gave me "the look" and motioned me out into the hall. Alarm registered on his face. He whispered, "Did they tell his parents? Do they know? I can't believe everyone's so calm."

"What's the matter?"

Sean was bundled as any newborn, and he had the cutest little face. I didn't see a thing wrong with him.

"This baby's only a foot long. He doesn't have any legs. I'm telling you, I cannot feel his legs or feet. Didn't the doctor's tell them?"

I laughed out loud. "He still has "frog" legs from being positioned in the womb. They're drawn up."

Confusion, relief, and embarrassment flooded his face.

Baby Sean's legs grew and grew, and when he began to walk, nobody could keep up with him. He would dart to whatever caught his fleeting toddler attention, investigate everything, and talk to strangers. One day, the family was at Happy Joe's Pizza Parlor and Arcade.

I challenged the preschoolers to a game of skee ball.  Sean was seated in his high chair at the table with Bill and his two daughters, the kids' moms.

"Come on kids, I'm a skee ball champion." I dropped a token into the slot, drew back that wooden ball and was ready to prove my prowess when someone shouted,  "Sean's missing!"

I found him immediately. He was sitting behind the plexiglass inside my skee ball machine. His little bottom positioned in the 500 point cup, he gazed out at me with a mile-wide grin.

I shouted, "Unplug the machine before he gets electrocuted!" People gathered to see the kid who had scooted up the skee ball alley, slid under the gap, and plunked himself in the high-point pocket.

That is only one of many of his antics which caused someone to run to him. He has never outgrown his curiosity, his sense of humor, his zest for life. He loved scouts and Venturing and is always ready to lend a helping hand. In fact he told me at Christmas his after graduation plans were to live with each set of grandparents for three months and help them with whatever they needed. How sweet!

He has leadership ability, a good heart, and a desire to see the world. And I guess we'll still be doing our own chores.

Today he is going to the recruiting office to take preliminary tests and prepare to enter the Navy, as his father and grandfather did when they were his age. He is probably going to follow further in their footsteps and become a paramedic-firefighter. Our young man has goals! We are so proud of long-legged Sean. He now will have to grow "sea" legs. I think I'll call him Froggy.

  

Sunday, May 21, 2017

FREE brings them out of the woodwork!

"FREE" 

The word is a magnet. I saw an advertisement for free skin cancer screening at a local cancer center from 8:00 a.m. ─1:00 p.m. on a first come, first served basis. I arrived 45 minutes early and happened to be the fourth in line. Inside the building I realized there were two women ahead of us, which made me the sixth in line. We were instructed to take one of the fifty seats in a reception area.

Now, having taught for many years, I know what happens when everyone wants to be the leader, be first in line, or loses their place. I knew the six of us would line up accordingly, but what if more people arrived? They arrived in droves. A woman about 80 years old, announced to the people in charge, and the entire room, she had been the first one here at 7:00 a.m. and should be seen first.

Nobody was going to deny her line leader. Having dealt with people who get butted out of line, I knew the best system would have been to hand out numbers like at the supermarket deli counter. But nope, the people in charge continued to direct everyone to take a seat. With every new butt planted in chair, #1 got more and more antsy and kept announcing SHE was the first. In fifteen minutes all of the seats filled.

The people in charge handed out clipboards with registration forms attached. I could see a problem. The five of us is "line" behind #1, were younger and filled out our forms in less than three minutes. We were instructed to give the completed forms to a receptionist and move to the other side of the room and occupy one of those fifty chairs.  #1 complained, finally completed her form, joined us on the other side, and told every new arrival, "I am first."

As we waited, people continued to file in like ants at a picnic, and soon there was standing room only.
My husband says I'm nosey...

I gazed around and decided there were enough characters in that room to fill a book.
A very well-dressed woman, about seventy-five, had Betty Davis eyes. Over each bulging orbit rose a replica of the St. Louis Gateway Arch. I'm not just talking arched brows. Much like the real Arch that towers 630 feet over the city, her brows rose into the skyline up onto her forehead, which gave her an astonished expression.  

The couple seated behind me sounded like young, squeaky-voiced newlyweds, sweet talking one another, teasing with love words. I turned around to see a couple of gray haired hippies. She was lovingly flicking breakfast particles off his face, and he was responding like a cat, raising his chin for her to scratch, and she did... as he purred in public. 

In waltzed a couple in their fifties, California dreamers wearing flamboyant caftan shirts, white Bermudas and flip flops. They discussed their wealth, their Mazarati, golf dates, and generally flaunted their high lives in high volumes. 

The more I gazed, the more I gaped, so I focused on the woman with an armload of clipboards. She stood before us and called, "Arlene Smith." Several times she repeated the call out, scanned the room, sing-songed, "Arrrleeene." 

Finally, I pointed to #1 who was busy telling the people around her she was first. She stood, slightly bowed to the room, and announced, "I told you I was first!"

I was called fourth. I was in and out of my clothes in record time, and the doctor was in and out of the exam room in a flash. She left me with a pink piece of paper declaring me skin cancer-free. I left her with a blue paper gown, got dressed, and  hustled out of that place. 

I saw a  lanky, six-feet-tall, elderly woman with flowing, wiry, platinum hair, wearing a blouse, baggy micro shorts exposing skinny legs, wearing red high heels!!! She was riffling through the trunk of her car. As I drove away, she straightened up and exposed a painted face: heavy bright blue eye shadow, red cheeks, and a beard... HE was a cross dresser. 
  

And they say kids these days dress and act crazy! Next time I see a sign for FREE anything, I think I'll pass, unless it's dark chocolate, but with my luck it would be Ex-lax.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Babysitting "Baby Alex"

Liam and I went to Kirkwood park, a lovely wooded area, with two playgrounds and a lake. We stopped to examine the activity of hundreds of bees and butterflies on purple flowers. Bumble bees were buzzing, and butterflies were flitting. He was fascinated and said, "I want one." 

 He dropped one of his crackers, and three mallard ducks came to gobble the crumbs. We heard quacking from across the lake and were delighted to see this mama duck with her eight ducklings. Of course we had to feed her, too. Then, it was off to the playground with "baby Alex."

 This bald baby doll, which is about the same size as Alex, who is growing inside his mommy, used to belong to Liam's mom. So when I showed it to him, he claimed it as his brudder. What better way to get him ready to accept a tiny intruder into his life who will require lots of attention?

Liam climbed the rock wall with him and took him down the slide, and

on the dinosaur rocker. He tried to show him to a little girl named Heidi, but she was "too cranky" according to the roving reporter who thinks everyone is his friend. Heidi's mom laughed and said, "Liam is going to be that boy who chases the girls who are hard to get." Probably.
 He wants me to fill a dozen water balloons when he comes to visit, and then he shares them with the children at the playground. Amazing, they don't pop right away. The kids toss and chase them and giggle. Parents seem to be as thrilled as the children.

At nearly 90 degrees, he went "swimming" with baby Alex. See that trickle coming out of Alex? Liam ( who is almost potty trained) said, "I'm going to take off his pants and show him how to go potty."  I convinced him this was a doll and he wouldn't be able to. Thank goodness my curious little guy listened to me. I so appreciate every precious minute with this little wise guy. Look at how long his legs and arms are. He will look like a giant compared to Alex, who is due in late August.
Wishing you a happiness.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Happy Mother's Day to my mama


Ten years ago my mom, Virginia, aka: Nana Ginny, Maw-Maw, went to Heaven. I miss her everyday, especially THIS day.

On Mother's Day 2007, we went camping because nature has a way of easing me over rough spots. 

I awoke at dawn, mounted my bike, and sped across the concrete dam at Lake Carlisle. I was trying to outrun my overwhelming sadness and blow the stench of guilt off me. 

I  looked to the sky, searched the lake, yearned for a sign. As a tear trickled,  I got a sudden whiff of Mom's signature vanilla fragrance, and then... she touched me.  



Mourning Mom

High atop the dam
I pedal hard,
 feeling low.
Boats below with billowed sails
ripple the lake.

I tag the wind and search the sky for you.
A tear springs hot; I bid it not to splash.
I do not want to rock a boat,
especially mine.

As I bike away from
anguished thoughts.
wind gusts snatch my sorrow,
storm clouds swallow silent sobs.

I pause and mouth a simple prayer,
“God, let her be okay.”
I whiff a burst of hope and promise
on the early morning breeze.

Gentle tug upon my hair
tingles down my spine.
Did I really breathe your scent
and feel your tender touch,
or was that the universe caressing me?



Friday, May 12, 2017

Was it a coincidence?


I have been writing and publishing humor or upbeat memoir for more than twenty years. I should have been writing dark stuff last week, because I sure was singing the blues. Ready to quit writing.

Rejections are a part of the writing life. I usually shrug them off, and send my submissions elsewhere. I am resilient and determined.

It was like a Domino rally of rejection slips last week, one after another, day after day. The constant rejections collapsed my eagerness to write. I moaned and groaned on Facebook and derailed for a few days, but I am back on track, thanks to a supportive community of friends and writers who allowed me my pity party. THANK YOU ONE AND ALL.

Most would consider what happened to me Saturday night a coincidence. I had a haunting dream that bothered me for two days. I dreamed my late, elderly dad climbed into my bed and laid on his back next to me. He was frail and failing, and he gave me an ominous message in a very weak voice. "Just wait. Wait till Tuesday."

Then I woke up. A sense of doom hung over me as I expected to hear the worst on Tuesday.

That was the day I received an acceptance that helped pull me out of my doldrums. My story is about my dad, and it will be published in Sasee Magazine for the Father's Day issue.

As sure as I know editorial rejections are a certainty, I am also certain this message came directly from on high. Thanks, Dad.


Saturday, May 6, 2017

Creme in the middle, coconut on top


When I was a little girl, our home was located right behind a neighborhood confectionery. Oh those chocolate Hostess cupcakes! I loved those creme-filled delights, and I never understood why Dad peeled off the chocolate icing which had a little white squiggle down the center.  

He only liked the cake. To tell you the truth, I prefer the cake with only a small taste of the too-sweet icing. That little white dollop of creme in the cake center makes me salivate thinking about it. Dad also liked jelly roll snack cakes, but his favorite was 

Snoballs originally were white, but now come in a variety of colors for special occasions.

Pink − Standard, year around

Green (Lucky Puffs) – St. Patrick's Day

Lavender (Hoppers) – Spring

Neon green (Glo Balls) – Halloween

Orange (Glo Balls) – Halloween

White – Winter 

In case you haven't purchased a Sno ball in a while, they have melted, um, shrunk, to half their original size. 

First introduced in 1947, the coconut-covered, marshmallow-frosted cakes were white, and they lacked creme filling until 1950. At one time manufactured and owned by Hostess, they are now owned by private equity firms, Apollo Global Management and Metropolous & Co.

When my children were in elementary school, I accompanied them on a field trip to the local Hostess Plant. We rode through the factory on a tram and watched how Twinkies are filled and packaged, and we observed how a machine put perfect white squiggles atop the chocolate icing on the Hostess chocolate cup cakes.

A supervisor came into a break room with a selection of snack cakes for everyone. I was as thrilled as the kids. Ding Dongs, Banana Flips, Ho-Hos, mini chocolate donuts, fruit pies. I could go on and on traveling down Memory Lane.


We were at the grocery store and came across a little Snoball gem all by itself on the bread shelf. Discarded by a hectic mom who snatched it from her toddler? A second thought cast off, reconsideration from someone whose jeans are getting snug? A leftover from St. Partrick's Day or dare I say, Halloween?

WOW! Did the hand painted windows at the restaurant take me back to when I was eight years old. At holiday seasons all of the neighborhood merchants selected 8th graders to paint their windows. I so wanted to do that, but by the time I made it to eighth grade, the practice had faded. 

When I became an early childhood teacher, I'd get out the tempera paints and allow the students to paint "fireworks," and flowers, and holiday decorations on the windows. Yes, of course I participated!

Talk about brilliant, almost blinding light. Look at this! The sun made an appearance.

So, Thursday night, at 8:00 p.m., on a very cold and cloudy day, this is what filled the sky. I can't tell you how I rejoiced. The flood waters have receded and the cleanup has begun in our town. We were fortunate not to have been affected by the two month's worth of rain St. Louis received in a few short days.

I know you may think I am "snowing" you, but during the stormy weather, Western Kansas was receiving four inches of snow per hour. Crazy weather!




Thursday, May 4, 2017

Here we go again!

 In December 2015 St. Louis had a 500 year flood that wiped out homes, towns and devastated areas all across the Midwest. This week major rivers and tributaries are rushing out of their banks, breaching levees and overtaking towns across the Plains. It is still raining and the rivers have not crested.

Sixteen months after the last major event, we are experiencing another historic flood. This time residents were more prepared, and volunteer sandbaggers worked hard to save the businesses in historic Eureka, MO and other towns. I have friends going through this horrible devastation, again. 

Major highways and over 100 roads have been closed.  Authorities and officials are telling people to choose a side. Literally. You will be stranded to the north or south of the Meramec River which is again swallowing homes, bridges, towns. We live at least five miles from the nearest river, which is shown in  this newspaper clip. Our family members are affected. Trying to get to work has been a tremendous battle, as secondary and rural routes are going under and being closed.




At noon Wednesday we were headed to the grocery store and Taco Bell for lunch. After stopping at three different CLOSED Taco Bells because employees were stranded, it made us aware of the economic impact this flood is creating for individuals and businesses. Many employees, staff and faculty members from businesses and schools on high ground cannot get to work. They live on the South side of the Meramec River which has bisected our town.  Many who work or live in Jefferson County are stranded or choosing to stay put there. This flood is separating us.

Those on the North side of the waterway who live or work in St. Louis County are also hunkering down there. Some have no choice. Hospital personnel are staying at work because they cannot get home and are afraid if they do make it home, the rivers will rise and cut off their road access. 

 It is an absolute mess here.

There was one passable lane on a secondary road in South County yesterday, and the semi trucks were heading convoy-like in that direction. What would have taken minutes to travel, took hours.

This is what we came upon as we drove five miles south to the grocery store. Interstate 55 southbound was completely shut down just past Highway 270., two exits away from us.

And this morning, the news channel showed an aerial view of the Arch grounds. The Mississippi River is at 40.6 feet and still rising. The muddy waters are almost to the top steps of the Arch grounds, which have been newly replanted and designed for future outdoor use. And...

It is still raining! Our local weather guy announced this closing, "Noah's Ark Daycare is closed due to flooding."

It's either laugh or cry around here.

Next week's weather prediction, sunny and 80 degrees. Wow! What a ride.