Wednesday, December 27, 2006

T'was Two Nights After

The Christmas trees are still aglow. The Taylors are still in their camper in the driveway. There is still left-over ham and Christmas cookies and cranberry tea. However, the guitar strumming in the living room is no longer there. Our lives are no longer brightened by Cecelie's high-powered smile when she is happy and her effective glower when she is putting on her perfect pout with her expressive little face. There are no shit-zus barking when we step into our garage. Those two hopped happily in their Eiler family's van this afternoon ready to take off for the long trip upstate after their vacation in the country and their visit with their "cousin" Fifi, who is still here but not sleeping in our garage.

Presents have been unwrapped, misplaced, broken, and most taken home. Christmas cards are still arriving and being enjoyed. Cousins were still coming and going today--we've seen not just the Eiler three and the Taylor two, but also Samuel, Erin, Geri Ann, and her friend Cece today. The kids have played inside and out, messed up the "art room," and cleaned it up as their parents ordered. For lunch they enjoyed fish from the lake that friends Winnie and Jay brought for us last fall to stash in the freezer. Elijah helped me roll it in cornmeal while Geri Ann had not arrived back here from basketball practice and while Sam and Trent were still sleeping in.

Tonight the eight here enjoyed pizza that Mary Ellen and Brian carried in when Brian picked Mary Ellen up from her sister Katherine's in town. I made hot chocolate although the weather was not really appropriate for it despite the season.

Things are winding down from Christmas and winding up for the new year ahead. We are facing the fact that our younger cousins are entering the teenage stage that the older ones have passed through. I realize that next year that transition will be even further along. Although I know it is what we really want for them, a part of me is reluctant to see the change.

I still remember when I would take four of these tiny cousins to the grocery store with me during a summer visit. They were so cute together. We'd create a sensation with people smiling at us. They need a grandmother's presence less and less now, and they aren't likely to be lined up going into a store with me. That is good and the way it is supposed to be. They are still cute together--putting on skits, playing games, and having serious grown-up talks with each other. David said they watched a TV show about global warming together and are worried. And probably trying to figure out a solution. Another year will really see a big difference in their maturity level. Now the trees are still glowing and there is still some time left to enjoy 2006 and the way they are now.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Ginger Came Through the Surgery

Good news for Christmas is that Ginger came through her open-heart surgery and two by-passes. Her surgery was delayed until they brought in some needed heart product from Saint Louis, and it took a long time for the surgery to be completed for those waiting anxiously in the waiting room. The Glasco brothers and Ginger's brother tried to keep upbeat telling stories to one another, and eventually we got to see the surgeon and hear the wonderful words that Ginger was okay.

We left at that point and came back to Marion and the farm. It would be another hour or so probably before she was out of recovery, and she had a large waiting room of people there who loved her and wanted to see her. She will probably be able to go home in five days.

Since a stroke five Christmases ago took away her short-term memory, I keep wondering if there is any possibility that a Christmas miracle might take place and this surgery in some peculiar way might bring that capacity back to her. This is not something the doctors mentioned as a possibility; the surgery was just to prevent the likelihood of a heart attack. Pray with me for a miracle. Miracles happen, and this is a good season for miracles.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road

Coming home from choir practice and Bible study on Sunday night, I watched carefully for deer as I always try to do. As I topped the hill beside our farm and just before I was to turn into our lane, suddenly there was a dead skunk in the middle of the road. I only had a second to react, but I thought I managed to straddle the creature as I heard no thump. But from there on home, I could smell skunk. So I parked the car outside in the yard rather than in the garage.

The next day it was raining, and Gerald drove the car to town and put it in the garage when he got home--only to quickly decide the car was not yet ready for polite company. So back outside it went.

We did place the car in the garage yesterday. The scent is diminishing. You have to lean over pretty close to the car and sniff, but that smell is still there in a small amount.

Going back to church last night to catch a ride for our presentation of catata music at the nursing home, I worried I might have picked up a little more scent as I think the skunk smell has been spread over a wider area as people have hit and squashed the poor corpse. No one has had the courage to move it off the road. I certainly haven't.

A dead skunk in the middle of the road always reminds me of that song by the same name back in the 70s. Remember it on country music stations? Our young son Gerry and his sisters all loved to listen to W3D in those days and feel connected to the outside world. Gerry was espescially fond of all the call-ins and had a way of embarrassing his sisters--sometimes deliberately as when he persuaded little Mary Ellen to call in and request "Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road." And I think his older sister was embarrassed when he would offer to sell someone else's horse and we would find outselves fielding phone calls from would-be purchasers.

I did not write on schedule last night because I wanted to call my sister Rosemary in Amarillo instead and have a sister talk and wish her a happy birthday. She said they had had the worst ice storm there in 20 years or so. However, her husband and she did get out to the grocery store yesterday afternoon as he drove her there.

This morning I wondered what to write about, and I decided I'd write about our skunk problems tonight. I thought it was kinda funny to share, and it definitely had a rural angle that I am always searching for.

However, I am not in a humorous mood tonight as we just learned this afternoon that our beloved sister-in-law Ginger Glasco is suddenly going to have to have open-heart surgery at Cape Girardeau in the morning at 8 o'clock. I've requested prayer for her, and now I must go to bed so I can get up early in the morning.

We plan to go to Cape as soon as Gerald has what should be a short check-up with his doctor in the morning. I had a check-up this afternoon, and I won't need to see the cardiologist until a year from now. That was lovely news. All I have to do is stay on my medicine and start walking 20 minutes a day--something that I have done in the past more than 20 minutes a day, but that I have gotten lax about. So I have a new year's resolution all prepared.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Cookies Take Flour

Having never tried putting the chocolate chip cookie recipe in a pan to make bar cookies, I decided to break with tradition and try that this morning. I could see that it would save time and simplify the process. What I could not understand was why when I had tried to follow the directions so explicitly the cookies just would not get done. I decided maybe they needed to cool to look right--but they still weren't done and I stuck them back in the oven and kept cooking them one or two minutes more. Finally I gave up, but they just weren't right. "Well," I told Gerald, "I will never try that again."

Driving to town this afternoon to Katherine's and thinking about my bar cookie fiasco, it finally dawned on me what was wrong. Although I had measured out the flour, I must not have added it. Sure enough when I home, I found the unused measured flour on the counter with all the cookie-making ingredients and paraphernalia I had managed to pile on to the counter.

While I do not have a pan of bar cookies, I do have some rich, crunchy, yummy crumbs that I think will make a topping extraordinaire for vanilla ice cream. With a maraschino cherry on the top, I think I've got a new winning dessert. I will put the ice cream in some of the pretty sherbert dishes I've collected from the Salvation Army store. We'll see.

Fortunately, I had also made a couple other cookie recipes, so I had cookies to contribute to the plates we take to our shut-ins when our church carols even though I didn't make the caroling this year.

I am still enjoying the after-glow of our annual women's Christmas gathering at Jo Barger's house on Monday night. The first two people I saw when I walked in were our friends Zella Cain and her daughter Donna, who had brought her. We all have prayed for Zella, who was so upset because she broke her hip right before Donna's son's wedding. Zella is back home from Rehab, and Donna and other children are temporarily staying with her. She handles a walker with great skill and is looking great.

Using ancient song sheets someone typed years ago, we sing and sing Christmas songs ranging from "Up on the House Top" and "Rudolph" to the serious carols.

Another tradition is Jo's display of the little skiers on cotton for snow and skaters on a mirror for ice. Jo has many other decorations for the season, but I look forward to seeing the skiers and skaters every year.

Of course, we all also look forward to the bountiful buffet she prepares for us with a host of various sandwiches, dips, and goodies. And, a choice of her special green punch, served in Santa Claus cups and on the other end of the laden table is hot cranberry tea. If we can't make up our minds, we have some of both.

This year Kim Barger had our devotinal, and she finished with sharing a beautiful children's book The Small One. Our group has a fondness for children's literature, and Kim's having her niece Bethany on the piano bench with her as she read made the story even more attractive.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Errands, Details, Frustrations, Perils

Life in this new century for many Americans is richer, longer, more comfortable, and healthier than anyone could imagine growing up. I read tonight that we are living over seven years longer than in 1967. Average income for women is over twice as high than in 1967. (And men are averaging over $5,000 more income.) The statistic for people 25 and older with a high school diploma has risen from 51.l5% in 1967 to 85.1%.

Going back further than 1967, people my age reminincee of their childhoods without indoor plumbing, one car per family, one phone per family, clothes made from hand-me-downs if they were fortunate enough to have a gifted seamtress for a mother. I remember the size of closets in those days. They did not have to be large. I had two new dresses each fall for school, and I think a third school dress in the closet was probably one from the year before or perhaps that a cousin may have given me. (Some of my favorite clothes were from a cousin I admired. One Sunday outfit was a wine velvet jumper with a pink satin blouse. Those luxurious fabrics still bring a smile to my face when I remember them. Ahhhh.) And, of course, there were jackets, coats, and play clothes. Play clothes were simply dresses too shabby or short for school.

I was expected to take off my school dress when I came in from school and put on play clothes for outside play. I would wear that same school dress the next day. On the third day, I would wear the second dress for two days. I am not sure when we Americans began thinking a child needed a completely new outfit every day.

Unfortunately, some mothers tell about their children using several sets of clothes in one day. My opinion on that is that those mothers need to get a life doing something more important than running a washing machine. However, how they spend their time and laundry soap is their business. Nevertheless, our standards of cleanliness are far higher than those 40 years ago, and sometimes that is a good thing.

I have said all that to say this: despite all the advances and improvements in our American life, there are still plenty of frustrations to test and strengthen our character. (Remember how we were taught that hardships builds character?)

Can you imagine our parents tolerating the constant lost phone calls as our cell phones move in and out of workable areas? How would they have handled the confusion that results when you think someone is talking to you and you turn to see yet another mall walker talking loudly and obliviously on a cell phone interrupting your quiet reverie and thought patterns?

I am on a rant because today was a typical errand day. Taking the knob (one of two) off my kitchen stove to try and replace them, I found out I have to have the model number and the store will have to order the part. Wouldn't it have been nice if the manufacturer had standard knobs for all their stoves and the store kept them on hand?

The little gadget to recharge a phone in the car had gone bad, so I next took it to replace it. At the mall where the phone walkers were--they were legion--I found out the store it originally came from was no longer at the mall. It had moved. No way was I going to walk into the new Wal-Mart to get one because I'd have to park so far away and I had no time to walk that far. I had to get onto the next errand.

I had to sign papers and take my driver's license by the bank because a bank changing its name (one of my pet peeves) had caused a delay in having the papers ready when we stopped the day before. The personnel thought I needed to bring in my social security card, and we'd spent over an hour the night before finding it, but that was not necessary after all.

I had looked unsuccessfully, but when our electricity went out in our neighborhood unexpectedly, it was still lost. Gerald entertained himself by looking through all the stuff he had rearranged from a former safety deposit box and he found not one but three social security cards of mine there. He did this with a flashlight before we finally gave up and went to bed. Fortunately the moon gave us considerable light, and sometime during the night, the electricity and heat came back on and we were able to discard the extra blanket needed earlier.

Gettng back to my errand day--after going by our daughter's, I hurried on to take advantage of the senior discount at Krogers on first Wednesdays. Everyone who has shopped on that day knows what that is like. Bumping into one another. Visiting with old friends. (I mean that two ways.) Walking from one end of the store to the other trying to find stuff and finally giving up in frustration because it is not where you thought it would be. I spent way too much time there and still came away without the powdered sugar, self-rising flour, and laundry detergent I meant to buy. Oh yeah, after I had picked up my prescription for rapid heart beat, I spent the first part of time in the store looking for bottles of flax seed supplements I've always bought there for my daughter because my sister read where the supplements help MS. But no where were they to be found, and the flax bread I like and always pick up an extra loaf for my daughter was all gone.

At the check-out counter, I was delighted when the young clerk told me I would get an even extra percentage off. I could not believe I'd get another discount in addition to my senior discount but she assured me I would. Unfortunately, when she efficiently checked to make sure I got that senior discount, evidently somehow my new credit card did not show I was a senior. I could simply take my receipt over to customer service, she explained. I am already late, I explained. So I still have that errand to do, and I need to find out how to make the new card reflect that I am a senior. But then I also have to go back to town get the recharging gadget also.

Wanna know why I needed new stove knobs? On the afternoon before Thanksgiving, I efficiently decided to saute my onions and celery. I would have them in the fridge all ready to put in the dressing the next day. I needed to get the dressing on early because the big pan I make needs a couple of hours to bake. (I haven't stuffed a turkey since my early marriage days before the food experts start cautioning of the dangers in that.)

Putting the butter in the large skillet to melt, I decided to put on the tablecloth in the dining room. But it was wrinkled, so I rushed to the drier in the garage and threw in the cloth and a cup of water knowing it would be wrinkle free soon.

At that point, I saw the garden tomatoes I'd wrapped to save for Thanksgiving and realized while I had on my work clothes, I should unwrap some throwing away any rotten ones. That way on the holiday I could hand a nice clean bowl of them for someone to slice. (Granddaughter Leslie got that job the next day.)

Proudly taking in my bowl of tomatoes, which have been better flavored than the ones during the dry spell last summer, I saw the butter now in the form of flames shooting up to the mircrowave above the kitchen range. I must have laid down the tomatoes, but I do not remember that. I turned off the burner, covered the skillet with the large glass top hoping it would not explode, and it did not.

Because I had had to start that day early and spend that morning at the hospital taking an echocardiogram and stress test, both of which I passed, I was extremely organized for the next day's dinner. I had expected a fairly restful afternoon and evening. I had not expected to spend an hour or more cleaning up the black smoke and mess I made. I worked hard and fast getting the smoke out of the kitchen and the black soot removed. My hope was to serve Gerald his supper without his noticing my little absent-minded mistake.

Why? Well, I truly did not want to ruin his holiday knowing I had made another job for him to do. He has been busy correcting problems from a lightning surge last summer, redoing his office, getting photographs made for Christmas, and other projects. He does not need another job. (I haven't done anything but play telephone tag yet with the bi-county health person I hope to check out the microwave door as I am afraid to use it until I know it is not going to give out dangerous emissions.) If we have to replace it, of course, Gerald will be involved. I won't have a clue. (I am not sure if this is learned helplessness or true ineptitude, but I am not very good at a great many things.)

I really did not want to tell him about this fire just before we were all set to have a lovely family holiday and make him fret like I was doing. Of course, the main reason may have been that when I have scorched pans two or three times recently because I was distracted and wasn't paying attention to my cooking, his calm, kind, and exact words were, "Sue, you are going to burn the house down if you are not more careful." My pride kept me from wanting to reward him so quickly for his ability to prophesy.

Believe it or not, he did not notice when he came up for the bite of supper I'd prepared for us. (And he is the observant one in the family. But he just doesn't pay much attention to stoves, and somehow he did not see the blackened underside of the microwave. I think he has just gotten use to the smell of smoke when I cook.)

When it was time to reheat stuff for our gang for supper on Thanksgiving night, suddenly I had no microwave in the kitchen to do it in, and my dirty little secret became public knowledge. Ah well. I have always hoped my lack of housekeeping skills made other women feel better about themselves. Maybe my absent mindedness will make some of you reading my blog know you aren't as distractible as some people!