UNEXPECTED SURPRISES

One day recently I woke up and realized I was full of anticipation instead of dread for what the day would bring. What a revelation! I’ve lived with dread for such a long time that I had forgotten there was any other way to feel. A long hospital stay and the death of a loved one tends to have that effect on a person.

I don’t usually have anything in particular to do or to accomplish but my day can, and often does, hold unexpected surprises. Even if I do nothing in particular, my day is a blank canvass to fill as I choose….instead of filling it with mandatory doctor appointments, hospital visits, worry and dread.

That doesn’t mean I’m never sad or that I don’t miss my husband. On the contrary, everything reminds me of him, some things more than others. For instance I saw a man in the grocery store wearing a western shirt and wham, the thoughts of my husband made me weak kneed. Anyone who knew my husband remembers that the only shirts he wore were western shirts, except on Sunday when the traditional white shirt took its place briefly. I have three sons who love western shirts too and my youngest grandson who’s not yet two, wore one of his grandfather’s ‘cowboy’ shirts around one morning with it trailing behind him and flapping off his arms. Maybe another western shirt lover in the making? Sweet!

When I hear one of my husbands favorite songs I get misty eyed; or when I make spaghetti [yes, I’m finally eating it again] I think of him and his abrupt appetite change in the last months of his life. Steaks and hamburgers will forever remind me of him; my daughter, who was never a steak lover, commented one day that she was hungry for one of his steaks….me too Julie, me too. When the lawn care people mow the lawn outside my apartment I’m reminded of my husband’s weekly all-day chore of mowing our four acres and how he complained about it but secretly enjoyed it. I’m always watching the birds around my area, one of his favorite hobbies. I have a Dove nesting in the high reaches of my front porch and he’d enjoy observing that.

All these memories have become more sweet than hurtful and my anticipation and hope are not dimmed by them, just enriched. How very strange to wake up with a sense of well-being and thoughts of what nice things the day might bring. I don’t know how long this feeling will last, I’m guessing as long as my health remains stable which is a good reason to work on that.

So I have nothing planned for today, what shall I do? Make some jam or pepper relish? Bake up some yummy [but healthy] treats? Read a good book? Do some on-line shopping? I do have three young grandsons with birthdays in the next couple of months. Take a walk? [not in this triple digit weather] Maybe nap while I’m deciding? Well yes, why not, that sounds like a good plan to me… see you in my dreams, and when I wake maybe I’ll have one of those unexpected surprises.

ANOTHER FIRST

I’ve had many ‘firsts’ this last year, now I must add another one, much to my chagrin. I was recently pulled over for speeding. Who knew I’d become a speed demon in my old age…if you can call going 45 miles an hour speeding, and obviously you can given the right circumstances. When my grandson sees someone else on the road going that slow he says they’re driving ‘like a granny.’ Ouch, that hurts, but it describes this granny well.

Maybe I better explain;  On the road I most travel, a bridge separates the town in which I live from the next town. In the other town the speed limit is 45 and in my town [unknown to me until recently] it’s 35 so I was zipping along at 45 mph…more or less; the officer said it was 47 mph so I want argue. I hasten to say that I didn’t get a ticket, just a written warning but it was a definite caution for me to be more mindful when driving. I’m guessing that the officer who pulled me over, took pity on me because I am a ‘granny’ . I really hadn’t seen any speed limit signs on my side of the bridge, but the next time I went that way I did take note of some. I don’t understand why I didn’t see them before since I’m usually a stickler for speed observance. It’s a little bit scary if I’ve just had my head in the clouds or been oblivious to my surroundings. The only other explanation I can come up with [besides being old] is that the speed limit signs were just recently posted. And I think that’s very possible, even probable since that’s a newly opened road where work on the shoulders has been on going. Anyway, I prefer that scenario to any other.

What makes this sad and even rather funny is that I just recently got a large cut in my insurance premium because of my safe driving habits and now for the first time ever I get pulled over for speeding!  Needless to say, I won’t make that mistake again, that’s where cruise control comes in handy; some things are better as only firsts.

TODAY

Today my heart is full of love and gratitude for the exceptional man I married 54 years ago; Today my heart is filled with the loneliness and grief of missing him; Today my heart smiles at the wonderful memories we made together; Today my pain seems insurmountable; Today my heart sings with the knowledge that he’s waiting for me with as much anticipation as he did on our wedding day; Today I can’t wait to be with him again….tomorrow.

Yes today my heart, mind and emotions run the gambit of things remembered and felt. It’s strange how all these todays slip through my fingers as if made of quick silver. They seem to go by faster and faster, like a rock rolling down a hill gathering speed as it descends.  At this rate, tomorrow will come sooner than even I can imagine.

How lucky I’ve been in love; how lucky I’ve been in life; how lucky I am to have such fine children to help me brave all the todays without Bruce until tomorrow does come. Most days I’m not sad anymore, not really. There’s so much life going on around me, so many things to find joy in. And then I still need to work on myself a little more before, well before tomorrow. But today my thoughts center on Bruce and the many ways my life has been enriched because of him and his unconditional and all-encompassing love. Thank you Bruce and….Happy Anniversary!

I SCREAM, YOU SCREAM….

What’ll it be? Strawberry, salty caramel nut, cookies and cream, kiwi mango, chocolate mint, peach? Maybe your taste runs to the classics of plain chocolate or the all time favorite, vanilla. My husband preferred vanilla most of the time, however after one of his surgeries he wanted nothing but homemade orange crush ice cream, and in the months before he passed away he was on a Wendy’s chocolate Frosty kick.

Perhaps you tend to the more exotic flavors or even sorbet or gelato. My mother had a penchant for orange sherbet and I remember flagging down the ice cream truck in our neighborhood many times to get her an Orange Pushup. I usually prefer the hand dipped variety over soft ice cream, my all time favorite being Jamoca Almond Fudge, but here lately I’ve been craving a thick malt or ‘blast’ of some kind. I’m not usually one to care one way or the other about having ice cream, unlike my father who had to have his daily bowl [or two] of the frozen confection, but something about this near 100 degree Texas weather has me thinking along these lines.

I remember the excitement of making ice cream as a child in our hand cranked freezer; we each ‘got’ to turn the crank which was part of the charm and novelty of making and eating it. This was a summer activity that took place outdoors under a shade tree. Of course we always had boxes of ice cream in our freezer but somehow it tasted better when we made it ourselves. When we lived in Alaska and had our food flown in once a month we always got two or three flavors in five gallon buckets…my father wasn’t going to chance running out and he loved it even in minus forty degree weather.

I remember when the hand cranked freezer gave way to the electric model. How upscale we felt, and how much easier and quicker it was to have homemade ice cream. A few years after that an electric model which didn’t require the addition of ice or salt, only the freezing of the ingredient bowl came on the market. At one time we even had a refrigerator with an ice cream making attachment in the freezer where after adding the desired ingredients, all the work was done automatically sight unseen. It was a tragic event when lightning struck our refrigerator and rendered it useless along with the magic ice cream maker.

In the summer months when I struggled to find things to keep my small children busy and happy, making ice cream in a rolling can was always a hit. All one has to do is fill a # 10 can with ice and salt after inserting a smaller can filled with the ice cream makings, put a lid on both cans and let the children roll the can back and forth to each other. It’s fun for them as well as a, literally, cool activity. When they get tired of rolling it around, the ice cream is ready to enjoy.

Ice cream’s origins reach as far back as the second century B.C. Alexander The Great enjoyed snow flavored with honey and nectar. During the Roman Empire Nero Claudius Caesar [A.D. 54-86] frequently sent runners into the mountains for snow, which was then flavored with fruits and juices.

A thousand years later Marco Polo returned from the Far East with a recipe that resembled what we now call sherbet. England seemed to have discovered ice cream at the same time as the Italians. “Cream Ice” as it was called was enjoyed regularly by the royalty. It wasn’t until 1660 that ice cream was made available to the general public.

The first official account of ice cream in the New World was at the table of Maryland Governor, William Bladen. The first advertisement for ice cream appeared in The New York Gazette on May 12, 1777. George Washington spent $200 for ice cream during the summer of 1790.  A frozen strawberry confection was served at President Thomas Jefferson’s inauguration and he had his own special vanilla ice cream recipe.

It wasn’t until 1851 that ice cream could be enjoyed by more than the elite because of technological innovations of making, storing and distribution. Ice cream became an edible morale symbol during World War Two. In 1945 the first ‘floating ice cream parlor’ was built for sailors in the western Pacific and commanders of different troops tried to outdo each other in offering their troops more flavors than the others. When the war ended and restrictions of dairy products was lifted, America celebrated its victory with ice cream. In 1946 an average of 20 quarts per person was consumed. Today the amount Americans consume exceeds 1.6 billion gallons annually.

I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream. So what’ll it be, what’s your poison…er favorite? And how will you enjoy it…in a bowl, in a cone, on a stick, between two cookies, blended in a cup, in a float, on a piece of pie, with sprinkles or just…plain? The flavors are as endless as my memories of this sweet frozen treat. Go ahead, what are you waiting for? There’s no time like the present to indulge your passion for ice cream, it’s summer….and that about sums it up, nothing else needs saying.

ARE YOU A SNEAKERHEAD?

What is it about women and shoes? They seem to go together like peanut butter and jelly or bread and butter. No matter how old we become, nothing can cheer us like a new pair of shoes [except chocolate]. As for myself, I’ve long since given up spike heels, but oh I do remember those glory days! I don’t wear shoes with much of a heel anymore unless it’s a good pair of medium wedge heels which give me stability as well as a modicum of comfort.

But we have so many different kinds of foot wear to choose from these days that no one blinks an eye if we wear flats, sandals or boots instead of heels to most any event. I heard this morning of a place in Europe though that turns away a woman if she isn’t wearing heels…how ridiculous is that! Why do women wear heels anyway, is it for themselves or to catch the attention of the opposite sex? Possibly both. Heels certainly aren’t comfortable and worn on a daily basis they cause foot injury. I have to admit there was a time I voted for looks over comfort but those days are gone with my youth.

Like most women, I do love shoes and one or two pair simply aren’t enough. We need a pair to match each outfit as well as an array of seasonal shoes,. I’m always on the lookout for attractive, comfortable shoes which aren’t as easy to find as one might suppose, so sometimes finding a good pair is through trial and error….I shudder to think of all the errors I’ve made.

I’ve long labored under the notion that a shoe fetish was the sole [pun intended] domain of females but my teenage grandson recently informed me that’s not the case anymore. He said that these days guys like a variety shoes as much as girls do and that their closets boast an astonishing number of them. I guess that should come as no surprise, in fact it was inevitable; as the old saying goes, ‘what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander’. 

Originally shoes were tied to function only but today many are valued for their esthetics. They vary from sandals with only a thin sole and simple strap to high fashion shoes made of expensive materials costing thousands of dollars. Other shoes are made for a specific purpose such as hiking, climbing, mountaineering, boating, golfing, dancing, running, wrestling, basketball, water sports, etc.

Traditionally shoes have been made from leather, wood or canvas but are increasingly made from rubber, plastics, and other petrochemical-derived materials. It’s been noted that some of these shoes take on average 20 years to degrade in a landfill…kinda makes one think, doesn’t it?

The earliest shoes are sandals dating from 7,000 or 8,000 BCE, found in the Fort Rock Cave in Oregon in 1938. The world’s earliest leather shoes was found in 2008 in Armenia, dating to 3,500 B.C. Thong sandals, the precursor of the modern flip-flop, dates to 4,000 B.C. in ancient Egypt.

Until the 19th century shoemaking was a traditional handicraft, but by the century’s end, the process was almost completely mechanized with production occurring in large factories. In 2012 the shoe industry had an overall market of $122.9 billion with The Peoples Republic of China holding 63 percent of the production. It wasn’t until 1818 that the right shoe was invented in Philadelphia. Until that time no distinction was made between the left or right foot. Sounds a mite uncomfortable, doesn’t it?

Shoes have found their way into our culture, folk-lore, literature and art. In urban subculture a sneakerhead is a person who owns multiple pairs of shoes as a form of collection or fashion. How many of us must plead guilty to that?

During the 16th century women began wearing extremely high heels, they were so high they needed servants to help them walk. In Venice stilt shoes were invented and a law was enforced limiting the size of heels on women’s shoes because women would fall to their death off their shoes. In 2010 a ten inch heel, known as the Armadillo heel, was made for a fashion show but models wisely refused to wear them because of the danger they posed on the runway….duh, you think?

If you ever get to Toronto, Canada you can visit the only shoe museum in North America, showcasing shoes spanning 4,500 years.

While most of us own several pairs of shoes, we’ve left behind the traditions of many cultures involving them such as a groom drinking a toast from the bride’s shoe; or a couple tossing the brides red shoe from a rooftop for good luck; or the ceremony of a father giving the groom-to-be a pair of shoes symbolizing the giving of his authority over his daughter to his new son-in-law. Sometimes old traditions are slow to die, other times people can’t wait to see the departing dust.

If you’re a sneakerhead you might as well enjoy it since it’s unlikely your status quo will change. Once in a while I get rid of a pair of shoes but it’s awfully hard to do even if they aren’t very comfortable. At least I have the satisfaction of knowing none of my shoes were made with two left feet; I can’t even imagine the agony that would cause, no wonder people preferred going barefoot for so long!  I just got a new pair of leopard print wedge heel Sketchers sandals that are as cute as they are comfortable, so here’s to you my fellow sneakerheads, here’s to you!

BIRTHDAY

It’s almost time for another birthday [yea, yea, I know I said I’d have no more, but at this point each additional birthday is like acquiring another gold star on my forehead and who can resist that?] and the ‘old’ jokes have already begun. I was speaking to my youngest son the other morning and mentioned that I hadn’t felt up to par this week but didn’t know what was wrong. Without missing a beat he said, “I know what’s wrong, you’re getting old!” How dare he have the audacity to mention my getting old when he’s on the north side of thirty-five himself. But I guess he’s right, I am getting old, old enough that I can get away with blaming any and everything on being old; come to think of it that might actually have some advantages. For instance if I’m getting forgetful, it’s because I’m old. Garrulous? I’m old; Hard of hearing? I’m old; Flatulent? I’m old; Bad eating habits? I’m old; Poor hygiene? I’m old; Nosey? I’m old; Anti-social? I’m old. See how this works? It’s like I have a ‘get out of jail free’ card for every situation and isn’t that golden? That must be why they call these the Golden Years.

My quarterly Dr. appointment last week showed that I’m in good shape [for the shape I’m in]. My A1C is in the normal range and my cholesterol and triglycerides are all good. Nevertheless I know I need to increase my activity level. I know this because I’m told this repeadly. Both my sons here in Wylie have gym memberships and have suggested they add me, so what’s my excuse? Well, you see, umm, ah, cough, uh, I guess I don’t really have one….unless it’s that I’m too old.

Yes, that’s it! I’m just too old. Or as my husband was so fond of saying,”old as dirt.” But in this case, I don’t think that excuse is gonna work. As long as I can hobble around I need to keep on hobbling [so they tell me]. It’s possible that if I actually went to the gym I might come to like it [yea, when pigs fly] or at the very least, go long enough for it to become a habit. I mean, after all, lots of people have bad habits, right?

Anyway, I’m thinking [key word here…thinking] seriously about going to the gym two or three times a week. I really believe I will…..unless it’s raining, or windy, or hot, or cold, or sunny, or cloudy or, well you get the picture of what I’m facing. I really don’t know what I have against exercise; I need someone to just take charge of that part of my life and make me do it because I’m too old to make myself do it.

am thinking about it though and that’s the first step toward accomplishing any goal. I wonder how long I can safely think about it before deciding not to? Maybe I’ll just go shopping more often and walk around the store a couple of extra times. At least that way I can fool myself into thinking it’s not exercise. Hold on, what was I just speaking of? I can’t seem to remember….oh well, it probably wasn’t important anyway.

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ODD OR JUST PLAIN SMART?

Have you ever noticed that almost every one you meet is just a little…’odd’, if not downright weird? Most of the time it’s easy to overlook the oddness of others because it’s those differences that make people interesting and worth knowing, but sometimes…

We knew a man in Alaska who had a new set of china dishes flown in each month on the commissary plane. As he used each dish he threw it away rather than washing it. When all the dishes were gone he started on a new set. No paper plates or cheap dishes for him, they had to be good china ones. Odd? Well maybe not if you liked using good china and didn’t like washing dishes.

I knew a woman who loved her dogs more than anything, even more than her husband it seemed. She refused to cook for her husband but regularly cooked full meals for her dogs. Those dogs ate better than most folks do and what’s more her husband didn’t seem to mind. Odd? Evidently that couple didn’t think so…or else he didn’t like her cooking.

Then there was the woman who cleaned her house in the nude. Now I’m not knocking that, whatever floats your boat I say, especially if you wind up with sparkling windows and floors. But I can’t help wondering if she kept a robe handy for answering the door.

When I was a teen I knew someone who wouldn’t eat in front of anyone. This person took his food to a secluded place and consumed it in solitude. Then there are those that don’t want different types of food to touch each other on the plate and they eat one food completely before going on to another. Again, nothing wrong with this, it’s just different from the way I do things…odd as I mentioned.

My maternal grandfather had an odd way of getting rid of unwanted visitors, especially his daughter’s suitors. He’d start undressing for bed in their presence; I’m told it worked like a charm. Another odd thing he did was to pour his hot coffee from his cup into a saucer before drinking it. Why even bother with a cup?

My own mother had a few quirks of her own, though I’m sure she’d say there was nothing odd about eating chow-chow or pepper relish on her morning biscuits and gravy or catsup on her eggs, but by my standards…

And then there was the man who was seen on more than one occasion bailing water from his front yard with a bucket….during a rain storm. Now it might be considered just a little odd to do that at any time but during a rain storm is nothing short of weird, at least in my opinion.

We’ve all met people who regularly talk to themselves but last week I met someone who also answers herself. As she explained to me unapologetically, when she wants an intelligent conversation no one can fill the bill as well as herself. Odd or just plain smart?

Of course I’m totally without quirks. I’m as normal as apple pie and vanilla ice cream, though my dear departed husband used to say to me, “everyone is weird except for me and thee, and I sometimes wonder about thee.” My sentiments exactly. And I guess the crux of the matter is simply this; if anyone does things differently than we ourselves do them we deem it to be odd. So I’ll excuse your oddness if you’ll excuse mine. It’s said that variety is the spice of life and I say that variety also brings a few chuckles.

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