Thinning

I have 633 posts here but i’m not sure if WordPress is counting drafts. Although I haven’t written much here in the last year or two I still think about doing it almost every single day. Then I get all busy or lazy and go to Facebook to look for some quick way to say what might have been a blog post. And it’s been great, I love the interactions I have there and it’s so easy to post a quick photo and and and.

Not much writing gets done. Not here (my word gym), not anywhere.

A lot has happened in the last year. Our youngest, Spanky has finished high school and moved away to go to college. Fortunately she chose a school in Austin, a place we’ve always wanted to move to when the kids are all grown up. So we found a place in Austin in October and have slowly been moving things over there, waiting for the spring market to put the house near Dallas up for sale.

Actually it is a little more complicated than that, we have another college-aged daughter living at home who just finished her first two years at community college. She’s going to move to Austin as well and try to get into one of the universities near there.

Right now I’ve got to get the house ready for market. It seems like an impossible task. With each previous move we got a larger house and these new places were just a block from each other. This time we’re downsizing. And that is where the pain comes in. We’re not pack rats, but hell, it just seems like I never had to get rid of anything to fit a new thing in these places.

It’s not a big deal with things like furniture, we’ve been selling that stuff on Craigslist pretty easily. It’s going through boxes of drawings and notes my kids did when they were growing up. Letters from my parents and friends from far away, things my mom and dad made for me, things I made for my kids (I used to sew a lot). I can’t keep everything, I don’t have the room, so I’ve got to thin them out.

Some of these things have been in a box for over ten years. I have long forgotten memories that go with these things, they flood my brain and emotions and I fear if I threw the item away the memory will go with it.

And I miss my children being children. I wish I had a stronger version of myself to go through these things. I know once these things are gone I’ll have an overall feeling of lightness because all of these things are heavy.

Editing is good. I just need to get through it.

…the best way out is always through

“…the best way out is always through.” Robert Frost, A Servant to Servants.

Long time ago we used to have a dwarf rabbit named Bugs, the first pet our family had that wasn’t a fish. When Bugs died, Spanky cried and asked me, “Will I ever get over this?”

She would get over this, I knew she would. She was only about eight years-old at the time, would she remember she’d had a pet rabbit at all? I didn’t tell her she might completely forget Bugs. Or forget this entire conversation when she learned about mortality.

Mortality, I’ll tell you when you worry most about that.

When a child is born, parents start a countdown. I’d like to think most of us, at the very least, want to live to see our child reach adulthood.

So on Spanky’s eighteenth birthday, I felt a great sense of accomplishment. She grew up with both parents, was never orphaned. I’m pointing out Spanky because she is the youngest. I felt the same about the other two but I still had the finish line on the entire parenting thing to think about.

What crept up on me the entire time I was raising my children was the flip-side of this countdown. They’re going to leave. Go to college. Get married. They have to. This is life.

And this is where things are right now and it has my mind in a complete state of fuckery and it hurts and this was a long time coming and I know I’m being selfish…

BUT

Will I ever get over this?

Discovered this Frost quote on a bathroom wall in a bookstore near the campus where Spank is going to college when I took her to orientation this summer

This too, same stall. Walls do talk.

Lost

It seems impossible in the digital age with GPS nav and mobile phones to get lost, right?

Over the weekend there was a hot air balloon festival in our city, a really huge deal with tens of thousands of people at a nature preserve. We went in two cars because some of us were leaving at different times. I had a special parking pass for an up close lot because Spanky was volunteering, so we didn’t park together.

I couldn’t find a place to park and Spanky had to be there at a certain time, so I dropped her off at the gate and told her to call and let me know where she would be.

It wasn’t until after I parked and she was long gone that I realized my phone wasn’t working. When I got to the festival entrance I talked to some other people and they told me their phones weren’t working either. I found the volunteer station and they told me what booth she was working, but they pointed me in the wrong direction when they told me how to get there.

So I wandered and wandered around all by myself. And you know me, I get distracted by shiny sparkly things. So this is from the point of view of a lost person, lost in the dark with blinking things:

Finally a text comes through. Blane is looking for me. But I can’t text him back.

And I think to myself, where would I look for me?

I had snuck under the ropes and got up as close as I could to those balloons. No one noticed that I was out of place and didn’t belong to any of the balloon teams.

Finally the phones all started working again and we all reunited over a fried Snickers bar.

Beignets (recipe)

Can you believe we saw a Café du Monde in Japan? True. About two days into that trip I told everyone (over and over) that everything works as it should in Japan. Or that everything is as it should be. Yeah. That’s what I said.

You going to have donuts? Then they should be the best in the world. Beignets. They got ‘em in Japan.

Proof:

No, I did not see Krispy Kreme or Dunkin’ Donuts there.

So today, for Mother’s Day, I’m missing my mom who is too many miles away. She often cooks beignets and uses several recipes. I’ve blogged about it :::here::: with easy recipes for when you want to make them in a hurry. If you set out a day ahead of time, or maybe just a few hours early, you may want to try the following recipe which I find tastes identical to Café du Monde’s.

New Orleans Doughnuts

1 package active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup undiluted evaporated milk
1/4 cup soft shortening
7 cups all purpose flour
oil for frying
confectioners sugar

In large bowl, sprinkle yeast over water; stir to dissolve. Add sugar, salt, eggs and milk. Blend with rotary beater. Add 4 cups of the flour; beat smooth. add shortening; beat in remaining flour. Cover and chill overnight.


You don’t really have to chill it overnight, but at least let it rise for an hour and then punch down the dough once before rolling out. To store in fridge, I put a chunk of butter or shortening in a gallon Ziplock bag to grease the inside then put my dough in there.

Roll out on floured board to 1/8 inch thickness. Cut into 2 1/2 inch squares. Deep fry at 360 degrees 2 to 3 minutes or until lightly browned on each side. Drain on paper towels. Sprinkle heavily with confectioners sugar. Makes about 5 dozen – Dough keeps well in refrigerator for several days. Cover bowl with Saran Wrap and punch down occasionally.

(recipe credit Marguerite Lyle, pg 44, Talk About Good! (Le Livre de la Cuisine de Lafayette).


I have to use a thermometer or I burn the oil.

They taste and rise better if you can make this dough a day ahead of time. Also, it is easier to take about 1/4 of the dough from the fridge and roll that out instead of working with all of it in one go. Seven cups of flour makes one gigantic hunk of dough.

Serve with café au lait (coffee milk: 1/2 cup coffee mixed with 1/2 cup warm milk). Put on some jazz, dip your beignets in the coffee and wish your mamma was Cajun.

The Babysitter

Frances was the greatest sixteen year-old train wreck I ever knew. I was only about eleven at the time and although my mom told us she was “hired” to babysit us one summer, it didn’t take long for us to figure out it was the other way around.

Frances was pimply faced, rotund, and wore Coke bottle glasses that made her eyes look the size of an infant’s. She spoke with a lisp and a slur that was probably caused by all the epilepsy medications she took. I don’t know if it was the obesity or the meds that caused her to sweat profusely, but she was always soaked and she smelled odd. Not typical BO, something different. Moldy. Or like the chemicals she was taking.

Worse than all that, she had the mental age of an eight year-old but the raging hormones of a girl her age.

I can’t think of anything she had going for her but us. She had no father to speak of, and her mother, Shirley was a waitress that could pass for a hooker. First time I saw Shirley, I asked my mom if she was a go-go dancer because of the sparkly blue eye shadow she wore from her fake lashes to her brows. The mini-skirt and white patent leather boots added to this look. All of those things had been out of style for many years and only skanks dressed that way back then.

Mom insisted the woman was only a waitress, she just didn’t know how to wear makeup. My mom had been an Avon lady thus was an expert in these matters.

That particular summer Mom and Shirley worked long night shifts together at a restaurant. During the day Mom was home, but she had to sleep. My dad would be gone a week at a time with his work, so there were many days we had to take care of ourselves.

We were an active bunch, my brothers and I. Early in the mornings we headed out to the swimming pool at the park or chopped down nearby forests to build our clubhouse/fort. My older brother was thirteen, and the way we saw things, we didn’t need no babysitter. Frances slowed us down. Complaining about the situation brought no results. My mom felt sorry for Frances and her mom and somebody had to do something about this.

So we took Frances everywhere with us that summer. It was the hottest one I can remember and we didn’t have air conditioner. At the peak of the heat wave I’d stick my head in the deep freezer at night for some relief. Staying home in daylight hours was out of the question. The library was one of the few spots we could hit up for some free air.

Frances did believe she was the babysitter and since she didn’t try to boss us around, we never told her any different. At the library, she checked out some braille books. I had never heard of that and didn’t realize she was legally blind. At night she’d read her braille books to us (in the dark!) and although we weren’t sure if she’d made up these stories or not, we went with it. She also taught us how to read numbers in braille.

My dad wasn’t crazy about it, having this girl in our home all day and spending the night more often than not. After a few weeks of this, he insisted we bring her home and stop this madness.

We packed Frances’ things (you would not believe how quickly most of the things she owned were at our place) and went to drop her off. Her mom refused to take her back. I don’t know what the situation was, maybe she was mentally ill, but Frances came back home with us that day and didn’t return home until school started that fall.

The worst thing about her was that she couldn’t experience emotions such as joy or laughter. We were pretty big on that and when Frances couldn’t get our jokes, she felt like a heavier burden. We weren’t saints, but we never teased, made fun of her, or did anything to make her cry. We just dragged her around with us and made sure she didn’t get lost.

One thing she did experience was love. She was crazy about this guy named Jimmy at her school and that’s all she ever talked about. JimmyJimmyJimmyJimmyJimmy. I was pretty certain by the stories she told that he didn’t love her back. I wasn’t sure he actually existed, honestly, Frances did have some confusion about reality. Since we weren’t even sure this boy existed, we’d encourage her to call him up on the phone. We helped her find the number and taught her how to use the phone. After that, she called his house obsessively. The mother would always answer and say he wasn’t home. So Frances was convinced the mother was the reason Jimmy never called her back when she’d leave our number.

It was difficult to see what sort of things we were learning from her that summer. I already knew people were mean and shitty towards the mentally handicapped. People are not courageous and willing to stand up for society’s weak, they are basically animals. Survival of the fittest rules. We weren’t crazy about hanging around with a sixteen year-old. Or an eight year-old. And Frances was both.

None of our friends were fond of her. In fact, in only a matter of weeks, all our friends dumped us. I wish I could say that I told every kid off who rejected us or that I made some speech at the pool about how people just need to chill, that the mentally handicapped need friends too. Or that I didn’t need them, anyway. But I didn’t have that sort of courage.

Frances, on the other hand, had loads of courage. We were afraid to make phone calls for simple things such as finding out store hours or if they had a certain item in stock. Not a problem for Frances. AND prank calls. We got Frances to do them, and she was pretty damn good with her flat affect and inability to laugh. Us, we couldn’t stop the giggling long enough to get the first sentence out.

For threatening situations, like big kids ganging up on us, Frances was our bouncer. She wasn’t afraid of anyone, and like I said, she was a big girl. Also, due to her handicap, people believed she had gorilla strength.

Her greatest act of courage came on a day my dad was set to return from his week long work trip. On those days, I’d wait at home for him, obsessively checking out the windows to see if his car was in the driveway yet. But not Frances. She’d hide out in one of the back rooms because she sensed how he felt about her always being at the house.

On that day, my dad drove up but did not get out of the car. Mom had a doctors appointment so she wasn’t home. I ran out the door to greet my dad at the car and could see immediately that something was wrong with him. He was pale, sweaty, and weak. There was a bag of ice on his lap, propped against his belly.

He told me he had a terrible stomach ache and had the ice there to make it feel better. I asked him to get into the house and lie down, but he said he couldn’t move for now. He was too weak. So I stayed out there talking to him for about a half hour. His eyes were closed most of the time, I think he was in a lot of pain. When he finally garnered the strength to get out the car, he stood up and then collapsed to the ground.

I couldn’t get him to wake up, so I screamed for Frances to come help. when she stuck her head out the door to see what was the problem I told her it was an emergency to call for an ambulance.

Frances: I don’t know the number.

Me: Dial zero. An operator will answer.

She goes off and I stay outside with my dad. A minute or so later, Frances sticks her head out the door again. “What’s the address?”

I told her the street number and name, but she couldn’t remember and kept coming back. So I broke it down for her, told her the number and had her come back for the street name.

And that worked. Within minutes the ambulance was there to pick up my dad. As they put him on the stretcher, the sheets got soaked with blood. My dad had a bleeding ulcer. My mom arrived home just as the ambulance was leaving so she went to the ER and left me home alone again with Frances. I was terribly worried my dad would die and he almost did, he took 44 pints of blood during the surgery to repair his stomach. (It is unheard of, even to this day for a patient get that much blood in one day and live).

While Frances and I were waiting the long hours for information about Dad, she didn’t talk about Jimmy. She was just quiet and listened to my worries. Then she did something she seemed incapable of. She gave me a hug when she saw me crying. And I didn’t care that she was sweaty and smelly. Or that she was sixteen. Or eight.

When did this happen?

Years ago, on a Christmas day, I was snorkeling in a little country in Central America. The captain of the boat was a local, about 25 years old. He said he had never gone anywhere and had no desire to leave his tropical paradise except for one thing. Snow. I liked the way his face lit up and his eyes smiled when he said that word. My face probably mirrored his, being from the South, I haven’t seen it too often.

Never as much as last Thursday, a foot of snow in 24 hours.

Snow brings out the little kid in me. I scream and giggle and look out all the windows. I yank out the cameras, the video cam, and I’m out there, even if it’s the middle of the night. I’ve got to capture this stuff that makes the world look so different in just under an hour.

So Thursday morning I go wake the kids early to see the biggest snowflakes I’ve ever seen down south. They don’t get mad at me because they have never ever seen them this huge. Then they go back to sleep because they are sure they will see this again. I keep watching as if it is the very first and last time I have seen snow. It does this to me every time.


Look at the snow on the RV!

They didn’t cancel the schools on the day it snowed. People tell me it’s because the superintendent is from Wisconsin and he’s a hardass about that. It bothers me because while Wisconsin might be able to handle icy roads with their salt and scraper trucks, we don’t have that stuff down here. People also don’t know how to drive in snow and ice and there are a lot of pickup trucks with rear wheel drives. They don’t stay on the road.

After school we only had an hour of daylight to find something to do in the snow. Spank and I went to the park and one of her friends met us there. I wandered around taking photos while she built this miniature snow family.


They are about eight inches tall. Cute!

I was quite surprised she made a family because earlier she said we should make a snowman firing squad aimed at another snowman with a bandana over his eyes.

Later that evening, Blane (the husb.) who had been trying to get a flight back home from a work trip called to say he had finally made it to the airport here. While he was fighting icy roads and traffic to get home, I tried to get the kids to come out with me to make that firing squad in the driveway. I told them when their dad got out the car to check it out, we’d spring from behind the van and pelt him with a thousand snowballs.

But nobody wanted to go back out. I gave them a pass because they had been sick a couple of days earlier. Then I went outside and made a three snowman firing squad. Put the charcoal eyes and carrot noses on them and when I went to the front yard to get some branches, two of them fell over.

So I was down to one snowman, which I just called an assassin. I grabbed the first hat I could find, a beret, and put that on him.

When Spanky saw him she laughed. She was mostly looking at his beret.

Spanky: He’s French?

Me: Not just any French, that’s Jean Reno, The Professional!

She was impressed, as she should be, I put this thing together in less than an hour. Still, she didn’t want to join in the ambush.

Spanky: You really going to slam Dad with snowballs after he’s been traveling?

Me: Yup. And if that was me I’d want y’all to do the same.

She went back inside and I hid in my spot with some snowballs.

Right in front of the van.

Blane drove up and parked when he saw the assassin snowman. I didn’t have the heart to ambush him for real, I just pelted his windshield enough to make him laugh.

The next day school was cancelled and I kept begging the kids to come out so we could go sledding or make snow angels or have a snowball war or something. I don’t know when exactly it was that they grew up, I’d hoped that would never happen, that they’d always want to play out in the snow. I know when I realized it. The moment they turned me down.

So I whistled for the dogs and let them run like wild wolves in the snow. They will always be pups.

What’s New?

I never really did like to celebrate New Years Eve. It seems like the stupidest holiday. Like we’re kicking out the past and starting new again just because we’re starting another calendar year.

I don’t feel it.

Demarkations on a calendar, even the lines between the days don’t mean too much to me. Maybe I got like that by working so many graveyard shifts. Coming in one day, leaving the next. It was just a shift for me. Actually, the change in date during work gave us a little bit of extra paperwork to do.

I think what it really is, this holiday, it scares me. Too many accidents. I’m so glad it’s over and I got to see all three of my kids healthy and happy today. Whew.

I should be ashamed

I don’t know why I have a fascination with amusement park type machines/gadgets for home kitchens, but I do. Years ago I kicked off my collection with a cotton candy machine.

It’s not the toy one, it is a good sized machine that makes full sized cones of fluff. Of course I didn’t pay full price for it, I stalked that thing in the store until it went down to about $30. Through the years it has been the big thing to pull out for the kids’ birthday parties.

We have had just about every type of snowball machine you can imagine and if there is a hand crank or Snoopy character involved, you can bank on having your shoulder go out. No photo of that one, but we have an electric one somewhere and it is probably the one machine the kids have used the most.

The hot dog roller is fun to drag out by the pool in the summertime.

But the donut machine thingy was a total disappointment, I never could make a good one and none of us are crazy about fried anything.

I should have known better, if we’re going to eat donuts, this is the way to do it.

I never get these machines unless they are on clearance. Don’t know why I’m like that, maybe it helps with the guilt.

For Christmas I got Blane a popcorn machine. He’s been saying for about 5 years that he wants one and he was going to find just the right one, but he never got around to it. I found one on sale at Kohl’s for $30, the same one they are selling at Target for $100.
You have to see this in action, so I uploaded to YouTube:

I swear I didn’t really buy this for myself. I originally bought it for Blane Jr. but someone else gave him one, so I asked Blane Sr. if he wanted it. He jumped on it like a kid in a candy store. Or like me in the clearance aisle.

Time to watch a movie.

Covered

I’m a big fan of As Seen on TV things, in fact I’m known to piss away money on just about every product they can throw at me. It’s a big joke in this family, my weakness for those things.

I was never impressed with the Snuggie, however, and the jingle makes me cringe.

I am impressed with their marketing. Who would have thought those things would be such a hot selling item? The stores around here, they knew. Starting at halloween they had mountains of them for sale. Intuition or whatever you call that inner voice said, buy one of those stupid things because there will be none left a week before Christmas and you will want to send that to someone. I resisted buying one until I saw all of those stacks of Snuggies dwindle down to nothing.

Sure as shit I did find myself driving around looking everywhere for the blanket with sleeves to give my mom. I don’t know why I thought I had to get it for her, but by the time I found one on Amazon.com, I had pretty much convinced myself that my mom would freeze to death in her house without it.

Then I wanted to get one for Blane. Now that’s bat shit crazy because we don’t want or need another blanket in the house. We have stacks of throws in a basket behind the sofa and there is no room for another.

So why did I buy him an electric throw for Christmas?

One thing in particular I haven’t wanted in this house is an electric blanket. It’s not about the fire hazard or that we don’t have room for it, it is about an aversion to them. I don’t even like seeing them in stores. I know that sounds crazy, but when my dad was dying in the hospital he kept asking everyone to bring him an electric blanket, that he was so cold.

I knew hospitals don’t allow them and he was too sick to understand that or to remember that he had already asked for it a million other times.

So I hate electric blankets because they remind me of a dying wish that was not fulfilled.

And this has been sixteen years since my father passed.

So while looking for that Snuggie thing, I got to go near the electric blanket section in the store and I had my usual gutted feeling. Then I thought, I have got to think about this differently. I grabbed one and bought it.

Got home, wrapped myself in that thing and felt almost as if I’d gotten a hug from my dad.

I went out the next day and bought more “hugs” for Christmas. One for Blane, one for my son, one for his wife. They loved them. It was a great gift, and probably way better than a Snuggie.

Chicken Thing

Wii came out with a new game, WiiFit Plus. My favorite game on there is the Chicken thing. It might have an official name, but that’s what we all call it because you get on the balance board and flap your arms like a chicken to fly.

I know chickens don’t really fly, and neither do people, but with this game it feels like you’re really flying.

What’s even better is you work up a sweat without even realizing it. This game is so worth the twenty bucks. Even if you’re just watching.

Move along, nothing to see here

Woke up at my mom’s to a beautiful 65 degree sunshiny day. Finished the day in Dallas at about 23 degrees and had to hit the emergency room.

All was going well, really well. We made good time without speeding, only hit a little traffic at rush hour here. When we got home however, Blane’s mom fell before she even stepped foot in the house and broke her leg.

She was supposed to fly back home on Monday night but I’m thinking I might need to drive her home sooner so she can see her orthopedic surgeon.

I’m toast.

See Ya in Your Nightmares

We lived within walking distance of the Health Unit when I was a kid. This was an institutional white-ceramic-tile-everywhere-but-the-ceiling sort of place that always smelled of rubbing alcohol. This was the place for baby shots. Didn’t matter if you were a seven year-old kid, that’s what they called them. Baby shots. Maybe that term was supposed to lessen the fear of them. As an adult, it sounds innocuous, but a shot was a shot back then and I had a raging phobia of needles.

Blane says his mom used to take him to one certain doctor with a child-sized metal airplane in the waiting room. He’d start crying the minute he saw the thing, but he’d tell them, “Okay, put me in there.” He’d be smiling and crying at the same time while he sat in the airplane. (I’m laughing myself to tears at that visual)

Fast forward to present day. I’m working the county H1N1 clinic giving assembly line shots with a few other nurses. We all play our parts differently. Some of us smile and try to be sweet to the kids with a basket of candy in one hand and a needle in the other.  That’s how I do it, although I know kids are just as smart as we are. I’ve been thinking about cutting the act and going with the “mean nurse” look. The happy face thing is a bit deceptive, and if I’m gonna be in some kid’s nightmares, I’d rather not be the smiling villain.

image from healthclub.info-ebazaar.com

It’s interesting being on the other side of this “baby shot” thing. Notably the different ways families handle the situation. Some parents haven’t told their kids what they are doing there. Those are the cheerful but skeptical ones. Like I said, kids aren’t stupid. We have our syringes concealed under a cloth and when the time is right, Ta-Da! So it is wise to choose the most needle-phobic kid to go first because once the cat is out of the bag, kids start scrambling, bargaining, or putting up a pretty damn good fight.

Most families do tell their kids what is about to happen. It’s fascinating, the children are consistent. Either the entire family is crying, or they are courageous and ready to get the thing over with.

Teenaged boys provide the comic relief. They laugh at and taunt each other, “You want me to hold your hand?” Oh, and giving a shot in a tattoo can be fun, like the wildcat I shot right between the eyes last night.

You know what shot behavior I like best of all? When it’s all over with, the part where I offer a kid some candy and they shove it back at me as if to say, “I don’t want your damn candy.”

If you live in Collin County, you can get your FREE H1N1 flu shot on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays from 4PM to 8PM and Saturdays from 9AM to 5PM until December 23rd, while supplies last. This is at the free clinic which has been temporarily converted to a flu clinic and is open to everyone (rich, poor, pretty, ugly…) in the county, click here for the location. (also, the more shots we give, the more grant money we receive to treat the poor, so come to us if you’re getting the shot… It will cost you nothing and I’ll hold your hand.)

Movember

You know all that pink stuff they sell to raise money for breast cancer awareness and research? I buy that stuff. I have pink everywhere. A pink jacket. Pink socks. The t-shirt. Pink kitchen scissors, two of them. I even have pink baking cups for cupcakes.

photo

I’ve also eaten quite a few too many of the pink M&Ms.

So I wondered all this time what are the dudes going to come up with to raise money for their issues?

They chose the mustache. This month is Movemeber and the bros are going to grow them to raise money for prostate and testicular cancer research and awareness. Friends, family, coworkers, etc. sponsor them to grow it for the entire month and pay up if the participant went through Movember without shaving.

And just as dudes might not feel too welcome to support our cause by wearing pink ribbon things, dudettes might not feel too comfortable growing a ‘stache. Nope, I’m not growing mine out, no way.

But my son Blane has joined, Yay! I’ve never seen him wear anything other than a fake mustache as a gag. I have no idea how bushy this thing could become, but I want to see it. I even bought him a present to encourage him. A fifteen inch long gummy snake. And a cat that craps jelly beans. He loves that sort of thing.

Now here’s the trouble. His baby is due November 30th. He says he is shaving it off when the baby is born, so if it’s born early, he’s going to have to pull out that stick-on mustache or do something to convince his sponsors that he really made it.

If you want to know more about this project go to  Movember’s website which is partnering with Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong campaign. There is a cool video on there that lists the statistics for both cancers and other valuable information about the diseases.

You can watch that here:

For all you bros out there growing a flavor savor, this sista supports this important cause. Govember!

No Hero

I’ve been watching the fascinating clips by Dr. Sanjay Gupta this past week on his “Cheating Death” series that he’s using to promote his book, “Cheating Death: The Doctors and Medical Miracles that Are Saving Lives Against All Odds.”

The clip from last night showed how a woman trapped in cold water without air for over two hours was brought back to life (she is currently a radiologist in a hospital in Norway, so brain function must be pretty good). Her core body temp was 56 degree F when she was rescued, so that makes her the coldest person on record to survive. You can find that article :::here::: on CNN.

It made me think for just a moment, wow, people who’ve lost loved ones in cold drowning accidents must be having some serious “what if” moments right now.

Then it hit me. My niece, Candace was a cold water drowning (December ’06). In fact, it was so cold, I wondered if that was why the policeman who came upon the accident just minutes after she crashed didn’t go in to save her.

Here’s what happened to her.

Candace was driving home on a mostly empty road. A policeman on patrol who knew her passed her going the opposite direction. He went a mile further and did a u-turn to go back in Candace’s direction. Routine patrol. When he got to a bridge, he noticed her car was upside-down and underwater. He had just seen her about 5 minutes previously.

The back window was blown out and the officer could see part of a baby seat in the back. He assumed Candace got out of the car and took her baby with her. He did not go into the water to check and make sure. He called for backup and then called her grandparents to ask if she had walked home. All this time Candace was drowning right there in the car, she tried desperately to kick in the front windshield, her legs were found up on the dashboard and there was a spot where she had managed to crack the window with her feet.

Let me back up to the part just before the cop got there. A farmer who lived near the bridge heard the accident and went to see what all the noise was. At this time, he saw the car upside-down, but on the side of the ditch. It had not gone in the water yet. He went back home to call the police and get his tractor to pull the car out.

While he was gone, the car slid into the water.

So by the time the backup came and the place was swarming with police, not a single person thought to check the car. They were stunned when they pulled the car out and found her seat-belted in it. That was about an hour after the accident and there were no efforts to resuscitate her.

I’m not angry about this anymore, she’s gone and isn’t coming back. I’ve accepted this. Two chances for rescue were missed, farmers and cops are human, not superheroes. They have moments of stupidity just like the rest of us. (I understand the cop suffered greatly over this matter)

For some good news, over the summer, Candace’s brother and his wife had a baby girl and named her Candace.

You can read about my niece, Candace :::here:::

Patience SVP

I stood out on the patio in the dark, the cool breeze rushing past me and through the door, over to Blane, who was sitting on the sofa watching tv. I’d gone out there because I could hear a helicopter. I know a care-flight when I hear one.

I think I do, the heli pad was just outside the ICU backdoor, and when one approached or left our hospital, the unit would go silent, the nurses and patients would freeze, even the machines seemed to hold their breath for a moment.

There is a term for this in French, when a crowd goes quiet all of a sudden, “Un Ange Passé,” which literally translates to “An angel passed.”

Anyway, I get this thumping in my chest when I see those helicopters and a million thoughts race through my head. Usually deep dark fears relating to my own life, such as, are they transporting some teenaged driver from a car crash? I’m feeling this phantom ache for some parent out there who might be suffering the unimaginable.

And just as the copter passes directly over us, the blades frantically chopping air, Blane says what he always says in his very best fake British accent,
“You, Yes You, Stand Still Laddie!”

And I laugh as though this is the very first time I’d heard it because he’s just taken me out of a place I didn’t need to be.

I don’t think he knows the mental dynamics of the situation. Why I laugh at that one consistently, while his other ten or so other canned jokes barely cause a change in my facial expression. Like the Kevin Bacon one. Every time he sees that actor he says, “Bacon and eggs.” Blane doesn’t even have to be around, if I see Kevin Bacon, I hear it in my head. I try not to show that it drives me nuts because I am certain he is testing my patience.
Twenty-seven years to the day, and I haven’t cracked.

In my heart, I know this is one of the things he admires most about me. He says both of his parents had absolutely no patience while he was growing up. So, if I ever did explode, it would kill off something magical for him. I would never want to do that to someone who can make me feel like I’m in a Pink Floyd song. Ever.

Fallen into a hospital and can’t get out

Last week Blane’s back went out while he was at the gym. He was in so much pain he couldn’t move and had to be taken to the hospital in an ambulance. I would have taken him, but he needed to be moved on a board. Sad, really, because the hospital is right across the street from the gym. No kidding, across the street. I haven’t gotten the bill yet, but I’m guessing he could have gotten a better price on a ticket to France.

His x-rays didn’t look too bad, but the ER doc insisted on admitting him for an overnight stay because he couldn’t move so well. I told the doc I’m a nurse and can do anything they can do (better, too, I promise you) but I gave up the fight and agreed to let them keep him. They wanted to do another test on his back in the morning. Fine.

They did his test while I was gone and the neurologist told Blane his diagnosis while he was so heavily drugged that he couldn’t remember that he even saw a doctor. I had to go read the chart to see what the hell was going on. That’s where I also read they were keeping him another night.

What? I was the one getting him up to the bathroom, getting him bathed, shaving his face… What? Nurses would not answer his call bell while I was gone. I was really afraid he’d fall as he is not used to taking strong drugs.

So I fight them and at the end of the ordeal they tell me he needs to be fitted for a back brace the next day and if he doesn’t get it while in the hospital, the insurance probably wouldn’t pay for it.

Dammit I’m angry and I feel like we’re fucking hostages in this place.

I walk the halls and gaze into the open rooms. This is a non-specialty medical-surgical floor and all of the patients except for Blane are elderly. I know this workload, it’s rough, the patients need loads of help for everything and there are not enough nurses, ever, on those floors because it is a shit job. I wouldn’t dare complain about a thing to one of those nurses because it is not their fault. They are some of the hardest workers in any hospital, med-surg nurses. Couldn’t pay me enough to do it.

So, the patients on that floor, some of them are watching the news, the Town Hall Granny-Gate stuff, ironically. People out there screaming about Death Panels and carrying on as if they really care about it with all their hearts while my own heart breaks into a million little pieces because not a single one of these old people had any visitors in two days.

So. Fitting for a back brace. I was thinking this was going to be something they were going to custom make right there, some gadget that involved plaster and carving, you know, fine craftsmanship.

No, no, no. This thing turned out to be a pre-made velcro powered brace. Another overnight stay for this stupid thing? Wow, no wonder insurance companies refuse to pay so many bills.

And I have to wonder if anyone realizes that no hospital in America could really keep its doors open on Medicare reimbursements alone.

So we go through stupid shit like this, round and round while insurance companies and hospital corps play their games with our tax money and insurance premiums while people like me have to make a choice between whether to leave my drugged up hubby alone for the night or go home to watch my kids.

Is this really the best way to do healthcare? Is this worth fighting for? Really?

And Granny? If people had to dig into their personal bank account to pay for her care, how quickly would those plugs “fall out of the wall?”

I’ve worked extensively with the elderly. I KNOW how much most people care about Granny, so don’t even start trying to bullshit me.

The cancer patient in the video below is alive because she is getting her treatment through Medicare (aka government healthcare). She admits she couldn’t do it without Medicare. My tax dollars. Yours. She is arguing against that same government healthcare for others, however, because she likes being able to choose her doctors (no one wants to take that away from her). She doesn’t care that there are people out there with the same exact diagnosis as she, people who can’t even choose treatment at all because of inability to pay. Working class people who pay Medicare taxes to save her life.

Wow, talk about complaining on a full belly.

I volunteer in a free clinic once a week and have seen people just like her who have cancer but no money for treatment. The clinic mostly treats common things such as diabetes and high blood pressure, so we don’t carry cancer drugs. Since cancer is not an emergency, we can’t dump them at the hospital ER for treatment.

I wish I could tell you more stories about that stuff, but I can’t.

So now Blane has a “pre existing condition” to deal with if he ever wants to just quit work and start his own business. That means we probably wouldn’t be able to buy health insurance at any price to cover his back. I feel like we’ve lost some freedom this week. I know we have. And yet, we are amongst the fortunate who have access to care. This is good fortune when it comes to healthcare in America.

This.

This is all due to people continuing to choose fear over courage. If they really cared about their children, they’d do something about this Mickey Mouse system of ours and give us what they have. Some security in health care. I’m paying for them to have it, why can’t I get that too?

Why can’t we all have that?

Strawberry Cake with Never Fail Icing

It is birthday season. Blane Sr. last week and Blane Jr. this week. I made this strawberry wonder for my son after he asked me to surprise him with a special cake.

I started with three layers of white box cake mix. Between the layers I put a layer of strawberry preserves and some fresh sliced strawberries.

strawberry layer

The icing is the magical part. It is a meringue type icing, not something you can buy in a tub or box but something you have to actually crank up the stove to make. It is worth the entire seven minutes of your time. That is one of the popular names for it, Seven Minute Icing. But it takes a little longer than that to make. It is also known as Never Fail Icing, but I’ve had it fail on me before. Those failures have much to do with the humidity. If it is rainy outside, it won’t sugar properly and will be sticky.

So, besides sunshine, here is what you need for the icing:

2 egg whites

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 cup of sugar (granulated, not powdered)

3 tablespoons of water

1 teaspoon of vanilla

You’ll need to make it in a double boiler. Don’t panic if you don’t have one, I ghetto mine with a bowl and a stock pot. Just make sure the boiling water in the lower pot does not touch the bowl.

Put the egg whites, cream of tartar, sugar and water in a bowl and mix for one minute before putting the bowl or upper pot over the boiling water. (hold off on the vanilla for now)

mix

See below, my aluminum bowl fits perfectly over my stock pot with the boiling water.

double boiler

While the water in the lower pot boils on med heat, use an electric mixer to whip the mixture until stiff peaks form (yes you are doing this over the stove, don’t burn the cord for your mixer).

sugars

Like this in the above photo. This takes about seven minutes. Then you take it off the pot of boiling water and add the vanilla. Whip some more until the sides begin to sugar, about a couple more minutes and not over the stove.

Now you need to work fast and you had better have that cake ready because the icing needs to go on now!

sides first

Ice the sides first, then the top.

deco cake

I added some special toys on top while the icing was still wet. What will happen over the next half hour is the outside of the icing will become crunchy and yummy and…

That cake did not last 12 hours in this house.

While the strawberries on the outside are really pretty, I do not recommend you put them on the icing as they cause the icing to run due to the moisture in the berries. (now I know)

Another variation is the banana cake. Blane’s grandmother gave me this recipe years ago, so it is a family favorite.  Bake a yellow cake instead of the white, and for the layers between, make a small box of Jello brand instant pudding (small box and only use 1 1/3 cup of milk in the directions). Spread a layer of pudding then a layer of sliced banana between each layer. Frost with the Never Fail Icing and call yourself The Boss.

yum

999 Pieces of Success

Last week I bought a 1000 piece puzzle and dumped all of the pieces on the table.

puzzle

I got it for several reasons. First, I think it is good for relieving stress. It feels good to spot a piece and just know where it belongs. Snap it in, and it fits perfectly. Each tiny piece a success. Second, I thought it would get people to congregate at the table and talk more instead of everyone going off into their own little space to watch tv or hang out on the world wide web. Something about faces glowing in front of a screen is extremely depressing to me, and yes, I know my own eyes spend too much time bathed in that light.

It’s a good mind exercise, puzzle building. It trains the eye to be more perceptive and is helpful for spatial relationships. If the original is a painting, you can actually learn something about brush strokes.

It’s also pretty cool for slipping on a song by Tool, “Schism”, where the refrain is, “I know the pieces FIT!” and watch to see how long it takes for the others to notice the lyrics. Then sit back and listen for them to hum the song later because the song is completely lodged into their brains!

Revelations in convos such as this one:

Spanky: I’m going to name my band “Bitch Please.”

Me: Why?

Spanky: Wanna make sure my songs don’t get played on Radio Disney.

Me: Ah, Disney. AM620. I’ll never forget the day y’all got in the car and turned the station from pure FM to AM. I wanted to know who the hell told y’all AM radio existed so I could pinch their head off.

Spanky: You serious?

Me: No baby, I signed up for all that, every minute of parenting torture you kids could throw at me.

Spanky: Torture?! I had no idea.
——–
After a couple of days of puzzling, our eyes began to play tricks on us. While driving into a beautiful sunset yesterday, Spanky said, “Ugh, puzzle sky.”

I knew exactly what she was talking about. Everything picturesque had this puzzle stamp superimposed on it. I want to take down every painting in this house because they all remind me of puzzles. Blane said it too, “Everything looks sectioned off.”

He was the main one at the table. He couldn’t even walk by it without making a stop. “Just five minutes,” he’d say. An hour later, he was still there fighting to get his corner done before I got mine finished out. It’s sort of funny how we got all territorial with our spots, unspoken, of course.

photo

Here is the finished work. The image we’ve been staring at for almost a week.

You ever get that feeling while building a puzzle that one of the pieces is missing only to come back to the thing later and find the piece you were looking for? That kept happening to us the entire time because we knew early on one of them was missing. An edge piece with some writing on it.

photo_2

It might have fallen off the table and gotten eaten by the dogs, I don’t know, we’ve combed the house on our hands and knees looking for that damn thing. We never found it.

Who the hell cares? We have 999 pieces of success and I like the way my family ganged up to solve something. Even if it was a stupid puzzle we never want to see again as long as we live. I don’t care about that one missing piece, either.

But if it ever shows up, I’m gonna frame it and hang it up on the wall and call it “Solved.”

Blane’s Amazing Bubble Show

My son Blane let me use his underwater camera to film his bubble show. It’s an old camera and the battery died on us quickly, but it’s still an amazing show.

Next week I’ll show you the dog’s swimming video. I’ve been busy and my wrists are acting up on me so not much writing these days.