Friday, January 30, 2009

The Warming Center

I've been at our church for the past two days helping with a warming center. If you've ever been involved with a shelter or pitched in during an emergency somewhere, you already know what an experience it can be...some parts good, some not so good.

This was pure delight.

The people who needed our shelter were simply grateful. Nobody complained. Nobody cried -- except for a two-year-old and a three-WEEK-old. Nobody demanded. They just said, "Would it be OK if...?" and "Thank you."

At first all we had to offer was heat, shelter and hot coffee. We didn't have cots, blankets, pillows or clothes. Eventually, we found some hot dogs, buns and popped some popcorn. Then, this morning we were able to provide muffins, fruit, crackers and cheese and had turkey sandwiches and chips for lunch.

One woman in the neighborhood walked over and volunteered to help. Others called and offered their services. Another lady stopped by with a bag of groceries and donated them.

A city commissioner and a government official stopped by to thank us and see if we had any needs. A police officer checked in on us.

My heart just about burst when an elderly woman I have known almost all of my life came in. Her husband is in the early stages of Alzheimer's and her adult son is mentally challenged.

"Thank you so much," she said as she put her tiny arms around my waist. "We're so glad to be here."

What could I say? I hadn't done anything. "You're welcome" seemed to indicate I had. It was my privilege.

I just pray those dear people don't have to find refuge there for long.

Monday, January 26, 2009

25 Random Facts

One of my Facebook friends recently tagged me in a game of "25 Random Things About Me." You're supposed to come up with a list of facts that others may not know about you. It's a fun exercise that allows you to get to know people better.

Unfortunately, I found out something about myself. That's never good. You should avoid getting to know yourself better. You'll just be disappointed. And, sure enough, here's what I learned: I'm boring.

Obviously, that's why I'm blogging about my life now. It's a vain effort to transform the mundane into something worthwhile. If it's written about, it must be worthy...that's my subconscious logic talking.

So, I decided while showering this morning (is that too much information?), that I would come up with a new list, an INTERESTING list, of 25 Random Things About Me.

Here goes...
1. My great-grandmother traveled with a group of gypsies; she juggled knives.
2. I have climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, blindfolded.
3. I can speak backwards.
4. I once passed for a spy and another time for a movie star.
5. My mother's paintings will one day be collectibles. You might want to buy one now. I can hook you up.
6. The late former President Ronald Reagan often called Kent, my husband, for advice.
7. I've written a best-seller, but told Oprah that I wasn't interested in appearing on her show.
8. I've seen my guardian angel in person. She has frizzy hair.
9. I'm a trained armchair psychologist.
10. I'm actually a petite blond.
11. My father was a boxer, who had a manager and the whole nine yards, or the whole kit and kaboodle, or the whole she-bang, whatever it is when it's boxing...
12. I am a descendant of Abraham Lincoln.
13. I have sung live with Linda Ronstadt.
14. I've completed a triathalon.
15. I voted for the newest color of M&Ms.
16. I was attacked by a huge swarm of mosquitoes as I stood on the Paducah Tilghman football field at attention while in a bright blue and white sequin-covered twirler uniform. I fainted afterwards.
17. I have danced the flamenco.
18. I have eyes (they're green) in the back of my head
19. Which reminds me, I am the mother of two men who are going to change the world and they will probably give me most of the credit when the time comes. They might give their father some just so he won't feel bad.
20. I can juggle knives. It could have something to do with gypsy genetics.
21. I have flattened several pennies on Railroad tracks in Cape Girardeau, Mo.
22. I have had two near-fatal encounters with opossums at my home.
23. Michelle Obama calls me for fashion advice.
24. When I was a little girl, scientists studied my writing because I was so special. I don't wonder at all what they meant by that term "special."
25. I sometimes stretch the truth.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Feeling Lucky

Saturday evening and I'm waiting for some friends to come over for a hot bowl of stew. We're going to play a new game I got, too. I'm feeling lucky.

The last time I played this game was during Christmas with my family. I never once won. But, that didn't stop me from trying, again and again and again.

Unlike my mother, I am a very good sport. And I do not cheat.

The game is called You're Sentenced. You receive a number of discs with words on them. There are strange nouns, awkward verbs and other quirky sentence parts. You try to be the first to form a sentence with them. You get bonus points if you use all of your discs, but your sentence has to make sense. It's one of those games that requires everyone else to judge your work.

My family didn't think my sentences made sense. Hmmpff. They made perfect sense. I was able to tell little stories about them. I thought the stories were quite imaginative. Fascinating, really.

They were just gunning for me because I call myself a writer, and happen to be the ONLY one of them with college training in writing. Plus, I'm the ONLY one who's worked for a newspaper and a magazine. The ONLY one who's been nationally published. The ONLY one who's writing a book. The ONLY one...Well, I think you get my point.

It's a terrible thing to realize that your family has it in for you.

But tonight... I'm feeling lucky. Yep. Gonna win.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Time Keeps on Slipping

Oh, my word! The days are flying by as fast as Francie runs when she herds cattle. Technically, she's never herded cattle anywhere but in her dreams. But if she had a herd, she'd herd them fast. I can tell you that for sure.

But, I digress. My point time keeps on slipping into the future (didn't the Steve Miller Band sing about that back in the '70s?) . My week has been packed fuller than that one suitcase you're allowed to take on flights now. In fact, if my week had been a suitcase, I would have been charged for packing too much weight. Note: Before I would pay extra to take stuff somewhere, I would unpack right there in the airport and leave important items, like shoes and underwear, behind. Do they allow you to make donations to the homeless when you're in the airport? I think it's a good idea. Just think of all those dangerous tubes of toothpaste that could go for bettering America's dental hygiene.

But, I digress again. I've spent the week inside the world of Nathan Stubblefield's father, "Captain Billy." For those of you who don't know -- and there are undoubtably very few of you who don't since I try to work it into most conversations as casually as possible -- I am writing a book. I know. I know. It sounds impressive; but, it also sounds a little cliche. Isn't everyone writing a book? But, this book is going to be published. I have a contract. La-tee-dah. Now you're a little more impressed, aren't you? That's more like it.

Motes Books is publishing it as part of a series about Kentucky heroes, which brings me back to Nathan Stubblefield. He is the hero I'm writing about. Murray, Ky., claims him as their native son and some folks there (and elsewhere) claim he -- not Marconi -- invented the wireless radio. Thus, the research into Stubblefied's past...

Which leads me back to my point, being...Let's see, was I talking about time slipping into the future or Captain Billy's diary? Oh, well, never mind. Suffice to say that researching and reading and writing have completely consumed me. Time has slipped. It's now the future.

If you'd like to hear more about Captain Billy, who grew up on a tobacco farm, put himself through law school after very little "real" schooling, became a captain in the Confederate Army, kept a diary of his service in the Civil War, wrote an autobiography, and married his children's governess (after their mother died!), stay tuned or let me know, or both.

And, if anybody has any wonderful anecdotes about Nathan, do tell! I'll give you tons of credit and may even send you a free, signed copy of the book.

La-tee-dah, indeed.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Monday musings

Monday! It's the day I try to get everything I'm supposed to do all week done.

I'm not sure why I do this to myself. Call me an optimistic over-achiever. Call me loco. Call me. No kidding, it's a little quiet around here. I love e-mail...but I love a phone call, too. Phone calls are so human. So personal. So absolutely derailing of everything I have to do.

Here are some things I've been thinking about today:

How come I can't figure out how much of the pasta box to pour into the boiling water to make just the right amount?

How come now that I'm not supposed to eat peanut butter, all I can think about is eating the peanut butter in those little tubs I swiped from the hotel I stayed at in Atlanta?

How come I decided to reduce the size of my laundry room when we built our house? It's too small to even turn around in, for pity's sake.

How come I'm having night sweats, but not hot flashes? I'd enjoy a good hot flash during these cold days.

How come Francie likes to lick the shower door track?

How come I drip something on myself every time I eat? My dad does that. Is it genetic?

I had a day chock-full of things to do, items to cross off my list, laundry to fold, food to cook, life to lead, and yet I still had time to ponder all of those thoughts.

I lead a fascinating, fulfilling life. No question.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Terrible News...

Terrible news. Francie ate my ears. Not only that, Kent ate my cake.

I'm not sure which is worse.

Francie is, after all, barely out of her puppyhood; so, I can excuse her. But, Kent?! He's not even a "cake man." He likes pies. And cookies. And Jell-O. Not cake.

For his birthday every year I make him a big fat bowl of Jell-O. Sometimes I make it straight. Sometimes I prepare a special recipe that is chock-full of dark cherries, cream cheese, pineapple and nuts. On his last birthday he turned 50, and he got the special recipe.

So, why did he eat my cake?

I had made it for my church book club and forced all of them to eat a piece. I guilted them into it by saying, "I have a sprained ankle, but I still made this cake. So, you people better eat up." Nobody refused. Everyone looked at each other with a trace of fear in their eyes, and quickly rose to follow me to the kitchen.

That pesky pastor's wife (who's a little bitty thing even after having had three babies) only took a half a slice. I thought that was pretty cheeky. The rest of the crowd took what I gave 'em. I didn't get any compliments, but nobody got sick, either.

I saved out one piece for myself. After all, I am on a strict diet. And froze the rest of the cake until I've earned it. I figure when my jeans fit again, I'll thaw it out. Hopefully it will not be a glazed-over hunk of freezer-burn by then.

My plan was to eat just a little bite of it every night after a healthy, nutritious dinner. I even asked Kent if he wanted some before I froze it.

"No," he said. "I'm not a cake man."

Now, my husband is definitely one of the kindest, smartest, funniest people I know. In fact maybe THE kindest, smartest, funniest person I know. But, I may have found a little flaw. He evidently lies about cake.

Some truths are hard to stomach.

As for Francie eating my ears. Well, I'm devastated. Those rabbit ears were ever so much fun, and they are irreparable. Eaten to bits.

I had big plans for the ears this year. It was going to be the year of the rabbit ears.

Two big blows in one day. Life can be tough, but I press on.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Rabbit Ears

After milking all the sympathy I could yesterday, I decided today was a new day. "Get a grip!" I told myself. "Buck up!" "Tally-ho!" Tally-ho? I don't even know what that means, but it sounds rousing, doesn't it?

I filled flutterbye orders all morning, then called Patience to go for a walk. According to the weather wizards, it's going to be about 2 degrees tomorrow and I don't plan on exposing my body to the elements until it's in the serious 40's again. Today was my last chance at a dose of sunlight.

So, with my professionally-wrapped ankle bound, I loosened my "running" shoes and slipped my fat foot in. This simple action is always Francie's signal that she is going to get to see her friends, the whippets. She did a mid-air flip, ran to get her lead, and headed for the door.

Since it had been a while since I had gotten to walk with Patience and our whippet friends (There are six who will walk with Francie. The other two pass.), I decided it was a celebratory event. I donned my newly acquired rabbit ears!

My new ears are white and pink and very, very soft and they stick straight up or will bend into various positions to reflect my mood. If I'm alert, both ears are up at attention. If I'm relaxed, both ears are bent casually, about mid-way down. If I'm down-hearted, both ears droop. If I'm happy, one ear is jauntily cocked. You get the idea.

Francie, being a Corky, has very expressive ears and I knew she'd be proud of me. Sure enough! She thought the idea was grand.

The whippets weren't so sure. "Is she taunting us?" one of them asked Patience. "She knows we like to chase rabbits. She knows we eat soft, furry things for breakfast. What's up with this human, anyway?" Patience reassured the troops and we took off.

As we walked and talked, we all eventually forgot my headgear. After all, there was a lot to catch up on. We hadn't walked and talked in days.

That's why it was so odd to us that cars kept slowing down as they passed us. The garbage truck came to a complete hault. Dogs hung out the windows of passing vehicles and barked like crazed maniacs. Who would think that a six-foot-tall woman with rabbit ears on would cause such a commotion?

All in all, it was a much better day than yesterday. My foot was a little achey by the end of the walk, but it was worth it. I can highly recommend wearing fuzzy, white and pink ears. They just make you stand up a little taller, enjoy the sunshine a little bit more, and generally perk up your attitude. And, anything that will stop a garbage truck has got to be good.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Great Fall

So, it's Monday morning. I've been out of town for four days and I'm severely behind in my day-to-day life. I decide that rather than hit the ground running, I'll start off slowly. Pace myself. After all, what good would it do me to run out of steam at noon when I need to last until midnight?

I sit down to eat breakfast. Eggbeaters, toast, bacon, hot tea. A hearty launching. I gather the news, sip my tea, make my list for the day and give myself until 8 a.m. OK. Next step: stand up and get going.

That's where my plans all went awry.

My foot was asleep! Arrghghhghg, blpbllbpbp, klonk. That's the sound of me falling to the floor. My ankle had twisted. It wasn't pretty. I hit the TV on my way down, knocking it off the air, bounced from the table and then to my final destination. Instead of hitting the ground running, I had just hit the ground.

If anyone had been around (besides Francie, who was now licking me and wagging her stubby tail with great enthusiasm), they would have heard me groan out loud. But, if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around, does it make a sound?

I say YES! I definitely made noise. Bodily and verbally. You see, I hurt. Really, really hurt. And groaning was appropriate. As I lay there, I wondered about my future.

The first thing that ran through my mind was, "How the heck am I going to get up?" I actually hurt so much that I didn't think I could get up off the floor. I'll admit, I was being rather dramatic. Of course I could get up. I got onto my knees, employed my "good" ankle, which I had twisted back in the summer and still wasn't working properly, and hoisted my behind onto the couch. Now Francie was on my lap. "Hey, this is fun!" she said. "Get back down and play with me some more!" I deferred.

What next? Should I call someone or just go to the ER? Unlike my summer fiasco, I decided it wasn't wise to ignore it. I had blown off my fall then and my ankle was still achey from the accident. I decided to think practically. Bottom line. Where could I get this taken care of in the most economical way? When your body dumps you to the ground and you are in pain, it's no excuse to abandon your budget.

I debated. I called Kent. He wasn't in his office and didn't answer his cell phone. I called Stefanie - she's my next door neighbor and a nurse. She wasn't home. I called Patience- she's a little-bit-further-away neighbor and a nurse and (bonus) she's married to a doctor. Bingo. She was home. But, she didn't believe me.

"I think you're just trying to get out of walking today," she said. "If I come down there and find out that you've taped a grapefruit under your sock, I'm going to be ticked." Dr. Bill offered to look at it, but they both said I'd probably ought to get it X-rayed. "At our age," Patience said with a sinister laugh, "there's always more of a risk for a break." Great. Thanks. Now I hurt and felt old.

I decided to go for more sympathy while I considered my fate. Got hold of Kent. Stef came over when she got back. And, e-mailed everyone I needed to respond to that morning. The concensus was to get it X-rayed. I called the doctor who was going to cut out my bunions to see if he would see me. Amazingly, I could go in that afternoon.

By this time, my ankle had grown a tennis ball-sized lump on the side, but I could wiggle my toes. Kent was determined that I should elevate it (above my heart) and ice it down with frozen peas. I had yet to check off the first thing on my Monday list, but I humored him. He can be very persuasive.

So, instead of filling my flutterbye orders, catching up my blog, unpacking from my trip, answering my 165 e-mails, or cleaning the house for my upcoming book club, I lay on the couch all day trying not to freak out about how behind I was.

Well, you'd think after all that I'd have something to report, a cast to draw on, a bootie to lace up, at least a pill to pop. But, as it turned out, it's a sprain. A "class one" sprain. Not even a horrible, really, really awful sprain.

I don't care. It still hurts and I still want sympathy.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Book Club Day

Of all the things I love to do, reading and eating have to be at the top of my list. When you add friends to that equation, it's almost more than I can bear. Today was Book Club Day. That's right, capital B, capital C, capital D. It's a day of honor on my calendar. I look forward to BCD like a kid looks forward to his birthday.

See, BCD transforms even the grayest, gloomiest, dullest day into a party! I know that I'm going to be with intelligent, funny, gloriously zany women who won't mention that my pants are undone because they don't fit after the holiday feeding frenzy I've been on, but will mention that my hair looks stunning. These are women who, while drinking tea from china cups, can still snort when they laugh. These are women who use words like lambrequin, prodigious and cockalorum correctly in their conversations, and yet giggle when the word titillate comes up.

We save up really good stories for each other. Today, Mary told us all about discovering that she has poison ivy on shall I put this?... booty. In January, no less. Who gets poison ivy on her behind in January? And, how? Let's just say it involved pantyhose and a cat named Mr. Puss and leave it at that.

We also found out that Kay had a come-apart with her daughter-in-law, who - we all agreed - was being rather bossy about bagels. We concurred that Jill had definitely entered a moment of undistilled lunacy when she suggested her daughter have a New Year's Eve party at their house. "It was only about thirty 17-year-olds," she said. That's like saying, "only one small herd of wildebeests in the living room." And, we learned that Jean's energy medicine techniques worked wonders on Patience's dog that was once deathly afraid of thunder.

We also learned how to make crustless beet and cucumber sandwiches, such precious pink delights. We sampled a smorgasbord of tea-time goodies. Spinach and cheese scones. New potatoes stuffed with Myrick's ham salad. Buzz's egg salad on gluten-free crackers. Rum cake. Crunchy, tasty cookies. And, of course, chocolate, the dessert's dessert.

Don't get me wrong. It's not all cake and punch. We savor the books, too. Our meat. The substance of our meetings. Our raison d'etre. Books, those luscious trips of the imagination that send us to the south of France, up the side of Kilimanjaro, or to the backwoods of Montana. Books, those endless resources of characters we'd like to slap or hug or talk quietly with in a coffee shop. Books, those fantastic sources of words that roll like waves to the shore of understanding, crystallizing a thought, capturing a feeling, giving voice to that motive. Oh, the poetry of those twenty-six letters arranged in groups of threes, fives, eights and twos, undulating in starts and stops, pauses and spaces, telling their tales.

Book Club Day. Everyone should have one. Or, twelve.