Monday, December 27, 2010

Mountains Majesty

We're in Breckenridge with some very dear friends who are sharing their home with us for Christmas. What an awesome place this is, and what special people these are.  Rather than try to be witty or profound, I'll just share some photos.  Merry Christmas everyone.





Thursday, December 23, 2010

Wherefore Art Thou, Emajean?

A Friends of the Library Mystery


“Absolutely not!” Teodor emphatically told his nephew. “I am not going to marry an old fashioned Hungarian woman. I came to America to escape the old fashioned.”
László choked back a laugh. He gazed around his uncle’s study which was strewn with books and pictures from Hungary. Coats of arms of the great houses of Hungary, depictions of nursery rhymes they had both been raised with, paintings of hunting and stags.  Even the curtains were heavy damask, as would have been normal in old-fashioned, conservative Hungarian homes.
Teodor himself gave an air of old fashioned conservatism. He wore a high removable collar, and cuff links showing a family crest. László caught Teodor’s arm and peered more closely.
“Are these your family crests?” he asked his uncle.
“No,” his uncle replied, jerking his arm back. “I helped a friend out with some cash and he insisted that I take them. They’re gold, so they’re worth something. What is it to you?”
László stifled his smile. “Nothing at all. If they’re worth something though, why don’t you sell them and get your money?”
His uncle, chastised him. “László! They are the crest of the man’s family! I cannot treat them as if they are unadorned gold!”
László smiled broadly, “But they’re not your family. Why would you wear them?”
Teodor answered shortly, “My shirt sleeves needed cuff-links. Now stop pestering me. I’m not going to change my mind about this girl!”
“Uncle,” began László, “she is a modern woman. She has even served as a nurse. Look around this place; you need someone to help you.” László gestured to the piles of papers and cups and saucers strewn about the study. It was where Teodor spent most of his time at home. The smart young man added, “she’ll be a fantastic cook, too, and you cannot deny that you miss good home cooking.”
Teodor grimaced. “Nephew,” he said. “I do not want to be dishonest with you. I do not want a woman to cook for me, to clean up after me, or to be dependent on me. If I want the company of women, I can seek them out and leave them when I am bored. ”
László sighed, “Teodor, I don’t know what to do then. I guess I’ll have to go to Hungary myself.”
Teodor was irritated with him. “That is not the only solution! This woman can accompany your mother, but not under the impression she will be keeping house for me or marrying me. I just want to make that clear!”
László smiled. “Okay, I’ll take the train to New York to meet their ship. I’ll spend the entire journey from New York to Chicago telling her what an unpleasant fellow you are.”
Teodor drew himself up to his entire height of 5’7”. “You will not do that! I will go to New York and meet the train. I will make myself an obviously unsuitable bridegroom.” He flashed a smile, “I need to do some business in New York anyway, and you cannot afford to miss out on your studies. I may not like having women around me, but I do love New York, and I know how to handle women when I need to be a charming rogue. I will enjoy the challenge. By the time we reach Chicago she will beg your mother to find her a widower with seven children to care for!” He winked at his nephew and twirled his moustache.
László rolled his eyes, shook his head, and assented to the arrangement.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Target Locked On!


I have to love my Target. I stopped in today to get one last item for our trip. I TRIED to pick up more items, but I'm just shopped out. It wasn't happening.

So I got in line behind 2 other people who had about 20 items each. There weren't any '5 items or fewer' lanes so I used the time to site-see.

And just about dropped my jaw.  Hanging over my cashier lane, in BIG RED LETTERS was


MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Not Happy Holidays.
Not Seasons Greetings.

And then the cashier, as she took my paltry $20.10 and gave me $3 change said,

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

and the really strange thing is that if you look at her,
she doesn't appear to be 'in the club.'
I think she even might have come from some Other Place
and might even practice some Other Religion

I was so startled that I wanted to hug her.

Instead, I smiled a huge smile back at her and said

THANK YOU
MERRY CHRISTMAS TO YOU TOO!

this may just be a brilliant marketing strategy by Target

but it worked.

After all, I'm telling you, right?


Monday, December 20, 2010

Better Than "Edible"

Each of my children has one vegetable that they hate. It doesn't matter how I fix it, my son eschews yellow (summer) squash and my daughter chokes her way through asparagus.

However, I love both vegetables so I keep trying new recipes to see if they'll overcome this aversion. (At this point I think it's habit more than taste so too bad. If they eat here, they eat what's served).

This is NOT the best time of year for asparagus, but hubs brought some home one day last week. I went in search of a recipe that would overcome the "not the best time of the year" reservation.  I found this, and the label given by my son was "better than edible. I liked it."  Of course, if it had been yellow squash he would have been calling Child Protective Services accusing me of trying to poison him.

Baked Asparagus w/Balsamic Butter Sauce

1 bunch fresh asparagus, trimmed
cooking spray
salt & pepper to taste
2 T butter
1 t soy sauce
1 T balsamic vinegar

1. Preheat oven to 400.

2.  Arrange the asparagus on a baking sheet. Coat with cooking spray and season with salt and pepper.

3.  Bake asparagus 12 minutes in the preheated oven, or until tender.

4.  Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat -- let it brown a bit.  Remove from heat, stir in soy sauce and balsamic vinegar. Pour over the baked asparagus to serve.

Enjoy!

or Endure.

Saying Bad Words

In case you're wondering, NO, I do NOT need to wash my mouth out with soap.

You see, I write the weekly e-mail blurb for our Parent Teacher Associations. It's a volunteer gig, but one that the school community heavily relies on.  On Monday, I send the draft for the week to my 'draft group', along with instructions to send inputs to me by Tuesday afternoon. Then I tweak based on inputs and get it to the principal who sends it out.

Today was a short one - not much going on, and school gets out 2 hours early on Wednesday. I wrote to the 'draftees' the following:

Need quick responses this week, by noon tomorrow (TUESDAY) please so we can get it out before school closes on Wednesday.  Thank you for all your support for the KIT this fall. Your attitude turns a "duty" into a "pleasure".  Merry Christmas! Kelley

Now, THAT intro paragraph to everyone on the draft list does NOT go into the KIT which goes out to everyone in the school community. It's just for those people who help with inputs.

But I'm sure there are some who will be uncomfortable that I used "Merry Christmas" in a quasi-school environment.

Well too bad. It's CHRISTMAS for gosh sakes. It's not as if I said, "Merry Christmas because the only reason we're celebrating is that God ripped through time and came to Earth in the form of a man because He LOVES us so much that He knew His Son would be the perfect sacrifice to pay for our sins."

No, I didn't say that...but there's still time...



GLORIA!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Microfiction Monday

Thank you Susan at Stony River for hosting this all year long! A special Christmas blessing upon your family! I have to say my micro this week is a tip of the lei at my dear blogfriend Thom!

Here's today's Microfiction illustration, followed by my take on it.  Merry Christmas to all of my blogworld visitors and friends! May each of you find the joy and love of Christmas carries on throughout the coming year in your lives.




The pig didn’t connect the greens, the package of spices, and his presence as honored guest. Luau never even entered his mind. 

And if you haven't seen it, this is an awesome presentation:




Saturday, December 18, 2010

Driving While Under the Influence

of Sarah Palin...

Sorry, didn't want you all to think I'd lost ALL my senses.  It has been a particularly challenging 24 hours though.

Last night, the original plan was to take the daughter to S County to see the boyfriend, stay with his family (strictly G rated) and they'd bring her home in time for events today.

BUT, snow.  And BUT dentist appointment after school.

So we were home.  After dinner, I looked at hubby and asked, "do you feel okay?"

Then he confessed he'd had a toothache for 2 days.  So he dosed some more Advil and went to bed.

About 1:30 this morning he woke me to say he was going to the ER.  By now his face was swollen. He told me to stay in bed and he'd call if he couldn't drive home.

About 6:30 this morning I realized he still wasn't home. So I called the ER and they said they had just released him.  He walked in the door about 30 minutes later -- having stopped off to pick up donuts for the men's group at church that he belongs to.  He dropped them off but didn't stay.  Last night they gave him IV antibiotics and did a CT scan and dug around and it turns out to be an abscess going into the sinuses.

OUCH.  So today we worked on follow up appointments.  Now mind you, we're supposed to get on a plane on Wednesday to go to a high altitude location!

BUT today we girls were to meet to celebrate Oma's 86th birthday with high tea at the Ritz Carlton (we always do that).  After that I took daughter down to boyfriend's family and then drove home. About 3 hours round trip.

SO, if you've hung in with me this far and STILL want to know what this has to do with Sarah Palin . . . .(sorry no camera shot - I was driving!) This is what made the trip worth it.

On the way to BF's house, we passed a gas station with all those blow up Christmas things.  Santa had a reindeer nuzzled up to one side, but it was in a "just shot" crouch-- a victim of a tear or blowout in the fabric. Although . . . I couldn't see the far side. I don't know what Santa had in his hand. AND . . .

Santa did not look ONE BIT remorseful.

Now do you get it?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

YOU GOTTA PLAY TO WIN

On this snowy day, I shoveled the driveway and once at the top of the hill, retrieved the mail.

YIPPEE!

My package from Thom (Tom's Place 4 well, whatever) and Quilly's (Quintessentially Quilly) 
12 Days of Christmas, Island Style contest arrived! 

 It is CHOCK FULL of wonderful goodies!  WooT!

Thank you Thom!

Thank you Quilly!

You're the BEST!

Wherefore Art Thou, Emajean?

A Friends of the Library Mystery


When they got in that night the young women sat on Celia’s bed and talked quietly. Emajean asked, “Celia, would it be breaking the ‘time-rules’ for you to tell me about your own family? You must miss them.”
Celia teared up. She did miss Rob and her children, and to talk about them was a joy. Without revealing anything about their time they lived in, she was forced to describe her family by who they were, what they looked like, and what was important to them. She found it refreshing.
“My daughter is a lot like you. She is lively and passionate and wants to do everything all at once. My son is more introspective, but because he is a boy, he believes he should be tough. So he holds in his tenderness. I think someday a girl is going to break his heart. As his mother, I’m going to be so angry at her!,” Celia laughed at the prospect.
“Rob,” she started, and she choked up. “Rob is the kindest man alive. I do silly things and I forget to do things that are important to him and he never gets angry. He just laughs and hugs me and says none of that matters. He supports my writing and my volunteer work, and well, just everything.”
“Do you work?” asked Emajean.
“Yes, I’m a lawyer in a small law firm,” answered Celia.
Emajean’s eyes were round and her jaw dropped. “Women can be lawyers?” she asked, incredulous.
“Sure, a few are lawyers in your time. But it’s a hard road for them. I’m very grateful to them for going before me,” Celia said.
Emajean grinned. “I’ll bet you’re going to tell me that women are doctors too.”
“Actually, yes,” said Celia. “The medical schools are over 50% women in my time. There is still a pay disparity, but women are actually getting to where they can really contribute to their families.”
Celia thought for a minute before continuing. “Emajean, in your lifetime, we will have a Roman Catholic president, and you may even live long enough to see a Negro as the president of the United States.”
This was too much for Emajean. “I can’t believe that either one of those things will happen. How can a Negro be president if they can’t even use the same water fountains as we do?”
“That will change too. It will be difficult, and it will take a great deal of courage, but someday, the differences between you and László will be insignificant compared to the changes in society around you. Your children will see even greater changes. Men will walk on the moon, and . . . “ she stopped, realizing her enthusiasm was carrying her away from what she felt was permissible to share.
Emajean’s eyes were shining. She shivered as she said emphatically, “If we can get to the point where László and I raise no comment whatsoever, I’ll die happy!”
The lights dipped to warn the girls in the dormitory that they had only ten minutes to finish their evening toiletries and be in bed. Emajean hugged Celia quickly and slipped from the room.
Celia laid back in bed after brushing her teeth and stared at the ceiling. “God,” she began, “please let me be back with Rob and my children. Please?”

Let it ...

SNOW!

It's the first one of the season.
I didn't believe them, so I was out finishing Christmas shopping.
They were right.
I drove carefully.

Arrived home to a very excited message from daughter.

They're letting school out 2 hours early.
It's falling steadily, and because of our cold temps the
last several days, sticking right away.
It is supposed to continue until 9pm this evening,
so I guess it's an abundance of caution to let them out.

She doesn't realize that means she'll have time to finish picking
up the stuff on the floor of her room.
I'm taking away the laptop until it's finished.

Heh heh.

Just call me Scrooge.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Moments I Live For

Scene:  Morning

16 year old daughter, getting ready for school, still dark out, and it's REALLY cold AND she internalizes her stress about grades.

Sounds like the recipe for disaster.

I have learned that to just make her lunch, and get some breakfast ready for her, and not tell her the time hacks until it's 5 minutes before the bus comes is the safest way to start the day without explosions.

But this morning she bounced into the kitchen, packed up her lunch, grabbed her breakfast and said,

THANK YOU, MOM

I don't say that often enough.

I love you.

Truly a good beginning to the day.

Thank you, God.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Winter Band Concerts

My son plays trumpet. He plays it rather well, and I've been listening to him playing CHRISTMAS music for weeks.  So tonight we went to his Winter concert at school thinking that we'd hear some of that wonderful music that features TRUMPET.

Now, don't get me wrong. I love our band director. She does an amazing job coaxing what passes for music from some very unmotivated 7th and 8th graders.

But tonight...I just wanted to cry.

First - no real Christmas music. Of course not. It's public school.
Second - can someone just please shoot the oboe players?  Year after year. Just awful. And the poor band director acts as if it is NO BIG DEAL. But I look around the audience and see visible cringing and wonder, why on earth are we encouraging these young people?

Okay, if someday I rule the world, one of the first ten rules will be:

NO ONE CAN PLAY OBOE UNLESS THEY SUBJECT THEMSELVES TO A VIGOROUS PROGRAM OF PRIVATE LESSONS BEFORE PLAYING IN PUBLIC!

(I may be a *little* unbalanced on this subject. When I was in junior high there was a really obnoxious flute player (who was very bad at flute) that the band director encouraged to change to oboe. Week after week the rest of us listened to torture masquerading as a musical performance. Why, oh why, did Mr. BD (band director) encourage that child?)

Whew. Exhale. Back to present tense.

So...enjoy this version of Joy to the World...

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Monday, December 13, 2010

Getting Into College

I'm watching many of my daughter's senior friends getting their acceptances (or not) to the universities of their choice.  Thinking about the pressure, and the anxiety it causes young people (especially in the Nation's Capital), and the assumptions kids make about who "gets in" and who "doesn't" is painful.  These kids have been friends for many years, and now it comes down to what seems like a fairly arbitrary system, skewed by preferences and quotas.  Thus, I have an alternative suggestion:

Schools should have five hoppers.
The first is the hopper for top 10% GPA/top 10%SAT
Second hopper - next 10% of each
and so on until the fifth hopper which will be the remaining GPA/SAT

Hoppers will all close on the same date NATIONWIDE

The schools will have X number of slots they designate for each group the hoppers represent. They can decide how many in each category they want.  If they want 100% of their slots to go to the top 10%, that's their choice.

BUT, once the hoppers close, and the lottery for those slots start, there is no turning back.

The X number of slots will be what the lottery fills.  A completely random lottery, without names, ethnic origins, religion, etc.

So, for example, XYZ University has 3000 slots for admission.  They decide to have 1500 slots from the first hopper, 1000 from the second hopper, 250 from the third, 200 from the fourth, and 50 from the last hopper.

Thoughts? Problems I'm not seeing?

Microfiction Monday

Here's this week's photo and my caption.  Thank you Susan at Stony River for continuing to host!



Fran’s strategy for impressing Hank’s mother included scrubbing their clothes on the “perky” setting.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Emajean Mystery Continues!

Wherefore Art Thou, Emajean?
A Friends of the Library Mystery

Released from the hospital wing, Celia was ordered to stay in her dormitory room for another twenty-four hours. She figured that was all the time she had to make this whole situation right because if she had to work as a nurse, they would surely know she was not who they thought she was.
Emajean had shown up to escort her back to her dormitory room. Celia discovered they lived on the same hall. Emajean told her that Celia’s roommate was away taking a semester off to help with a sick family member. After Emajean had fussed over her for a few minutes, Celia told her to go away for a while and come back to get her for dinner. She needed time to think. She sat on the bed and closed her eyes, trying to remember the photos that had fallen out of the Annual.
If this is about Emajean and László, why does she still show up single in the later City Directories? Am I supposed to help them get together? Or is this about Walter and somehow healing that rift? Is the Anthony Harper of this time related to my husband?
Emajean returned as promised and the girls went down to the dining room. Everything was very formal. There were highly polished silver utensils and serving pieces, cloth napkins and beautifully ironed tablecloths. All the formality was in contrast with the food served which was sparse and not very appealing. Celia guessed that even though food was scarce in 1933, the administrators of the university believed that the standards of the establishment should still be maintained, thus the formality.
After the meal Emajean invited Celia to stroll outside to enjoy some fresh air. Taking the hint, Celia agreed and the girls wound their way through the tables to the doors. An older nun fixed them with her forbidding gaze and admonished, “be back by 8:30 p.m!” The girls chorused, “yes, Sister,” and went through the heavy wooden doors, down the front steps, and out into a clear evening.
Emajean peppered Celia with questions about the future as they strolled arm in arm around the quad. Celia dodged most of them, to the point that Emajean was exasperated and burst out, “why don’t you tell me anything?”
Celia answered, “I think I’m supposed to follow some code of not telling you things because it can change how things turn out.”
Emajean countered, “I’m not important enough to matter to the big scheme of history! I’m an average girl from an average family who has few aspirations beyond marrying László and having a decent life here in Chicago. What about me can possible affect the outcome of world events?”
“I’m not sure,” Celia said, “but I don’t want to take any chances. I think I need to err on the side of caution.”
As the girls neared the corner farthest from their dormitory Celia saw a huge willow tree between two buildings. Standing underneath the tree was a shadow of a figure. Emajean began to walk faster, and Celia suspected she knew who was under the tree.
When Emajean threw herself into his arms, Celia sighed. This is all so romantic but all so wrong for this time in history. How can I help them?
Suddenly, she knew. She stepped towards the embracing couple and then stopped, embarrassed. They pulled away from one another, similarly embarrassed. Girding herself, Celia announced, “we don’t have time to be embarrassed with each other. I’ve just thought of a plan.”
They both turned toward her eagerly, with attentive expressions.
“László , are there any young women your mother knows who would be a good wife for Teodor?” she asked.
“Well yes, there is our neighbor’s older daughter, Hulda. She is considered unmarriageable in Hungary because she worked as a nurse during the Great War. She is closer to Teodor’s age,” he answered.
“What do you mean unmarriageable?” Emajean queried. “Simply because she has helped wounded men?”
“There are many things about Hungarian traditional culture that would surprise you Emajean,” he said. “Including that if a woman has seen any part of a man’s body that should only be seen in marriage, she is considered to have been compromised.”
Seeing Emajean begin to wind up for an argument, Celia broke in. “Emajean! We don’t have time for this. Don’t you see? Hulda would be a perfect person for László to suggest to accompany his mother. She is a nurse, so if László ’s mother has any difficulties with the passage, she can minister to her. She’s a bride for Teodor who can help him make money here by helping Hungarian families with small children. I’ll bet László can even find a doctor who serves that community here who is desperate for someone who can talk to the mothers in their own language with their own traditions!”
Celia could see Emajean’s argument deflate and László’s beautiful smile widen. “Celia! This is a stroke of genius! Teodor cannot possibly object! I will not lose any time in my studies, I will be able to take the time I need to prepare for my exams, and I will be on the list to compete for good positions in the city!”
Emajean added, “and we can proceed with plans to marry! Celia, this is why you’re here! It’s brilliant!”
“Now all I have to do is convince Teodor!” said László.  “I’ll go see him tonight. Good night, dear ladies!” László gave Emajean a quick kiss and hurried away. The girls heard the tower clock begin to chime the half-hour song and hurried towards their dormitory.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

I LOVE my Office Depot

I had to go to Office Depot today.  We're almost out of printer paper, and the ink is low and I still have Christmas letters to finish printing.  I had a flyer they'd mailed me that showed some of their paper was buy 2 get 1 free.  When I got there I saw the paper but it was "Bright" white. I really prefer the "not as bright" white so I looked around for an employee.

I saw a woman (actually I just saw her arms) working in an aisle so I poked my head around and asked, "Excuse me, are you an employee or a contractor?" She didn't answer so I walked my whole body around. When I did, she looked up at me and smiled. A lovely, beautiful smile.  I saw she had an OD shirt on so I figured she was an employee. I asked, "can you help me?" and held out my flyer.

I started peppering her with questions and she motioned to me that she couldn't speak...and then I realized why she'd hadn't answered me. She was deaf! Nonetheless, and not the least bit intimidated, she took my coupon and marched over to the display and showed me where the SKU matched the coupon.  I pointed to the one next to it (the slightly stupid paper) and she shook her head no and pointed to the SKU again.  But then she walked all around the section, presumably seeing if she could find me a better deal!

I don't know much sign language -- okay, confession. I know how to sign "Thank you" and the words to "Jesus Loves Me".  So I signed thank you (I didn't think this was the moment for songfest), picked up my paper, and went to the cashier.

I have to tell you -- two weeks ago I was in this store and the young man at the shipping part jumped through hoops and bent over backward to save me tons of money to ship something to my parents.  I was fully prepared to pay an arm and a leg since the gift was very special, but this young man initiated it all!

And today, when I went to the cashier, she rang up my transactions separately so I could not only get the buy 2 get one free, but also the $10 off $50 spent.

I love my local Office Depot.  Or perhaps I love what a tight economy has done for customer service. Frankly, the businesses don't have to keep problem employees anymore and they know it.  As for me, as a boss, I'd rather have a cheerful employee with whom I have trouble communicating than an obstreperous one who speaks English clearly.

In case you're ever near my area, it's the one at Spectrum Center.  Love them!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Sensational Haiku Wednesday


Jen at youknowthatblog.com hosts this. I can't play often because my M-W is usually pretty crazy, but sometimes I get inspired.  Or not. You can decide.  This week's theme:
Crabby


We scuttle sideways
Avoiding issues that hurt
Back under that rock!

And just so you all know, I'm really not usually crabby. I've been described as relentlessly cheerful. I prefer to think it was a compliment.


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Microfiction Monday

The lovely and exhausted Susan still kindly allows us to travel via her site to places prompted by her microfiction Monday meme. It's simple: use the illustration that Susan provides and write a story of 140 characters or fewer. No cheating -- that 140 includes all spaces and characters and punctuation!

Here is this week's illustration, followed by my microfiction.



Leaning to the left or the right just didn’t matter anymore. It was the eternal zip code that one should have gotten right.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Good Eats

We tried a new recipe this evening.  Pretty good stuff.  No one died.  So if you're tired of what you've been doing with chicken, and have a little bit of heavy cream left over from T-giving, give it a try!

Chicken Lazone

1 tsp salt
2 1/4 tsp chili powder
3 tsp garlic powder
2 1/4 tsp onion powder
3 whole boneless chicken breasts, split in half
6 T unsalted butter, divided
3/4 cup heavy cream

Pasta to serve over

To make the chicken breasts easy to split in half, put them in the freezer for 15 minutes.

1. Combine the seasonings and coat chicken breasts

2.  In large saute pan melt half of the butter and cook the chicken over medium heat for about 8 minutes, on each side.

3.  Pour the cream into the skillet and lower the heat.

4.  Simmer for several minutes, stirring until the sauce thickens.  Add remaining butter.

5.  Serve over pasta, topped by sauce.

I didn't have any onion powder, so I cut half an onion into small pieces and threw those in the butter at the beginning. Then used the other half on the grater and put that juice on the chicken breasts.

The original recipe calls for a lot more salt, but we found it too salty.  It also calls for whole breasts -- but only 7 or 8 minutes total cooking. That just doesn't work -- the chicken wasn't cooked through. So I've tweaked it for our taste.  I think next time we'll add a touch of cayenne!

So be smart - if your chicken breasts are truly whole and fat, either cut them, or increase the time.

Poetry Bus

Trepidatiously, I board the bus again this week. A new driver. I hope I'll have the correct fare.

Kat from Poetikat is driving, and the assignment is to write a poem using the name of a favorite pub, bar or restaurant as the starting point for the story.

Well, we don't have pubs, but we do have a great Sports bar. I think there are more TV's in there than they can seat customers and during the 'season' the place is packed. Their beer is cold, their atmosphere is friendly and if it's too loud, they have outdoor seating.  Did I mention their food is great?  And best of all, they don't turn down ANY high school athletic teams looking for fundraising ideas. This place is truly a part of our community -- even though they're a franchised business.


Now, I have to say, my poem is NOT about sports or the bar...but the concept of Glory Days. I struggled with how to convey what I feel.  As an Air Force vet myself, I look back on those days as some of the best ever, so in some small way, I get it. Hope you do too!

GLORY DAYS

He’d been only 21 that summer
When honor claimed his time
He sought a justice day, in his own small way
To avenge a terrible crime.

He’d been to the field in Pennsylvania
Bowed his head near the hole in the ground
Imagined the plane falling, hearing them calling
But realized the wind was the sound.

Traveling to the five sided building
Homage again he would pay,
And in Manhattan the prayers were like satin
As many remembered the day.

He elected to serve his country
To try to make sense of their hate
To hold his head high as he fought not to cry
When the evil just would not abate.


Old at only age twenty three
A leader of men he became
They went out on patrol and returned to cajole
One another to keep them all sane.

He was proud to serve these men
And loved them more than brothers
Celebrated their gains and shared their pains,
Enjoyed cookies sent by their mothers.

An explosion ended his duty
And took away two of his boys
At home he found treasure and cited his pleasure
In life’s simplest of joys.

He’d come back to great celebration.
A patriot beloved by his town
He didn’t feel like a hero, rejected that mirror
But didn’t want to let anyone down.

"What I was doing wasn’t heroic
Every man there did the same
We took care of each other and tried to do right
Without thought to money or fame."

But his wife knew a particular look in his eyes
As he relived those Glory Days
The ones where his lads gave it all that they had
In firefights, poker or play.

He’d come back to home to red, white, and blue.
To his loving children and wife.
But the thrill and camaraderie of brothers in arms
Would be the sweetest memory of his life.

copyright, Kelley Westenhoff, 2010

Friday, December 3, 2010

Contest Out West!

If you aren't Quilly or Thom, get over to their blogs and get in on the contest! Each day one or the other of them posts a Christmas movie post. E-mail them the answer, and cross your fingers to win FABULOUS prizes...

Okay, perhaps I'm exaggerating a little about the prize - nothing with an engine or wheels is included. But it's a fun way to revisit Christmas movies, and see a new blog if you've never been there. And they're both nice people who are fun to visit!

So there!

Wait...what am I saying? If more people play, my chances of winning just went down...

Oh well,
MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Wherefore Art Thou, Emajean?

The mystery continues.

Wherefore Art Thou, Emajean?


Emajean’s background was very different from László's. She was the daughter of a coal merchant. Her father was much older than her mother, and had been married once before. His first wife had died, leaving him a son, Walter, who Emajean’s mother raised as her own. Walter was ten when Emajean was born. Ten years later, baby sister Frances was born. Frances was a sickly child and demanded a great deal of her mother’s attention.
Walter took it upon himself to walk Emajean to and from school each day. Although he was a grown man, in many ways his mind was still that of a child. He was fiercely protective of Emajean and began to interfere with her relationships with her classmates. When she complained to her mother, she was told that she was lucky to have an older brother to look out for her. Overhearing this, Walter appointed himself Emajean’s protector for her own good.
When Emajean was in high school Walter got a job working on a farm just outside the city. Whenever he had an afternoon off, he walked to the street car line and then caught a ride to Emajean’s public school where he waited to walk her home. One afternoon, she came out of the school building and didn’t notice Walter. She and a young man turned to walk down the street together. The young man bent his head to say something to her and took her books from her arms to carry them for her. Walter saw her look at the young man with a sweet smile, and  snapped. He rushed over to the couple, seized the boy by the shoulders and threw him into the street. An oncoming truck was unable to stop in time, and the boy’s leg was broken as the truck ran over it. When the police came to the house that night to question Walter, Emajean’s father told them he had sent Walter far away already, where he would not bother anyone anymore.
From that time, no one in the family mentioned Walter. Emajean could sense that her parents wondered what had gone on between Walter and Emajean in those first couple of years when baby Frances was so sick. But instead of asking, they pretended that he did not exist. The denial of his existence was so complete that Emajean began to wonder if she had indeed done something wrong, whether she had encouraged him in some  way that was wrong. A feeling of responsibility descended upon her, so she joined in the artifice whenever her parents were around, and gradually, their life went on as if Walter never had been part of it.
Emajean never knew where they had sent him, but once, when she was home sick with a fever, she heard the postman call out to her mother as he brought her mother the mail. She heard “here’s a letter from the Yukon! That’ll be young Walter telling you he’s discovered gold!” Emajean did not hear her mother’s reply. She heard her mother telling her father about it that evening, angrily declaiming the mailman's nosiness. Emajean tried to find such a letter, but was never successful. In the end, all she had to remember her brother by was an old photo, taken when he was working with his father on the coal wagon. In it he was dressed up, and looked out shyly, as if he was unworthy of the time and expense of a photograph.
Emajean graduated from high school with honors, and received a scholarship to study nursing at Loyola University in Chicago. Her first semester she had been a little homesick, but after the first trip home for Christmas, she knew that Lincoln was not where she wanted to live. She returned to Chicago with a zeal for enjoying the city and her college life, changed her name to Jean, and pursued her studies. Although she hoped to find a husband and start a life in Chicago, she never would have dreamed of meeting a man like László.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Because Thom is BACK

I've been not doing license plates because Thom was away...but since he's such a good sport and always leaves a guess, these are for him, and for anyone else who appreciates a little vanity in life.

IC RINGS
(guess what kind of car this person was driving)

He was driving a Saturn

S T8BLDR
(saw this one yesterday - cracked me up)
(tomorrow I'll tell you why!)

I think Thom is right on this, although we
first read it as Estate Bleeder and
thought they were avaricious

BLESS U
(do you think they got it for the cold & flu season?)

speaks for itself

SIT TYT
(a message to tailgaters?)
Sit tight -- as in stay put?

HANG UP
(my favorite!)

And oh, if people only would just
hang up and drive!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

More Than Any Marriage Can Survive?

This morning I was listening to a radio interview set in New Orleans. It was of a young couple whose lives have unraveled because of the Gulf Coast oil spill. He's a 4th generation shrimper. They've been married 7 years. They have two boys, ages 2 & 4. He was employed by his uncle's boat, and they had one week of glorious shrimping when the fields opened back up in August, but then the winch broke so he lost his job.

Without a job, they have lost

  • the house they rented
  • their vehicle
  • their phones
  • nearly their marriage.
While I was listening I felt vaguely sympathetic but still very far removed from the situation. And then the interviewer mentioned that this young man is a veteran. He served in Iraq. His wife described him currently as someone she doesn't recognize. He was more himself when he was getting shot at every day than the man she sees now.

Post Traumatic Stress from an oil spill?

Well, do the math -- since they've been married, they also experienced the Hurricane Katrina disaster.

Fishermen and shrimpers are, to quote one of the experts, the last of the hunter-gatherers. They have a tremendous self-reliance ethic, and they don't want to accept help from anyone. This young man has been stripped of everything - his work, his family, the security of a home and vehicle and because of the devastation Katrina caused in the social fabric and because of the ethic of his culture, there are very few back-up systems to get him help.  
Ironically, this photo is from a site offering employment.

It makes me think about the multi-generational reliance on welfare that we hear about all the time. All this young man (age 27) wants is to WORK. If he can get work, he can regain self-respect and the other things will follow. If we could transplant his attitude to the ones who feel a sense of entitlement, and help him see that to accept a hand for a while is not a matter of shame, we'd ALL benefit.

Any ideas on how to strike that balance?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Microfiction Monday

Susan at Stony River gives us an illustration each week. Our task is to come up with a story in 140 characters or fewer (includes all spaces and punctuation). Difficult? Sometimes, sure. But worth it -- and hey, she gives us a whole week.

Here's this week's illustration:



Confused Vegan
Ferdinand sniffed at the woman’s dress.
“Is that leather you’re wearing?”
“Yes, but it’s organic so it’s okay.”


Sunday, November 28, 2010

An Herbal Remedy


I had quite a few fresh herbs left over from Thanksgiving prep, none of which I was passionately attached to, so I offered them today on Freecycle. A lady responded and I said I'd put them out for her . . . but we didn't set a time.

Off I went to church.

When I got home, I had an e-mail from her saying she would send her husband by in a few minutes. I looked at the time and GACK! It was before I left for church!

So I e-mailed her back, apologized profusely, and said they were on the porch for her to come by at her convenience.

She responded: "Yes, my husband was there and I was confused. He picked up your bag of vines instead. I am speechless."

The bag of vines was the large industrial size yard waste bag of English Ivy vines my son pulled yesterday.



I'm still grinning at the picture of him coming home proudly having "bagged" a big load of . . . herbs.

Get on the Bus


My blog-friend Dana is in charge of the poetry bus this week, which is a very brave thing to do with it being a holiday weekend and being out of town herself...but since I'm procrastinating about chopping onions, I'll jump on the bus for her sake. Now remember, this may be posted on Monday, but I wrote it on Wednesday before.  Before the turkey, the relatives, the daughter's boyfriend visiting, the kids being home for four days straight. It was more a prayer than a poem, but the Bible is full of prayers that are poems. This is not the quality of the Bible, but it is heartfelt.

Peace, my friends.

Here is the prompt (choose from 3 great ones!) I selected:

In the first chapter of Isaiah God is having a fit. Quit giving me burnt offerings! Stop trampling my courts! Why do you even think I want that stuff? I am weary of bearing them… Wash yourselves! And then in verse 18 God says, "Come now, let us argue it out…" (NRSV) Now, you might not be a religious person, but I'm sure that even so you have wanted to argue with God (or Allah or the sun or your own super ego) in some manner. If you choose this prompt I'd like you to tell us about that argument.


Oh Lord, you tell me, “humility”
and I mumble, ME?
You tell me “peace, be still”,
and I find many things to do.
You call to me, “come and talk”,
and I go my own way instead.
The terrible intimacy of knowing that 
you knew me before I was formed, 
reminds me that I cannot hide from you now.
My rebellion grieves your heart.
Yet, you desire only what is best for me.
I thank my God that you are a God of humility, 
and peace, and patience,
and that you forgive me and wait for me to do things

Your way.



Friday, November 26, 2010

Wise Words From an Airman

Because there is a war on, we often hear tales of extraordinary heroism. Our military members ARE heroic. And sometimes their heroism is in just continuing the mission, in war or peace. This is a true story.

When I was a Judge Advocate in the Air Force, I hated working in the Claims office. Congress had designed the claims system with an eye toward preventing abuse which often prompted the exact opposite. People felt like the rules assumed they were liars and cheats and were disrespectful of their service. Due to the rules of depreciation, no one ever got ahead. On the contrary, by the third move, most people were in a position from which they would never financially recover. Thus, many inflated their claims. A lot of my time was spent explaining the fine line between truth and prosecution for fraud. By the time I met the young Airman, I had begun to assume the worst about every client who came in. 
That day I walked into the outer office and looked at the sign-in clipboard of people waiting to see a lawyer. I called the Airman whose name was in slot #1. The young man who stood up looked drawn and exhausted. His uniform, though, was crisp. Everything that was supposed to be shiny was very shiny, and he wore decorations showing him to be a fine marksman.
As we walked into my office, I motioned him to a seat . “What brings you here today?” I asked.
“My First Sergeant made me come,” he said.  “I don’t understand how to fill out these forms I've been given."
I reached my hand out to take the forms and looked at the information he’d filled in. There were a lot of empty blanks on the form. I shook my head.Many of our young Airmen back then weren’t very well educated, but this wasn’t one of the more difficult forms. Rarely had I seen a form so devoid of useful information. In exasperation I put the form down on my desk.
“Airman, you need to fill the form out as completely as possible,” I advised, “I can’t help you if you don’t give me any answers to work with.”
“I did as much as I could, ma’am,” he answered.
“Well, here in block 6 where you’re asked to list a location of loss, you put ‘not sure’. And here in block 7 where it asks you the date of loss, you wrote ‘not sure’. And here in block 8 where it asks you to list what you’ve lost, you wrote ‘everything.’ How is any of that useful information?”
“Well ma’am, it’s all I know to put. I was stationed at Clark Air Base in the Philippines when Mount Pinatubo started acting up. All of us cops went into overtime status. My wife packed everything up and cleared out with the kids. I didn’t see them before they left. She had all the paperwork for our household goods and hold baggage,” he said.
I had a feeling I knew where this was going.  It wasn’t uncommon in the military for young men to get married too young, have kids too young, and then be flummoxed when the wife got tired of playing house and left with everything -- especially from an overseas location. I thought he probably needed family law advice, not claims. But I persevered.
                “Okay, so your loss occurred at Clark Air Base, Philippines when your wife left. Pinatubo blew in June of 1991.  Why not put that down?” I asked.
“I can’t. I don’t know if the stuff ever got out of Clark. My wife and kids went to my parents’ home in Ohio. I stayed at Clark until the end,” he said. “I was with the last group there, and we got out in September. Next I went to school at Gunter Annex in Montgomery, Alabama for an eight month training course,” he said.
It was unheard of for young enlisted to take their families with them to the training courses. If they did, it was largely on their own funds. I knew this young man probably hadn’t had that kind of money. As if to confirm my guess he went on, “my family stayed with my parents, and then visited her family.  While she was there, she had our third child. My NCO let me go up there to be with them for a long weekend, but I couldn’t stay.” He looked at me. “Ma’am that was the only time in my entire Air Force career that I contemplated disobeying an order.” He laughed, “I think that’s why my NCO gave it to me.”
 “Well, I finally got my new orders, and I was so relieved to tell Tricia that we’d be meeting up soon in our new home in Florida. We thought sunny Florida together was better than being separated any longer.
“I caught a ride up to Kentucky. Her parents surprised us with a mini-van as a gift. It wasn’t new, but it was new to us, and with three car seats for kids, it was a life-saver.” He smiled. “We were able to pack everything we had on hand into the van and head south.”
I paused him there. “So at this point, you still had no indication of where your goods from Clark AB had ended up?”
“No, ma’am,” he stated.
“Okay, then you were in Florida. Go on?”
“I signed in to my unit and we got on the list for housing.  We stayed in TLF (temporary living facilities) for six weeks until a house came up for us. We were fixing to go look at it when everyone in the squadron was ordered back to duty and our families were evacuated due to a hurricane coming in. Ma’am, do you remember Hurricane Andrew?”
My eyes widened. “You were at Clark Air Base until the end, and your next assignment was Homestead Air Force Base?”
“Yes ma’am,” he said, “I stayed on duty and slept in what was left of a hangar with my unit for six weeks. Then I was transferred up here, to Bolling Air Force Base. I got here last week and my family joined me on Monday. So you see, ma’am. I don’t know whether my stuff got all the way out of Clark, all the way to Florida, or where it all disappeared. I don’t know how to answer the question of when and where it was lost."
I asked, "where are you staying now?"
“We’re living in TLF here on base, and waiting for housing.  The folks at Transportation they said they have no record of where my stuff might have ended up, but that I can file a claim.  But you know ma’am, it really doesn’t matter.”
“What do you mean, it doesn’t matter?” I asked.
“Well, we hadn’t seen that stuff for two years. We got along just fine without it. We’ve always had enough to eat and someplace decent to stay.”
I had a lump in my throat, for this young man who had sent his family off twice and stood between other human beings and danger, who had possibly lost all his earthly possessions, and was now saying it didn’t matter.
My eyes were moist when I told him, “Okay, I’m going to clear my calendar.  We’re going to imagine going from room to room and we’ll try to reconstruct what you had. I also want you to make a list of what you need. We’ll figure out a way to make this right.”
He looked at me and smiled. “Ma’am, I’m glad you’re going to try to help me, but you don’t need to be sad.  I know now that I have everything important in life. I have my wife and my kids. What we lost was only stuff.”

NANOWRIMO WINNER



That's it.  I uploaded my "still needs editing" novel this morning.  This occurred AFTER I had heart failure because when I went to do so, the novel was no longer on my desktop.  My very dear husband (who is a writer himself so he understood the panic) was able to search deeply into the computer's brain and find it.  Whew!

It's now saved as well to an external device. Live and learn.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone who comes here.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Bike Update Times 2

Okay, this is the last one about the bike, I promise.

Our school security office (a Fairfax County Police Officer) e-mailed me about the incident this morning saying he had identified the individual and asking whether I wanted to press charges.

I asked whether there would be any benefit to the individual in doing so (seeking restoration, not punishment was my idea).

He said the kid was not a prior discipline problem, and they could do in school discipline.

I elected that option, hoping that the kid will be scared to ever try something like that again, and frankly, protecting my son from having to get involved with pressing charges. He'll be in school with most of these same kids for the next several years.

I was really impressed that our security officer knows the kids well enough that he was able to identify this kid within an hour of being briefed into the situation.

And if the officer had told me this kid had a record and there would be merit in going the other route, I would have chosen that.

Hope that kid is really THANKFUL on Thursday!  I don't know who he is, but if he's never been in trouble, I'd imagine his mama is going to have a thing or two to say to him over this long weekend!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Bike Update

Talk about a brazen thief.

Today my son walked out of school and saw HIS BIKE on the bike rack at his school!  WITH the lock still dangling around the body.

He called me so I could come pick him up as the brakes are messed up.

His school has an afterschool program so whoever rode that bike to his school today was probably still in there. I wanted to go in and ask, loudly, "hey, does anyone here have a gold bike out in the bike rack?" -- thinking someone would be stupid enough to say, "yeah, that's mine."

But the school secretary wouldn't let me.  Sigh.  So I told her to keep her ears open for anyone complaining about someone having stolen "their" bike.

So, son is happy, lessons learned.
1.  Put the lock THROUGH the body AND wheels.
2.  Use the bike rack, not a pole that can be knocked over.

Smiles all around!

Microfiction Monday

W00t!

I finished my 50,000 words!  Now I can relax as I flesh out more, tweak, edit and enjoy Thanksgiving.

And I can concentrate on Microfiction Monday.  Thanks, Susan, for the great photo and your story.  You're a tough act to follow!

This kind of reminds me of Ellen DeGeneres's old routine where she talked about the deer head on the wall:
"I ask people why they have deer heads on their walls. They always say because it's such a beautiful animal. There you go. I think my mother is attractive, but I have photographs of her." 


So here's my feeble attempt to do a story, although I've mentioned Susan AND Ellen Degeneres which means anything I write will PALE in comparison!







Sam had worked his way up from the enlisted ranks with the idea of leadership someday. Who knew that NF writers needed a static muse?

**to understand this, you need to Google "Mustang" as a slang word.