Thursday, March 31, 2011

Scuba: The Encore

 This was my first-ever-in-my-whole-life blog entry.  My daughter walked me through it, and God bless her, I think she was the only one who read it.  Since then, I have made references to Scuba, who was part of the family.  So, with some hesitancy, I have chosen to 'repeat' it. 
My son had a cat named 'Scuba', although we didn't know this name for many years, so we called him 'Cat'.  (Note: My son felt that the cat was his, and the name was also his.  He was a teen at the time, as if this would explain anything to anyone else, unless they, too, have gone through those hellish years with their own teenage son.)
Scuba was a large black long haired tomcat, in his prime at the time of this story.  He could leap from the top of the stairs to the bottom, and take off at a full run.  Scuba would lie in wait under a dining room chair, and wait patiently for a passerby, and then reach out with fully extended claws to attack the ankles.  Then he would tear away at a sprint.  Scuba could be affectionate on his own terms, jumping up onto a lap, and stretching his long body to lay upon the chest, where he would knead the fleshy chest muscles.  His purring mechanism was set on high when he did this.

Being a long hair cat with the teenage boy as his groomer, Scuba developed amazing matted tangles in his soft fur during the winter, when the fur was the longest.  That was when the mother in me would start hassling my son to take care of HIS cat; these words were usually ignored until the matting was obviously painful and interfering with poor Scuba's movement.

As the only driver available, I forced my son and his cat Scuba into the car, and drove to the animal groomer we used every winter when this happened.  This particular day is the source of the title and the blogger name I have chosen, "The Contemplative Cat". 

Great Pyrenees
When we entered the grooming chamber, we found the gallery filled to absolute total capacity with large, oh so very large and loud, dogs.  I don't recall the breed, but they were enormous animals, and easily excitable.  The groomer, Carole, explained that these dogs all belonged to one woman, who trusted only this groomer to care for the bounding and barking beasts.  But, she added that her business partner, Bob, would gladly take care of Scuba.
Newfoundland with child
Bob removed Scuba from the travel cage.  Scuba's eyes were set in a predatory and/or defensive mode, and we could tell from his body language that he was not pleased to be there.  But Bob ably put a restraining collar and leash on him, and placed him in a safe shelf, high above the noise below.

Then Scuba did the strangest thing.  Scuba curled up in his familiar position we usually saw when he would sit at the living room window on the back of the couch.  He tucked his paws neatly criss-crossed, and with a proud set of his head, Scuba closed his eyes and began a soft but audible purring.  He stayed in this composed position even as we left.

Looking back on this Scuba event, I identify with this state of peace in the presence of danger and chaos.  Throughout my life when all around me was either a threat or incomprehensible, I have found myself withdrawing from the melee' and going into that quiet contemplative place where my sanity could survive.

I was once told that this "retreat" was the mind's way of surviving a stressful event.  Makes sense to me.
Rudyard Kipling wrote "....If you can keep your head, when those around you are losing theirs..." (not an accurate quote, but generally true to the original meaning).  I see that now as Scuba and my way of getting through awful times.
Thus, I am "the contemplative cat".  Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Importance of Language

Di’a  Dhuit.  Pronounced “Desh do-it” (as best I can remember), this is Irish Gaelic/Gaeilge  for hello.   We lived in Ireland for several years, with our children in Irish schools.  Our oldest daughter, Erin, was ten years old when school began.  That exempted her from having to gain some fluency in Gaelic.  Our younger children, John (6 yrs.) and Mary (4 yrs.), started into school with the expectation that they would be learning Gaelic.

Every school day, part of the classes would be in English.  For the rest of the day, Gaelic was spoken and taught.  John and Mary’s homework included Gaelic vocabulary and reading, along with homework in English.  As for Erin, she had to learn certain phrases having to do with being excused to go to the bathroom, get a drink.  She never learned them to satisfaction, so she told me she just “held it” until recess. 

Gaelic is an amazing and difficult language. 

It is beautiful to hear, and the poetry it has produced (and fortunately translated into English) is full of depth, revealing the courage and spirit of its people.  All students who are University-bound must pass Irish Language proficiency tests during their university years.  Sections of southwestern and western Ireland, as well as the out-lying islands, are considered native Irish language areas.  Parents send their children to three-week summer camps in those areas for immersion.  Some parents send their students to Irish/Gaelic-only schools, scoil, paying for this connection to their history through its language.

If I haven’t lost any readers by this point, I am telling you about this complex language, because language defines who we are as a people.  All over the world, the many languages and dialects spoken are reflections of the people and their history.  As the native-speaker generations age and pass away, often the language goes with them.  We see it here in America in the Native American populations, where the elders take the original rich language of their history with them.  Some of the following generations are left with only phrases and basic words. 
Language is the basis of our communications, written and oral.  Having a passion for writing leads me to having a passion for language. 
Go raibh mai’the agat .  (‘Thank you’ as best I can remember in Gaelic.) 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sunshine caves!

Sunshine caves:  I can borrow “The Backyardigans” DVD!  (refer to 22 March 2011 post)

It wasn’t an easy sell. 

I picked her up from preschool and took her on an errand to WalMart, where I bought her lunch at McDonald’s: a McNuggets Happy Meal, which is the most expensive of the H/M deals.  Then we cruised through the little girl clothing and she selected some ‘Dora-the-Explorer’ undies, and new socks.  We meandered through the DVD section, where a new episode of “Angelina Ballerina” was down to $10, so she held onto it with white-knuckles. 

I never knew this about Sunshine, but she is a pretty smooth negotiator.  Oh, to look at her, one would think she is all fairy dust, sparkly sweetness, and a gentle spirit.  But, Sunshine is not like that, at least, not all the time.  She can be ruthless.

I sailed by the toy section like an ice cube on a hot slope.  Still, Sunshine flagged me down.  Slow-down-there-Grandma-how-much-is-that-doll?  Kept walking and said something about $20-and-that-is-really-expensive.

Getting through check-out, with all the candy bar traps that lay waiting, took all the teaching experience I possess in the area of re-directing students.  Fortunately, Sunshine was seated inside the cage/cart, with my diet Coke, and holding onto the DVD.  With both hands engaged, and with the sales clerk joking with her, I didn’t have to bite the candy bar bullet.

With “The Backyardigans” in my hands while my husband drove me home, I thought, ‘HAH!  Gotcha, didn’t I, Sunshine!’  But, of course, that isn’t the case.

Friday, March 25, 2011

In Preacher's Creek, ch. 3 for Paint-It-Purple Blogfest

In Preacher’s Creek, Ch. 3
Our train of tricycle and rusty red Radio Flyer slowly moved along the restrictions of
the gray uneven sidewalk, thumping over the raised sections where time and water had
moved rock and earth to push up the ancient pitted concrete. My brother Kent, with
his sweat-streaked coal black hair and his black framed magnifying lense-like glasses,
peddled slowly, clearly bored with the straight, narrow, and bumpy.

I stood on the platform between the two back wheels, holding on lightly to Kent’s bony kid shoulders,
thinking random thoughts about the humid June weather, the smelly freshly oiled streets,
Mom’s command for us to stay off the oil or else, and whatever a scrawny four-year
old might think. Behind me in the wagon was Bobby, a lumpy neighbor friend, who
sat benignly in the hot metal and complaining as he always did about anything and
everything, including the smell of the oil puddled in the streets, puddled like black
swimming holes, black glossy swimming holes.

It was then that our lives took a new turn, one that would affect many lives, not just our
own young lives, but the lives of grown-ups who were setting out of one of the greatest
adventures of all. The Christian Church doors opened, and out poured a flood of talking
and laughing people, a flood like a rainbow of paint cans that had tipped over and spilled
the contents down the steps.

The women were all dressed in Easter-like finery—dresses with floral splashes and pill-box hats of all colors topped off with fine nets. The men were dressed in funeral garb, complete with ties wrapped too tightly around their bulging necks, with faces red and bloated. The talking and laughing women walked over to the
school house cafeteria next door, followed by the grim and silent husbands, forced there by custom and by threat, knowing that the next meal on their kitchen tables depended on their attendance at this event.

Out of the church doors came another group, only this time the women were garbed gaily
in gorgeous gowns of pink chiffon, layer after layer of wispy, wafting finery waving in
the wind. Then men followed them, young and fit and happy, laughing about the lucky
lively man who lingered with his love on the top step. The pink-clothed bridesmaids
lined one side of the stairs while the gray suit men lined the other. Between them, the
bride in a glittering and graceful gown of winter white with her willing groom began their

Fate took a hand at this point, and I detected a change in Kent’s long lean legs. He
steered our tricycle entourage onto the oil infested streets and gained speed on the smooth
level gleaming oily black surface. “Noooooo!” I protested but I was almost thrown
off by the g-forces Kent had gained with his grand propelling of our train. In the back,
Bobby was crying, “I’m gonna die…die…” but his voice drifted in the wake of the wind
generated by our rapid locomotion.
Thank you, Erin, for hosting this.

The wheels now had multiple layers of oil coating, and this was when Kent turned his attention to the wedding party. Going the speed of light, our train headed straight for the backs of the pink gowned women. They turned just as we came through them, a spray of sticky syrupy oil splattering across the pink chiffon, creating a new vision of pink leopards, screaming high pitched profanity. The bride was bowled over back onto
the steps, while the groom made his first mistake of his new marriage: he laughed.

The groomsmen were light on their feet, and danced out of the way, but they would have been safe. Our train had lost it load of oil on the bridesmaids and bride.

We headed through the grass, and with great effort, Kent steered us into safer ground,
behind lilac bushes, across two yards, and into our garage, where we collapsed in
laughter and dread.

The original short paragraphs are as follows.  I am adding this in, as I didn't recall (brain-fog-moment) that I was supposed to do this. :)

Kent had wired the wagon to the wheel support, where I stood.  Bobby climbed into the wagon, complaining about everything, including the nasty oiled streets and the hot muggy June weather.  Mom had given us no-nonsense instructions about staying off the streets, so Kent slowly pedaled along the uneven sidewalk.
Just then, a wedding party came pouring out the doors of the Christian Church.  The bridesmaids in pink fluffy gowns along with the groomsmen in tuxedos flowed down the church steps, laughing.  With their backs to us, the bridesmaids were oblivious to us three and our tricycle train.  The bride and groom stood on the top step, preparing to move down.  That is when Kent made a decision.  Peddling for all he was worth, Kent steered through the pools of black oil, and then made a line for the bridesmaids.  They never saw us coming.

This is a true story. I can show you the oil tire marks on the sidewalk in front of the
church.   In Preacher’s Creek  by Susan Kane
This blogfest is being hosted by the following site:   Please check out this site!  Many Thanks! to Erin Kane Spock, an awesome writer, with a great future!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Rach Writes...: Write Hope for Japan, Second Crusader Challenge, Crusader Notice-Board

Rach Writes...: Write Hope for Japan, Second Crusader Challenge, Crusader Notice-Board

This posting is for the Second Crusader Challenge, being hosted by the AWESOME Rachael Harrie!  Write something that starts with "The goldfish bowl teetered..." in 100 words or less, including those first 4 words.  Hope you like this one!
Thank you, Rachael!
The goldfish bowl teetered on the bookcase.  Scuba crouched beside the glass globe and waited.  Waiting for disaster?  Waiting for a free meal?  His golden eyes watched the bowl rock back and forth, with the golden prize inside. 

Just a little more and momentum would take over.  Wobble, wobble.  Water rose higher on the sides each time.

A black and white paw reached out, batting the bowl just a little more.  Keep the motion going, keep it going.  A pink tongue flicked out to lick whiskers. 

Over it went, water and fish.  Claws came out and Scuba leaped down.
What the heck is this?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Get Down with the Backyardigans!

Over the years of watching and caring for my granddaughters, we have gone through many stages.  At the beginning in the early days of toddler-hood, we marched around the living room with Barney the Purple Dinosaur ™.  Whatever you may think of the annoying dino, the show had some good children music—tunes to march around, dance and wiggle.  At the end of each show, ‘Bright Eyes’ and ‘Sunshine’ and I held hands and swayed back and forth, affirming our love for Barney and each other. 
I love you.

You love me.

Our imaginations are all we need.
We evolved into other shows.  "Little Einsteins" was fun and we patted our hands to make the rocket ship fly.

Then there were "The Wonder Pets", which still has appeal.  These amazing Kindergarten pets rescue animals from all over the world, while singing a disturbing form of opera.
They can do anything!

But one has remained a constant favorite, more or less because I find the show so darn funny and creative:  The Backyardigans ™.  The premise of this show is there are 5 children (a girl hippo, boy moose, boy penguin, boy kangaroo, and some girl creature with pink spots and strange head appendages) who share a large backyard.  After lunch, these children come bursting out into the play area, and a make-believe game begins.  The characters take on the personas of the day’s theme, while the yard morphs magically into the desired habitat.  Sometimes they are pirates, or surfers, or ancient Egyptians—there are seemingly no limits. 

There is no end of the creativity involved in this show.  The dialogue is cutting, the humor is rapid, and most of all, the music is unexpected.  Try pairing Knights of the Round Table guarding a dragon egg, dancing to Bali-wood music.  Picture the Old West town of Ping Pong Plateau, getting down with hip-hop.  The characters have intricate dances that can only be done by experienced dancers.  I know.  I am not one, but I recognize it when I see it.
Over the past few years, Sunshine and Bright Eyes have opened a new world of entertainment for me, and they have welcomed into their circle of child play.  But I have learned there is a line that they have drawn, beyond which I will not be allowed.

Recently Sunshine and I watched a DVD of three new shows, and I was trying the dances.  One was hip-hop, another Bali-wood, and the third I think some R & B.  In the past, there has been polka, Irish dancing, and Cajun, among other music & dance types.  Let me tell you:  these are cardio-challenging.  Forget all those workout programs advertised!  Watch this show, and try to keep up with that hippo!  She is sassy and bossy, and knows how to move.  The penguin might look slow, with the awkward feet and all, but he will surprise you.   

After watching the DVD, I decided to see if I could take it home to show Grandpa.
I asked Sunshine, “Can I borrow this DVD?  Please?  I will bring it back on Friday!”

She looked at me, and then at the DVD I held in my hands.  Carefully she took it away from me.  “No, I don’t think I should let you take it.  Bright Eyes likes this one.”

“Aw, come on, Sunshine!  I let you guys borrow my ‘Night at the Museum’ and ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth!’ I always let you take my good movies.”  I hate begging, but it was clearly coming to that.  “I’ll bring it back tomorrow.”

Wordlessly, Sunshine put the DVD back in the drawer and closed it.  ‘That’s it, then.’ I thought. ‘I’m gonna tell her mom.’  Or maybe I’ll get my DVDs and take them home.  That’ll teach Sunshine a lesson or two.
Should you want to listen to the music, check this link.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

St. Patrick's Day Blogfest

Saint Patrick's Day: At King David’s Pub and Winery
(Scene opens in Heaven, at the Pub.  Seamus and Patrick are sitting at the bar.  Patrick is asleep, with his head on the bar counter.)
Seamus (St. James):  Say, Paddy, now.  Wake up, you idjit. 
Padraig (St. Patrick)/Paddy:  Ah, Seamus.  Can ye not leave a good saint to a daecent sleep?
Seamus:  It’s yer people there, Paddy.  They’re at it again.  (Leaning over his pint, looking down on the velvet green)
Paddy:  Oh, Mother of God, is it that day already?

Maire (St. Mary):  Paddy, was it ye who called?  Oh.  (She looks down on Dublin.)  So.  Yer Irishmen are at the celebratin’ yer Holy Day.  The day ye up and died down there.
Paddy:  (Looking down) So it ‘tis, Maire.  And would ye look—Chicago has dumped green into ta rivers again!  As if that meant a ting, Lord help us.
The Lord God: (enters with angels singing and clouds billowing)  Was it ye, Paddy, that called m’name?  (Seamus and Paddy vacate their pub stools immediately.)    David, here, be a good man, and pour me a glass of cider.

King David:  Aye, My Lord.  The best Yer Hands ever made, here Ye go.  Have at it. (David pushes the glass over to God, who has settled down on a stool.)
The Lord God:  So, Paddy, what’s troublin’ ye, up here in heaven?
Paddy:  Oh, it’s the Irish people agin.  They’re after celebratin’ my holy day with all sorts of carryin’ ons.  And it bein’ Lent, ‘tis a sad ting ta behold.
The Lord God:  (quaffing a satisfying amount of apple cider) Well, ye know, Paddy,  People ha’ forgotten jest what I did for them, sendin’ ye to Ireland.  They were a terrible mean group, worshippin’ trees and such, ‘fore ye taught ‘em about the Trinity.

Seamus:  Yer right, My Lord.  An’ Paddy drove out them there serpents, and done all them miracles.  Ye did right good work, there.  (Seamus pats Paddy on the shoulder, who nods and perks up a bit.  Maire sits down next to The Lord God.)
The Lord God:    ‘Tis my desire that ye shake the Irish up a wee bit.  Paddy, ye go down to yer holy wells—there’s one down near Clonmel I’m partial to.  Stir the waters up a bit when there’s a group there.  And, Maire, go to some of yer holy grottoes, and send some tears down the cheeks of yer image.  That’ll make the Irish think a bit.  I bet ye’ll see more pious Irish at Mass come Good Friday.

Seamus:  I’ll go along with ‘em, My Lord, jest to keep ‘em company.  (The three saints exit.)
The Lord God:  (watches the saints depart, and laughs softly) Ah, there go some fine saints.  Glad I made ‘em.  (He leaves the pub in a cloud of glory, with angels singing.  David gathers up the glassware, and hums “When the saints go marching in…”  Scene ends.)
If I have offended any, please forgive me.  I lived in Ireland, and have a different perspective.  Thank you, Alexia and Colene!  I loved doing this!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Stylish Blogger

Hmmm...these people don't know me very well.  How much should I tell them?  How deep should I go?  Take a breath.
1.  I grew up on a farm with three brothers and one sister.  I learned how to skin a squirrel and rabbit from my brothers.  I can also clean a fish, pluck and dress a chicken or duck.  I will never again clean a catfish.  From my sister, I learned that I love her dearly.
2.  In 3rd. grade, my teacher Mrs. Mary Ellen Willard called me the 'Class Artist'.   She let me write and write, and draw to my heart's content.  She taught in a way that only exceptional teachers can.
Thank you, Kristina! 
3.  I didn't learn to swim until I was 32 yrs. old.  I was scared to death, but I saw my youngest child leaping unafraid into the deep end.  That made me jump in, too.
4.  We didn't have a piano (couldn't afford lessons, anyway) until I was 14 yrs. old.  Then I taught myself to play, using math to figure out the notes and their relationship to the keys. 
5.  Migraines have been a factor since I was 4 yrs. old, but I thought everyone had headaches like mine.
6.  Living in Ireland was one of the richest experiences of my life on all levels.  The Irish people are among the finest in the world.  I want to go back.
7.  Don't wish away a single day of your life, not one single day.  Life is too special. I learned this when I lost my brother Robert to a brain tumor at age 46, and then another brother Bill to septic poisoning after surgery, at age 44. 
 I will be awarding this Stylish Blogger Award in a few days to some exceptional writers, of which there are many!  Susan

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Broken Heart(s)

Broken Heart(s
I was alone when I lost the baby. 
I didn’t know for sure that I was pregnant, although I had purchased two home pregnancy testing kits.  The first one said “NO”.
 I was saving the second test for another week.  Back then those tests were not as refined, as precise.
But, I was alone.  My husband and two children were visiting his brother and family.  There was to be a ham dinner, and we were there when I became sick with what I thought was the flu. 
John brought me home, left me there, and went back to his brother’s house.  I didn’t see any need for him to stay home with me.
I had stretched out on the sofa, with a ‘throw-up’ bowl just in case.  The cramps in my abdomen would come and go. 
I know what you’re thinking: why didn’t I recognize the cramps as contractions. 
Both of my children had been delivered by C-section.
After a few hours, I was in such pain, and headed to the bathroom.
You know what came next.  Male or female, no descriptions need to be given.
After all was done, I crept into my bed with a heating pad to home against my empty womb.
I was two minds about the miscarriage.  I started mourning for the baby I would never get to hold.  Yet, I was also glad I wasn’t pregnant, because my son was only 10 months old.
Most of all, I was broken hearted.
I curled up in a ball with the heating pad and a box of tissues.
I started crying. 
Susan Kane

Friday, March 11, 2011

Paint-it-Purple Practice

I didn't know how I would feel writing in an over-the-top fashion.  I am a person who goes to an expensive buffet, and select small amounts of interesting foods, taking time to lay the item artistically crafted on my plate.  My husband has an all-out-no-holds-barred approach, and layers his selections, topping it off with horseradish cream.  Therefore, I tried out writing with gusto and abandon.  The following is what I came up with.  I didn't want to file it away and do nothing, as it was fun to write.  Have you checked out the Paint-it-Purple at

The glaring egg-yolk yellow sun hung in the azure blue clear sky over the scattering of rocky outcrop islands.  The intimidating sizzling rays baked the minute bright white houses with closed royal blue splintered shutters.  The houses huddled under scraggly dull dried out olive trees, under which hammocks hung and swayed in the ocean breeze.  Menacing brown eyes viewed the islands through outrageously priced Ray-Ban™ sunglasses, the one the man had bought at a miserable Sun Glasses R Us kiosk at the tiny filthy airport.
            The salesclerk had been a blonde whose chest poked out at him with the intensity of two guided missiles, had bent over enticingly, displaying her deep crevasse cleavage, showing off her perfectly rounded buttocks.  They were firm, as firm as two Texas-sized watermelons lying out in the fields, ready to be picked and enjoyed.
            He and Blondie had spent some sweaty moments in the back of rented metallic red Metro.  As she pulled her long, brittle dry, bleached blonde hair into a tussled reckless pony tail, she had purred in her deep cigarette raspy voice, “So, what’ll I call you, buddy?”  Blondie continued buttoning up her too-tight red and white striped blouse, the buttons creating strained gaps, revealing her cheap black lace bra that barely contained the guided missiles.
            Brushing off his midnight black Saville Row wool slacks with grey strips that ran down the length of his lean muscled legs, he had replied in a silky deep voice which would normally have signaled danger to any other person.  “You can call me ‘Ray’, Ray Johnson, or R.J.”
            “See ya’around, Ray,” Blondie had replied, as she squired her voluptuous ripe body through the front seats, and wriggled out the door.  “I’ll be watchin’ for you.”
            “Maybe I’ll buy some more sunglasses, when I come through again,” he had answered, pulling a deep lung-filling drag on the Russian cigarette he had retrieved from the gleaming gold cigarette case, engraved in curlicues and initials.  It read “LRG”.  He had taken it from a sleazy arms dealer named Larry, back in Dubuque, Iowa, a secret seedy den of iniquity, during his last mission.

My brothers used to read old detective novels.  I drew on the fabulous writing featured in those famed pieces of fine literature.  Susan Kane

My Favorite Picture Book

Oh, this is so hard to narrow down to a few!!  But...
I love The Great Kapok Tree  by Lynne Cherry.  This beautifully illustrated book is about a man who is involved in cutting down the big trees in the rainforest.  When he comes to a big Kapok tree, he decides to take a nap and rest before beginning.  During his nap, many different rainforest animals come and speak to him, showing how the tree provides for them.  It demonstrates how all living things need the others to survive.  When he awakes, the man finds himself surrounded by all the animals who have spoken to him.


The next book I love is The Mitten by Jan Brett.  In fact, I love all of Jan Brett's books.  Her illustrations are amazing, and reflects her heritage.  Even the borders of each page are intricately crafted.  In The Mitten, a child has lost one of his brand-new knitted mittens, just now given to him by his grandmother.  Different animals discover the mitten, and one by one, each wiggled into the mitten.  The mitten is slowly stretched out, until the bear comes.  This story is an old Ukranian tale, told in different books.  But this version is visually drazzling.
The Mitten
A thoroughly engaging book!

This blog idea is from Megan Bickel (The Write-at-Home-Mom)  Her URL is:

What a great idea! Thanks, Megan!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Thrill is Gone

Oh, the heavenly taste of it all.
There are few foods in the world that I truly enjoy.  Yes, it is absolutely true.  I have become jaded in the food arena, whether it’s an indicator of a health problem, or if it is simply true that food is food, some better than others.

When I think back, I remember the first professionally made pizza I tasted.  It was in the fall of 1972, in Carlinville, Illinois.  Before that event, the only pizzas I had eaten were the box mixes called ‘Appian Way’ or something.  But, this 1972 pizza had the best of all elements that make great pizzas.
Why can’t I feel that way again?
I even re-heated leftovers and ate them for breakfast.
I remember my first bite of “Christmas Pudding”.  It was Christmas of 1985.  Oh, my goodness.  And it had hard sauce. 
Why can’t I recapture that taste and wonder?

However (there is always a however, isn’t there?), there is one particular product, put out by the Girl Scouts of America:
Life is good
The Thin Mint cookie
I hear you out there saying, “YES!  Sing it, sister!  Hallelujah!”

As I sit here polishing off a box I found in the freezer, bought a month ago, I am relishing every single crumb of the Thin Mint.  How could I not?  The Thin Mint has all the elements of fine cuisine.  The texture is smooth, and then crunchy.  The mint flavor slowly invades the taste buds.  The chocolate goodness lingers in the aftertaste
In checking the nutrition facts, it is low in carbohydrates, has zero cholesterol, and zero trans fats.  There is even a little protein thrown in, alone with some iron.  The ingredients are typical lingo facts, but there is cocoa and oil of peppermint, which is basically all I need to know.
After all these years of eating Girl Scout Cookies, the thrill is still there. 

Bon app├ętit!
P.S.  For bloggers who crave cake, check out:
It is amazing!  If you follow 'hyperbole-and-a-half', you will enjoy this one.

Monday, March 7, 2011

W.I.P: In Preacher's Creek

This opening chapter introduces the town of Preacher's Creek and its history.  The real main characters tell the stories of this small rural town, based on its long history.  In the 2nd chapter, the narrator (Ellen Jo) and her brother Kent are part of the 1950s, and the ties to the past are always present and part of their lives, as their interact with the 627 descendants of the Johnson family and their fellow travelers.  This chapter establishes the voice and atmosphere of the setting.

            The lands east of the ocean were once dense forests, where a squirrel taking off in Virginia could make all the way to the Mississippi River without every touching down on earth.  But that all changed, for better or worse.
            In 1822, people were heading west, with the promise of farm land and a bright future for their families.  Among those trekking along in creaking wagons pulled by solid oxen was the Ezekiel and Annabel Lister Johnson family.    He wasn’t happy about this, but then Ezekiel did not have much about which to rejoice.  The only things he had going for him were exceptionally beautiful blue eyes and the fact that he kept his mouth shut.  This led those around him to think that he possessed wisdom. 
            Ezekiel Johnson married Annabel Lister over her father’s objections, but the blue eyes won out.  It was only a short time before Annabel discovered how dim the light in her husband’s brain shone.  By then Annabel was expecting, and wouldn’t let her father, Jesse Lister, take Zeke out and shoot him.  When a group from Virginia came by, Annabel signed up for the great push to the West.
            The trip had been cursed from the beginning.  When they loaded the wagon and hitched up the oxen, Jesse Lister fixed Ezekiel with a hard stare and then spit on the wagon.  “You always been a fool, Zeke, and a lazy one.   What my Annie saw in you, I’ll never know.  But, you hear me now,” and Lister paused here, for effect, the way fathers do when they want to make a statement of great importance.  “You listen to my girl, here.  She got more sense in a single eyelash than you have in your whole good-fer-nuthin body.  When Annie says to do somethin’, by heavens, do it.”  And then he took out a handkerchief and blew his nose loud and long. 
            “I’ll never see you again, Annabel, so you ‘member what you were taught, and take care of your babies,” he blinked once or twice.  “God go with you, girl.”  Annabel sat up straight, and watched her pa’s back as he walked slowly to the barely thawed field to start the spring plowing.
            The miles from Kentucky to the unsettled land of Illinois were seemingly endless. 
            Ezekiel halted their journey at a gentle creek when a rear wheel axle broke, and the back of the wagon drooped down in exhaustion.  The oxen had had enough; they began to graze happily. The whole train came to a muddy stop, glaring at Zeke with disgust, as this breakdown was not the first.
            With some difficulty, Annabel jumped down, and scurried to the back to assess the situation.  Ezekiel heard her tsk-tsk all the way at the front of the wagon, where he slumped over and hung his head down.  ‘What now?’ he wondered. ‘What now indeed?’
This was fun!  Thank you for hosting it, Kristina!
            Annabel marched up the slope, and observed the tall trees swaying in invitation, as if longing to be made into a nice snug little cabin.  Then she looked at the creek, hearing its clear water bubbling over smooth stones, disappearing around a bend.  Annabel rubbed her rounded belly, and told the unborn baby, “This is where you’ll grow up.”

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Saturday, March 5, 2011

My Back Gets Even

I threw my back out last Sunday (Super Bowl day, I think).  I had been writing since we got home from church, and had written most of Saturday.  Whatever.  But on Monday, 3/26, I discovered I could not move without being struck rigid with pain.  I slowly made my way from bed to couch with a heating pad.

What happened?  Scanning my actions of the past few days, the only thing dangerous or stupid I had done was…nothing.  In the past, my back has gotten even when I moved furniture, or did some reconstruction project that my husband had postponed.  (Those were really stupid things, like ripping out the boards under the sink, hanging curtain rods while balancing on the back of the couch.)  But this last excruciating back pain didn’t seem to have a source.
Then I looked at my computer chair.  It was cheap, about $39.00, and had no lumbar support.  I switched out the chairs with a better chair I had in my sewing room, and also tied some Healthy Back ™ support thingy to make it ‘Super Lumbar Supporter Chair’. 

I have also been aware of avoiding stressing out those whiney muscles, and using heat when merited.  I dug out a back support wrap once purchased at a medical supplies store.  It is uncomfortable to put on—involves Velcro and pulling one side to latch onto the other.  Makes me away of my blubbery tummy.  It is helping.

Today I put in a load of laundry, and didn’t freeze up in agony as I did it.  Things are looking up.  I also found some clothes I had been missing since Christmas.
Add caption
(What was I thinking?
OMG, this hurts!
Finish the .....sculpture already!  Do you think I can hold this pose forever?  Do you have any Motrim on you?)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Crusader Challenge

 We went to the Getty Art Museum north of Los Angeles on the day of the huge rainstorm.  We sat restaurant, eating our sweet potato fries, and watching the water. 
My husband John bloviated about natural disasters, rambling on about weather. We told the waiter Henri that we would like the braised rabbit and deep fried fuliguline to be served now. 
My son-in-law Richard perused the wine list and selected a nice Sonoma Valley merlot.  “It will cut through the gaminess of the rabbit like a hot blade,” Richard explained in his refined English accent.  We nodded in understanding. 
John’s napkin fell unnoticed to the floor.  I watched that napkin, almost shaking with my compulsive nature to pick it up and strangle him with it.  He finds this compulsive habit annoying.
The wine came, and Richard did the oenophile thing.  He nodded his approval.  Henri came with the heavy tray of our order and prepared to place the steaming plates on the table.  That was when he stepped on that damn napkin and slipped, falling to the carpet with the entire order.
It is my nature and an essential character trait to help and be compassionate.  So I leaped from my seat, and began mopping up the floor with my own napkin.  I picked up every last morsel; call it a quirk, but once I start something, I have to finish it.
With a new order on the way, my daughter Mary commented on a William Hopper piece in the gallery.  Visiting an art gallery is my idea of heaven, and we began talking about the different paintings.  She noticed I was squirming uncomfortably.  “What’s wrong?” she whispered.  Looking around, I whispered back, “ Hemorrhoids!” I answered.  There, she knew my secret. 
I may have revealed something about me that isn’t true; can you guess what it is?
Susan Kane

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Tradition of Storytelling

Storytellers come from other storytellers.  How can one learn the nuances and joys of oral storytelling unless they, too, have listened to the sounds of someone telling a story? 

My father and brother Robert were great storytellers.  My father preferred the longer, elaborated stories, during which he would gesture and embellish.   Robert was a storyteller who used simple language, significant pauses, and excellent timing.  Both had the listeners right where they wanted them, which is listening and responding.  My brother Don is an excellent storyteller, who laughs along with the audience, and has me almost wetting my pants.  My son John can tell a story with such language that the listener is transported to the site of story and seeing what he has seen.  My husband John is a great storyteller.  Right now he is reading about George Washington, and in the evening, he re-tells what he has read to me.  It is almost as if I were reading the book.

I am a storyteller, although my preferred medium is writing.  I have told many engaging stories to my children and my students.  So it is understandable when my granddaughters tell me stories.  Child #1is 6 years old, and Child #2is 4.8 years old, and that fact is quite important in the learning of storytelling.
Child #1 goes in for big productions, with blatantly stolen plots (Thank you, Brothers Grimm ala’ Disney).  She got an influx of character Barbie ™ dolls for Christmas: Sleeping Beauty, Beast/Prince, Belle, and Tinker Bell.  Beast/Prince is the only male doll is the mix, so he is one very busy guy, playing many parts.  Her stories have all the plot elements that make for a successful story, including the Big Kiss and the Happy Ever After.  Oh, also, at least one of girl dolls is naked throughout the story, because the girls can’t find the dress that goes with her character.

Child #2is more free-form in her storytelling.  Her last epic was while the two girls were sitting across the kitchen table, eating doughnut holes and drinking milk.  Her stories all start with ‘Once upon a time…” and go on from there.  However, Child #2 doesn’t have the language base and images to call upon for her story (like her sister).  Sooo, her stories are often like a plate of spaghetti, with the noodles meandering all over the plate.  Her characters’ names are often from items within her field of vision.  The princess was named Ribbon, and the prince was named Plate.

Child #1could tell from my eyes that this was getting to be a painful experience, so she interrupted her sister and asked, “Sweetie, how long is your story?”  With her hands on the table, #1 held them apart about 12 inches.  The right hand was the ending of the story, and the left hand was the beginning.  Child #1 showed her how to move the left hand toward the right hand as the story progressed.

Well, that made all the difference.  I watched her left hand move, vaguely hearing the plot twists and new characters (Milk, Napkin, and Cereal).  Slowly, the left hand came to within ¼ inch of the right hand, and stayed there.  When Child #2 reached a point that seemed to her sister and me to be a good conclusion, we started clapping.  Child #2 beamed with her successful storytelling.
Sometimes, storytelling has a painful learning curve.