Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Clootie Dumpling, or The "pudding" that attacked the world...

Some of you don't know that I'm a Brit. Or more correctly, I'm a Scot. I was born in Scotland eons ago and came over here with my parents when I was a kid. It's kind of cool having dual citizenship, I am a dual citizen since I never gave up my British citizenship. It doesn't mean a whole lot, but I do get to have some extra privileges when I go to the UK. I get to go through the customs as a UK citizen, while my husband stands in line with all the US born folk waiting to go through... I stand and smile at him...OK, truth be told, I gloat at him. He hates standing in line, and on more than one occasion he's said, "I stood in line for four years in the Navy, I wouldn't stand in line anymore, even if it was to see Jesus Christ on the cross". That may be a bit of a stretch but then again, I wasn't the one standing in chow lines in the Navy, so maybe there's a bit of truth in the statement.

OK so here's the deal. At the holidays I try to resurrect (no pun intended, after the above comments about Jesus) some of the old holiday traditions I learned from my Mom and her sisters. Christmas was always a big deal in our house. We didn't have any relatives over her in the Colonies so we "picked" our relatives. Our friends were the relatives we lacked. My Mom would have our house filled with friends, and friends of friends, over the week between Christmas and New Year. When I think back to those days, I think she was trying to compensate for the lack of family for me.

She would make all kinds of foods. Some of the food she made was pretty ethnic...You know what that is? Innards and all the things most folks over here wouldn't touch with a 10' pole. But if they didn't know what it get the picture. My Mom was a great cook. She learned all about cooking from her Father, who was a professional cook, amongst other things... Someday I'll go into that....

My Mom taught me all the things she learned from her Dad, and I in turn have taught my kids. Consequently, there is no sauce that I can't recreate after tasting it, nor are there many dishes I can't recreate. I seem to have inherited the "tasting" gene (it helps me when I go to wine tastings...hmm...maybe I should think about a new career, I'd just get drunk).

One of the biggest things (literally) at celebration times was the creation of the "Clootie Dumpling". A "Cloot" is a cloth. A big cloth, usually made from linen, or something that can hold a huge pile of flour, raisins and all the other ingredients.

The recipe is an ancient one, and most families have given up the tradition to make the dumpling to serve on the holidays. I decided this year, since the family party was falling on December 21st, Winter Solstice, we should really do it up and have all the traditional food stuffs, including "THE CLOOTIE DUMPLING".

I found the old recipe, all stained and yellowed. I matched it up with a couple of others I had come across when looking for the "real" recipe. The ingredients were available. At least I could buy them, I didn't have to sacrifice a cow, drain blood and chop innards...Most of the stuff was at my local grocery store.

This thing takes a lot of ingredients and it's messy. The assembled ingredients were all over the kitchen and the dining room. I had the needed water boiling in a vat on the stove (a big vat). I had the cloth ready. I was ready.

I had to dip the "clootie" into the vat of boiling water, pull it out, let it drip a bit, then wring it out. (Does anyone know how to wring out a big cloth when it's been soaked in boiling water, and NOT burn the Hell out of your hands??I sure don't...I had at least 2nd degree burns on my fingers...and the was worst than the first kid coming out....). I finally got the cloth out, then I had to spread it over the table and put flour on the wet cloth, spread the flour to the ends of the cloth...(Got it? So now you have a big wet slimy cloth dripping water and what appears to be library paste all over it).

You let the cloth "set" or "rest" while you make the dumpling. Now, as I stated, I had all the ingredients out and ready to hit the decks running, so I figured I'd be golden. I found the largest bowl I own and started putting the first group of ingredients into the bowl. So far so good, I had the flour ( all 6 cups of it) the 9 teaspoons of baking powder, two cups of breadcrumbs, cinnamon, ginger, salt, allspice and the shredded beef suet (1/4 pound of the artery packing cholesterol stuff) in the bowl. There was only one way to mix went the hands, up to the elbows in the mix... I had to make sure the suet was rubbed into the dry ingredients and the warmth from my hands helped to melt the suet into the blob that was forming. I added the eggs, molasses, and milk and continued to massage the blob. I added the raisins and the currants. Last, but not least, I added all the trinkets that make the "pudding" into the celebratory thing that it is. The trinkets are wrapped in tin foil and poked into the mass. A heart for love, coins for wealth, something for good health, strength, and whatever else you want to put in for fortunes for the New Year. Finally I could see this thing was forming into something, I wasn't quite sure what to call it, but it looked familiar...(kind of like the gross stuff you might see at the dog park...)

Now the fun began in earnest. I had to navigate the "blob" over to the "Clootie" roll it on to the "clootie" (the freaking thing was so heavy I needed help getting it to the table where the "clootie" lay in wait). When the "blob" was in the middle of the "Clootie" I had to bring all the ends together and tie with a that? "tight". BUT I had to leave a bit of room for expansion. (Who knew?)

The whole "clootie" now filled with it's science experiment was then placed, carefully into the vat of boiling water. I needed Larry, my husband, who is looking at me askance as I do this recipe, to help lift the "blob" into the vat. The whole time he's lifting he's saying to me, "Tell me again, why are we doing this?" Straining my biceps and standing on my toes to get the "blob" into the pot without burning the rest of my body with burning water, I yell "BECAUSE IT'S TRADITION AND IT"S THE SOLSTICE!!!THAT"S WHY!!!" He forgets the Gods need to be appeased by human sacrifice....I'm just doing my part for the Gods, dammit.

The "thing" finally settles into the vat of boiling water...and I gotta tell you, I think water gets hotter when you add stuff to it immediately, 'cause this vat was bubbling up a storm and water was flying out of the pot running away to get cool. It was a sight to behold.

The vat was set to a high simmer. The "thing" in the vat had to boil for 3 1/2 hours...Yep, that's right 3 1/2 hours...I had to top off the vat on occasion to be sure the water stayed over the top of the "thing". The "thing" by this time was starting to expand in the "clootie". It was a good thing I left room on the top for the expansion........

The hours went by, I peeked in on the "thing". I told Larry, "Don't leave the house before this is done, I'm afraid of it." I had visions of all those old horror movies about the "things" that came from outer space to kill all the humans, or something like that. I wondered at one time, if this truly was some sort of science experiment that may have turned into some kind of radioactive growth....

Finally the 3+ hours was over and I had to remove the "thing" from the vat of water...boiling water. I could not lift the vat off the stove. I'll bet that sucker weighed in at 50 pounds. The objective was to grab the "clootie" haul it up and place it into a colander to drain. Now, I ask you, who in their right mind owns a colander that will hold a "blob" that has to weigh 30 pounds? I sure don't.

I enlisted in the help of my poor husband again. He looked at the vat, looked inside, looked at me and said, "No way", and promptly started to walk away. I looked at him and said, "By all that's holy...if you walk away from me in my hour of need, you may as well grab the butcher knife and cut out my chicken.....". I guess my words got to him because I noticed he came back with a smirky smile on his face as he grabbed a towel and we, together, lifted the vat and the "thing" on to the counter. The problem was, you see, you had to get the "thing" out of the water while the water was still boiling. You can't let the "thing" sit in tepid water.

We both hauled the "clootie" out of the pot, put it into the cleaned out sink, in the biggest colander I owned, which was no where near big enough to hold this great mass. It sort of moshed over the colandar and rested on the bottom of the sink. We carefully cut the string holding the "clootie" together and surveyed the "blob". It honestly was the worst looking food type of thing I've ever set my eyes on. The outside was slimy and kind of grayish, when you touched it, it sort of jiggled. I knew I had to dry it but this thing almost didn't get the drying it needed. It was bad. Larry took a good look at it and said, "You're not going to try to get my family to eat this thing, are you?" The gauntlet was thrown down... I said, "You bet your sweet bippy, I'm going to serve them this, AND they're going to like it too..." I wasn't quite sure how I would pull the last part off, but I was determined to try.

The original recipe states after draining the "thing" you place it on a tray and put it next to the fire to dry out for a few hours. (These old recipes are a riot, they never give you exact times or measurements, it's just sort of known...guess what? I don't have a clue). I decided I would put the "thing" into the oven and keep a watchful eye on it. After all, I didn't want to destroy it....

After about 45 minutes of drying it looked like something some homeless hungry folks wouldn't object to eating. As a matter of fact, it starting looking and smelling pretty damned good. Larry came in as I was looking into the oven and he said, "You know that looks really good, and it smells great". Hmm...maybe it wasn't going to be the disaster I anticipated.

I trimmed up some of the sides of the "thing" and placed it on a decorative plate. I poked a sprig of holly into the top and wrapped it for the next day...

The comments from the family were...guarded, but they were all game to try the "thing". I think they were more excited to see what their piece of the dumpling studded with the trinkets would give to them. Everyone of the family in attendance to my impromptu "Winter Solstice-Scottish traditional Clootie Dumpling" unveiling ate (and lived to tell about it) and seemed to enjoy the "Thing" called a "Clootie Dumpling".

Now you ask..."Will you make it again?" My answer to that is, "WHEN FREAKING PIGS FLY!!". I'm still dressing the burns on my hand.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Sacrifice? Does anyone do it anymore? Not around here.

With all the headlines spouting financial ruin, I decided to observe how people were sacrificing and what they were doing to tighten their belts to protect themselves. It was Wednesday night, the night before the garbage man comes to pick up all the garbage in this suburb.

I walked around the neighborhood, nodding hello (no one really speaks to each other around here, it's just a nod and maybe a slight smile, but usually the nod is the extent of the acknowledgement). Every house had at least one huge garbage can in front of it, some had multiples. We recycle around here, so this was true garbage, no paper or cans.

OK, now you think I'm nuts, but this was a pseudo-scientific study I was doing. One of the neighbors has a dog that gets loose on occasion, usually on garbage night (must be the yummy smells emanating from the containers), so I was able to look at some of the garbage as I walked by.

I saw some perfectly good food stuffs in that debris (no, I didn't take it...I'm not that cheap) as well as some other things I consider "specialty" food stuffs I only have during the holidays (OK, so maybe I am cheap....). The point is, in that can of garbage were the remains of non-essential foods and junk. No sacrifice in that household. At least none evident in their garbage.

The farther I walked, I thought about sacrifice and what it meant to me, in comparison to other people. I've lived the majority of my life in this great country and learned, culturally, what it means to live in this country. We all love this country and some of us think that folks living outside of this great country are envious of our lot in life. I don't think so.

I see this United States as a country of great potential, not only because of our resources and wealth (which may not be as great as it was a few months ago, but I digress..) but for the human resources and culture, if we choose to accept a few sacrifices.

We need to embrace the concept of: neighbors, family, ecology, environment and frugality, instead of materialism, isolationism and greed. I don't think many of us would disagree with that statement. The difficulty, as I see it is, we have to be happy with less. You know the old idea of "Less is more"? We have too much stuff, and the stuff needs stuff to survive. The damned stuff has a life of its own and we're all too stupid, or too entrenched in our quest for "more, more, more" to realize what's happened here. We don't know what sacrifice is. I know what you're thinking, "Isn't it great that we don't know what sacrifice is? That means we have more than we need and have had it that way all our lives".

I used to think it was great to have everything and anything at my finger tips, but it doesn't give me much pride to know that I have so much and so many others in this world have little. What really ticks me off is, I think they're happier than so many of the folks that live here. Wealth and stuff doesn't bring happiness, that's for sure.

The price of gas has caused a reduction in the use of our cars. I see buses traveling the roads with more frequency. The buses have LED signs that light up as they pass by saying, "take the bus-save gas". People are taking the bus more frequently, I see them at the bus stop (who even knew there was a bus stop on my street? I didn't, and I've lived here for 40+ years) as I drive to work. If there was a bus to my work, I think I'd be on it.

I've made a commitment to myself. I'm going to cut back on spending, eating and waste. I'm going to attempt to de-clutter my environment and maybe, just maybe, if I have less stuff I will understand the concept of "Less is More", because I need to understand that, and I'm betting anyone reading this needs to understand that as well.

Willing to give it a try? I don't think it'll be tough...

Monday, October 27, 2008

Why do I live wrong???

Historical Fact:

Forty years ago this month my husband and I, a very pregnant I at that, purchased the home we still live in today. A simple three bedroom ranch, one bath, about 1000 square feet. It's about 1600 square feet if you count the family room in the cellar.

When we attempted to buy the house, we went to our local savings bank (that was the type of bank you went to for mortgages at that time). We were told we would have to refinance my husband's car (he was paying $52.00 a month for his car payment -way too much to get a mortgage for the house) and we'd probably need to take out a loan on his small life insurance policy. The fact that I was working couldn't be taken into account because I was a woman, and no doubt would get pregnant again and wouldn't be able to work. I'd be home taking care of the kids and making sure my hubby had a hot meal set before him when he came home from work.

We listened in rapt attention, because this man (and yes, it was a man, because they were the only ones capable to give out loans in those days....the women had to do the paperwork, but couldn't make the big decisions...they were probably thinking they should be at home with their kids, making dinner for their hubby's...I guess) knew more than we did about the workings of mortgages and what we could and couldn't afford.

So armed with all the information, we went toward fulfilling the great American Dream of owning our own home. The price for the home was, $16400.00. ($300.00 down, $300.00 closing costs). A pretty high price in those days, especially when the only income to be counted was net pay of $86.00 a week. Our mortgage payment would be $100.00 a month. The $100.00 was double our rent at that time, so this was a huge amount.

OK now stop laughing. I have a point here, listen.

We moved into our house. The months past by and there were some months when we weren't sure how we would pay the mortgage, as well as the mounting bills for the baby we now had, and everything else that life throws at you. I sold my beloved piano, my skis, we refinanced anything we could, I learned how to make things out of nothing. I was probably one of the first "recyclers" in the world. We lived in a neighborhood with folks in similar circumstances, so no one felt alone in the struggle to maintain our houses and our lifestyle in general. We weren't rich but we felt comfortable in the fact that we had a house and we were making it, little by little.

Our furnishings at that time, in this new house, consisted of two pieces of a three piece sectional couch, patio furniture, milk crates (not the plastic kind everyone has today-but the metal ones, stolen from the milk truck.....well appropriated, not stolen I guess), orange crates covered with shortened sheets to make a flowing table cover. Our lamps consisted of anything someone wanted to give us. We couldn't afford to buy any, so we made do with what we could get. We became very creative in our decorating at that time.

Eventually we were able to buy new things, but not until we could pay cash for the things. We didn't have the luxury of credit cards, and to be honest, I think we were afraid of credit cards for fear we would get ourselves into debt. We were frugal and used up things before we bought new things. I never bought anything retail, it had to be on sale, or in a consignment shop. I wasn't ashamed of that, I loved saying I got a deal on this garment or those what if someone owned it before me, it was broken in...I just didn't care all that much.

Now, let's speed ahead in time, to say, 2008.

I work for a company that provides proof of insurance on property for the mortgage company. The mortgage company has a financial interest in the property and they won't close on the house unless they have absolute proof their financial interest is covered in the event of a loss at that house. (Got it?) here's where things get really scary.

Over the past few years, I've come home with all kinds of stories about young newly married folks buying houses with price tags way over their budgets, but still they get the mortgage and off they go into their new dream house. What I've noticed, more than once though, is many of these young marrieds walk into their closing hand in hand, sign the paperwork, but walk out with the closing papers and more than one mortgage on their dream house.

What they've done is to liquidate all their assets, savings, 401K's and any other money that might be hanging around, and use this as a down payment. This makes an immediate equity in the house (money they put down was theirs so they can take out equity in, at least, that amount). Hence, they have money to borrow as a "Home Equity" loan. They can then use their own money to buy stuff for the house, you know the essentials, like a flat screened TV, home theatre, pool table, the know...And of course, claim the loans on their taxes, pretty neat, huh?

Both of these newly marrieds I call, "sweet things" have good jobs, both the hubby AND the wife. The combined salaries are certainly enough to cover the bills. No one is really looking at the bottom line, because the bottom line is always waaay down there and we won't really ever have to worry about it. (yeah, right)

They move into their dream house, buy a couple of new cars, put in the landscaping, fencing, and buy a shed for the ride-on lawn mower, never mind that they don't know diddly squat about caring for these mechanical things they now have...What the Hell? Someone can fix them, they'll just "send them out" for repairs if need be.

Next thing happens...a child...maybe two...Hubby's job is shaky...Wife's job is **horrors** "downsized". We now see the "sweet things" in a far different light. The light's not as bright as it once was. They have two mortgages, two car payments, a payment for the ride-on mower, kids are in daycare, Mom has to work two jobs to try to make up for the lost wages due to downsizing. Hubby is staying late at work very often to make up some of the lost revenue they need to maintain this unmaintainable lifestyle...But he'll die trying, by damn!

Life goes on like this for months, then someone gets: sick or loses a job or has to stay home to care for a parent or child, one of the cars gets wrecked in an accident, someone is injured, you get the drill. Life happens to the "sweet things".

They have credit cards, to keep their heads above water in the mean time. They rob Peter to pay Paul, they use one card to pay off the other card. They start paying all their bills by credit card, pay only the minimum amounts due on the cards and continue to live the lifestyle they started when they first bought the dream house that was out of their price range in the first place. Things are really spiralling downward very quickly. Things are getting out of hand. The kids need things, the house and cars need maintenance, the credit cards are maxed out. The "sweet things" aren't so sweet to each other anymore.

"You did this...", "No, this is your fault", "We shouldn't have gotten that:big screen TV, riding lawn mower, new kitchen appliance, etc.,etc.,etc." The "sweet things" are now several months behind in all the bills, including the mortgages...which now number three...Yes, some banker allowed them another "home equity" loan, to consolidate some of the little bills into one larger one, allowing them to make one big payment a month, rather than a bunch of little ones.

The "sweet ones" are beyond trouble by this time. They are headed down a very rough road. It's going to take perseverance and control to get out of this mess. The have few options left. They try all the normal things to get money to help solve this crisis. They call family and friends. They try to go back to the bank that gave them the initial seed money that got them into the mess in the first place. The denial from the bank hits them between the eyes. They're amazed they aren't able to get another loan...The "sweet things" are angry that the big bad banker man won't give them more money to squander.

Pretty soon the "For Sale by Owner" sign is the only thing you see on their lawn. The house takes on that empty cold look that can only happen when the life is being pulled out of the home, the soul of the home is being spirited out, leaving just the shell of the house. This was once a house with laughter and the noise of a family loving life, now it's a big box of sticks and cement planted on a small patch of unkempt grass. The family is gone, both in spirit and in body. The family has left the house sitting on the grass waiting for the bank to take over and replace the "For Sale by Owner" sign with a sign that says, "For Sale-Foreclosure".

Sounds pretty sad, and it is, but it's not my fault, or yours. It's the fault of so many folks who think they can have something because they want it. They've been sold a bill of goods that says, "You can have everything you want, forever...just sign on the dotted line".. Guess what? It's time to pay up. You've had your fun and your overpriced house. It's time to stand in line with the rest of us and pay what you owe.

I'm angry that we, the folks who bought and fought to keep a little house for ourselves, strained and struggled to make sure we paid our own way. We didn't play the system and try to cheat to get more than we were entitled to, we pulled in our stomachs, tightened our belts and stood up tall and worked harder than we were working so we could keep what we had and pay in cash for the necessary items in our homes. I'm going to be really pissed off if my tax dollars, tax dollars that I faithfully pay each and every year are going to be used to help keep folks from foreclosure in their 5000+ square foot houses with the price tags hovering at $750000.00.

This may sound like sour grapes to some, but it's the way I feel about this whole "housing crisis" and if I hadn't seen things happen first hand, I may feel a bit more sympathy for some of these folks, but I don't. What I saw, and continue to see is people who haven't learned from their mistakes and expect others to forgive them for continuing to make the same mistake over and over again. Making mistakes is a great learning tool, but you have to accept the fact you made an error and try to do something different next time. You can't expect to do something, leave a mess and have some one follow you around to clean up after you. Grow up.

I'm sick of all the stupid things I see and I think we really need to lose everything in order to bring some sanity back into this world. I hate to say it, but I don't see a lot of light at the end of this tunnel...sorry...

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Fat, fat, water rat=Americans

OK Americans are fat....I'm fat. I'm not "chubby, chunky, pleasingly plump (God, how I hate that phrase) or full-figured", I'm fat. I'm not happy about it, but at this minute in my life I can't do anything about it. Right now, as I sit at the computer writing this, "I'm fat!". Maybe later I can do some jumping jacks, or lift some heavy weights, but for the moment, "I'm fat!".

I don't have anyone to blame (damn it!) but myself. I eat too much. Yeah, I know I could blame it on: heredity, thyroid, pituitary, liver, pancreas and probably a slew of other excuses, but the bottom line is, I'm fat because I eat more calories than I use up. Is that so hard to understand? Yeah, I know all about how hard it is for women to lose weight, and I don't deny that, but I also know that I shouldn't be eating enough for three people at every meal.

I went to a nutritionist a few months ago. The meeting was a group thing with folks who were there because their doctors had told them to go. Those folks had serious health issues they were dealing with as a result, mostly, because of their diet. I was there because I thought, "What the Hell, I've tried all other kinds of weight loss programs, let's see what this is".

The whole idea of the program was to educate about the nutritional values of the foods we eat. Now, honest to God, most fat people I know are pretty astute about nutrition and what we should and shouldn't eat. Most of my fat buddies are in the same spot as I'm in, we know what we're supposed to do but WE DON'T DO IT. That being said, I have to tell you, I was shocked by the experience I had at this program.

We had to do a bit of paperwork and some psychological testing, nothing difficult, just some things to understand our, "inner soul". (I knew I was in trouble right then). The very knowledgeable dietitian explained to us that we were to attend meetings on a monthly basis but we were to be weighed and measured every week. "No sweat"...I thought, typical of all weight loss programs. I guess I was one of the only folks that felt that way because the amount of groans and grunts that went through the group was incredible. I turned to the woman behind me and said, "What? No one thought they were going to get weighed at a weight loss program? What's the big deal?" Apparently I was on the outside of this group, I felt all eyes peering through me, and I'm sure I heard some growling coming toward my way.

The dietitian explained she was passing out a list of the foods we should try to incorporate into our diets on a daily basis, and the things we really needed to reduce from our diets. I looked at the listings and thought they were pretty good. There was nothing on either list to make me go berserk.

Little did I know I was in a group of fat older folks who have apparently never read a nutritional book, gone on a diet or read the back of a food label. I heard one woman say, "I've never seen the label on the back of a can before". Where's she from? Mars? Then the real objections started. I sat there and listened to some of the most ridiculous comments I've ever heard from supposedly intelligent folks.

"Oh my God! I couldn't possible eat three vegetables or fruits a day". "Does eating fruit flavored Pebbles cereal count as a fruit? I eat two bowls of that every morning...." This woman was in her 60's; not one bowl, but two... Then another women raised her hand and said, (no lie) in a very cultured voice, "I'm sorry, but I don't think this will work for me. I have many restrictions in my diet and I only eat 6 things". To give the dietitian her due, she was really much more calm and collected than I was. She looked at the woman and said, "Well what are the 6 items you eat, maybe we can work something out with them". The woman, with all seriousness said, " Well...I only eat Velveeta cheese, white bread, white rice, tomato soup, grape jelly and peanut butter". Honest to God, I was waiting for a punch line. This woman was dead serious. The Dietitian, looked like she was about to faint. For crying out loud, I thought I was about to faint.

I still can't get over the fact that these folks were all fat, most of them fatter than me, and they had no clue about what made them fat. Nor did they think their diet had much to do with their health issues. My question was, how did they live as long as they did?

As the weeks progressed, most of the folks dropped out. A couple of them had heart attacks and became food Nazi's after their brush with death. Some, like me, got pats on the back for knowing why I was fat and what I needed to do to lose the weight. I received gold stars for knowing the nutritional values of foods and why we needed certain minerals etc...(Man, I'm good....ho hum).
I lost weight and belly fat, which was the goal of the program, and a few others stuck it out and learned some things that will help them with their health issues. But the majority are still out there living in La La land, eating all the stuff normal folks know will kill you if you keep eating like you're 25 instead of 65+. They wonder why they don't feel good....geesh...

The main thing I learned during this program: don't assume things about others. What I thought everyone knew about nutrition and foods is dead wrong. I guess there are many folks out there who never read a newspaper, magazine, listen to a radio, watch TV, read the literature their doctors give them, talk about weight loss, or maybe it was just the folks who attended that program . Gosh, I sure hope so, because if everyone out there is as uninformed as the majority of these folks, we better get some more funding into Med schools, because we're going to need more doctors.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Topic for today is:Human Nature. Is it Human or is it Nature?

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live on a deserted island with no way to leave any time soon. That's not to say, you could never leave. If you desired to leave, you could.

Just think about it for a minute. Yes, you'd have to give up some of the amenities you love where you are now, but think how good it would be to get away from everything and everyone for a while.

I come to this discussion in a very unusual way. The last couple of days have had me scratching my head in wonder. I think I'm dealing with fairly sane people, but then again, I may to over estimating their sanity.

Point in case:

1. I think I've met the living beings of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Those of you in the psych field will be saying, "Oh that person must be bi-polar or some other such psycho label". I say, "Hell no, they're freaking nuts, and they could use a swift boot in the behind". I'm tired of all the excuses for disrespectful behavior. Snap out of it.... Yeah, yeah, I can see all the heads shaking out there in cyber land, with folks saying, "You must be patient and give the person the benefit of the doubt. They can't help themselves. They're ill." OK, granted some may be ill, but for God's sake, GET THEE TO A DOCTOR. Don't be wallowing in self pity, do something!

Now, I'll hear from the psychology establishment that I am uncaring. Not so, I do care, but when things aren't getting better, don't keep trying the same tactic in hopes that they change. You know what they say, "If you walk down the path the same way every time, why do you think the outcome will be different?"

I've had it with this "kid glove" stuff. I'm done with all the soft pedaling and walking on egg shells. I'm turning over a new leaf as of this very minute and I telling it like it is, not what they want to hear. I am Woman hear me roar! (hmmm that was pretty empowering..)

Speaking of empowering:

2. Look, you can only be a doormat if you lie down. DON'T FREAKING LIE DOWN! There I've said it. Don't come crying to me because of some injustice done to you if you don't want to stand up for yourself. I'll listen to your complaints, but it's up to YOU to do something about the injustice. I'll be standing behind you supporting you if you need it, but YOU and only you can make the difference in your life. I can't change the way of things, YOU can change some things, but only if you're willing to get out from your comfort zone and take the steps necessary to make those changes you so desperately want and need.

So many times I've noticed people complaining about their lot in life, but yet they're not willing to compromise, even a tiny bit. It's rough to take on new challenges, but the rewards you reap are worth the bit of discomfort you'll feel in the beginning. I don't think there's been a time when I did something new that I didn't feel as though I had mad a mistake. It takes a brave person to venture into the unknown. For me though, I've come out on the bright side and been very pleased by the outcome. Even if the outcome wasn't was I expected, somehow it ended up being better than my original expectation. I learned from the experience. Sometimes what I learned was...don't do that again. But usually, I was pleased.

You must make choices in life that are scary at times. You must try new things that seem foreign to you. You must be able to say, "Wow, I did it", then pat yourself on the back. You must be your own cheerleader, don't put yourself down. Why should anyone hold you in great esteem if you don't act as if you deserve that esteem?

There isn't a person on this Earth, or who lived on the Earth, who hasn't made mistakes. Go out there make some mistakes. You can laugh at them in the future. Go ahead, have some fun. You're Human, it's your nature to have fun and make mistakes, that's how we learn.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The "Contraption"

Look it, if you're a guy, I can guarantee you won't understand this, but believe me, the women...oh they'll understand completely. Let me tell you how this began...

My retired husband has become the chief cook and bottle washer in this house since his retirement. He's great, he does the floors, windows, washes the clothes, does all the household know, like a wife...It's great for me. He's been learning how to properly clean the clothes through trial and error, lots of error...but I don't mind, I like buying new things. I know better than to throw things down the laundry chute that need "special handling" and I have signs I use when I do my "special handling" washing so he knows not to put everything into the dryer. We had a few disasters at first, but then, when I was first learning how to do laundry I did too, so no big deal.

The biggest problem for me is when he starts to kibitz (like I used to with him) about the state of my underwear. You know we all have underwear that's been broken in and we hate to part with it because it sags where we want it to sag, or it's stretched enough to feel really comfortable. You really don't want anyone else to see it, but you can't throw it away. It's sort of become part of the family.

I have several bras that fall into that category. I know they're shot to Hell, but they're just broken in for comfort, and that's saying a lot for a bra. Husband was making some really loud noise about the condition of the "brays" for the girls, so I figured it was time to buy some new ones. What a pain in the neck...

Bras are a contraption made by a man. No woman would ever make something so freakin' uncomfortable. I measure myself and go to the nearest store and buy some pretty good "foundation" things. (Yes, that's what they're referred to in "Bra-ease language")

I was at a department store on the day I was going to "treat" (some treat) myself to a couple of new bras. The store was having a "Professional Bra Fitter" in that day, so the customers could be properly fit for a bra. The signs all over the lingerie department were screaming at me saying "80% of American Women wear the wrong sized bra". I thought OK I'll buy...I walked to the customer service person, asked where I signed up for this "fitting". The woman was very nice, I couldn't help look down at her to see what her boobs looked like. I mean honestly, she's selling these contraptions she should expect people are going to check her out, don't you think? She seemed oblivious to my eyes wandering down to her chest.

I was taken to the dressing room and told the "fitter" would be right with me. I sat down and looked around. There were those blasted three way mirrors reflecting the image of a very fat women with red hair... Realizing it was me, I sucked in my gut, pulled my shoulders back and stood straighter. I was still looking at a fat women...maybe not as fat as the original image, but then I had to breathe, and the very fat broad was visible again. crap...

Before I could run away from the mirrors from Hell, the "fitter" came in. She was about 5 ft tall and obviously from some country that feeds their young rice and veggies, not Twinkies and cocoa puffs. She was this little teeny, perfect figured Mother's darling, and I was the blob.

My first thought about this encounter was, how the heck is she going to measure me? She'll have to walk around me with a measuring tape because she damned well can't wrap her teeny, tiny arms around MY chest. She looked up at me and smiled. She said, " I will give you the tape measure to put around your back and we'll see what size we need to get for you. We have some very nice brassieres for the "fuller figured women" and I'm pretty sure we'll have something for you." Now here's when I have to explain something...something personal....I'm not that big in the chest, I have this back that's as broad as a linebacker's, but the front of me is not that big, honest. In front of this tiny woman however, I was the size of some Wagnerian Soprano singing about the Ride of the Valkyries or some such thing. I was becoming afraid of what kind of contraption she might get for me.

She went out of the dressing room and I heard her rifling through tissue and muttering something about women who were over sized and mean. (Honest, I wasn't mean...I just told her that I wasn't spending all day on a stupid bra, nor was I paying $100 for some elastic and cotton, damn it!).

She brings back a handful of straps, material and little hooks and eyes. I thought she was going to make the damned thing as I was standing there. But no, she had a handful of bras for me to try on.

You know how you see in magazine ads the women with the beautiful bodies? You see little scraps of material around their chest and their boobs seem to be standing tall and straight. Sometimes the fabric is shear and you know the material is soft and cozy. LIES all LIES. I don't know how those pictures are done, I suspect computer enhancement.

This little twit in front of me had bras that were reinforced with hard, stiff cotton and plastic. I don't think 50 washings would soften these babies at all. She turns me around, puts her right knee on my back, pulls the bra around, as she's pushing me with her knee to get the bra hooked. She turns me back to look at her, bends the upper part of my body down, slips her hands into the cups of the bra, grabs the girls and molds them into the shape of the bra cup. All the while murmuring, "I'll get them in there. They'll fit good".

I stood straight up, looked into the three way mirror and gasped... I was in something that resembled an ancient corset from the 1800's. OK it wasn't quite like that, but pretty close. All I could see was elastic, hard cotton strapping, something that looked like those straight jacket clasp things to keep things together. I looked like I was wrapped in white Ace bandages. There was another problem, the girls seemed to look like that opera singer in Wagner, or Madonna in her younger years with the cones on the boobs. I was positively pointed...super pointed. I was actually afraid that I might fall forward and stick into the floor. I was pulled up, separated (that's the big deal here, separation, no one supposedly wants a "uni-boob") It may have been the "correct fit", but it was not comfortable. I thought I was going to explode when she released the hooks in the back. I could almost hear the girls saying, "Run".

To give the women her due, she tried her best to get me to try several others, but I declined and told her I wasn't sure which I wanted to buy, so I'd think about it for a while. The folks in Hell will get a swimming pool filled with ice water before I buy one of those contraptions.

I eventually found some soft cozy bras that fit the girls quite nicely and I think I heard a collective "Ahhh, that's better" when I bought the softer kinder bras, rather than the "contraption from Hell".

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Economic Rantings of a middle aged woman

You know, when I was a kid I had it pretty good. My Mother would say differently, but to me all the things she thought were adversities in her life, were the things that made life fun for me. It's all in your perspective.

This blog entry has come out of a result of a newspaper article. The article was talking about the increasing prices of foods, gas and in general, everything. Some people interviewed were appalled at the things they had to do now because of the constraints the economy was putting on them; Things like, they have to buy regular coffee instead of the Talle Latte's they've become accustomed to. And then there's the lady who was moaning about the cost of the Chinese take-out, and how much more it cost for the gas to go to pick it up. She was quite upset that the Chinese take-out restaurant was going to surcharge her for the delivery service because of their additional costs. Or how about the man who was complaining about the high cost of gasoline as he was pumping an enormous amount of gas into a huge truck he alone was driving to his office job. Why?

I decided to really look at the increases, and there's no denying there are increases in the costs of everyday things. Groceries have gone up around here about 15%. Some things have increased more than that, but generally, a 15% increase is what I'm seeing.

The wacky thing is, some of the stuff that's going up the most are things that I consider an unneeded expense. For example, I like this one kind of salad dressing. No big deal, I buy it once or twice a year. The price before Christmas was $1.79 for a bottle (8 oz). Now, that same dressing is $3.29 and the bottle is 7 oz. At first I thought it was an error. I took the bottle to the service desk and asked about it. It was correct. The dressing was in fact, $3.29. If you divide it out, that's .47 an oz. Multiply that by 64 oz=$30.08 a half gallon!!I don't think so. I'm not buying it. It's a convenience. That got me thinking about all the other conveniences we take for granted. (Honest to God, I feel like some old fart from the depression era complaining about the costs of everything, but that's exactly what this is like).

It seems to me, that everyone needs something to make them stop what they're doing and look at things from a different perspective. Sometimes it takes a great war, sometimes it takes some devastating disaster, an illness, the loss of a loved one, something to make the masses stop and think about what's going on around them.

Several generations have come to think if they want something they just have to have enough money to buy it. They haven't lived with less in their lives. They've wasted and spent, money they didn't have, but may have at a later date, they hope. They've put themselves into debt, in hopes they will be able to pay off "someday". They've never denied themselves anything. With the help of some little plastic cards, they've been able to live a life that's nothing but a facade of wealth. Now it's time to start to pay back, but guess what? They haven't begun to save for this day, so they're now in trouble. I feel bad for so many, and especially the kids that have come into this mess through no fault of their own, but I also feel a bit responsible for not saying, "STOP" to some of them, or at least say, "Do you know what you're doing?"

I understand that it may not be my place, or business to try to tell someone what to do, but when I see younger people doing stupid things I shudder. (Now I really feel like that old fart....)

That little exercise with the salad dressing can be done on tons of things. It's a good way to understand what the true cost of something is. I know we can't go back to the old days (there's that Old Fart again), but there are some things that I do now, and have done for years, that I know some folks never do, nor do they think to do them. I can save so much by doing some very simple things, like make my own soup. When a can of Campbell's soup pulls in $2.19 it's time to learn how to make soup (it's simple...honest) . I can make several meals, really good meals (and I'm fat so I know "good, delicious meals") out of a ham, roast beef, pork whatever is on sale. I don't waste, and that's the trick.

I watched a woman put a cooked chicken into her shopping cart. It was on sale, at a good price. I spoke to her in passing asking her what she did with the chicken. She told me she would have it for dinner that night, with baked potatoes and a tossed salad. I said, "that's all?" She said, "Yes, because there will be no white meat left after that and we don't eat dark meat". Holding my tongue in, I said, " what do you do with the dark meat?" "Well, usually I throw it away". She said. I had all I could do not to belt her. I did say, "Why don't you make soup?" She just shrugged. Is it me? Doesn't anyone make soup? Does everyone waste like that? No wonder we're considered the "throw away society".

I have to work in an office tomorrow. I work there on occasion. It's a nice office, but there are many clients who come in crying the blues about their lives and the cost to live that life. I sit there and listen in amazement as they tell me things they shouldn't, and expect me to "fix it" so they don't have to pay the piper that's come to get his payment. I only work occasionally because I find I don' t have the patience to listen to the crap all the time and smile politely, when I want to say, "listen jerk, you put yourself into this mess, so don't look at me as the villain". But I listen, nod and smile and say, "Sorry, this is the 5th, 6th, 7th etc. time I've heard this and there's not a whole lot I can do". They usually leave, head in hand, but understanding they are in a pickle.

I think we all need to see life as it really is, and not how we hope it is. We need to live within our means and stop being something we're not. That's not to say, we need to lose all our goals and not try and achieve, but understand that not everyone has a mansion, nor do we all drive Ferrari's, and we will not be King of the world anytime soon.

It's a matter of perspective. It may sound trite to say it, but if you're given a bunch of lemons, make lemonade and learn something about what is happening to you. Damn it, learn how to make soup!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Green, Green, Schmeen, Sheesh

Tomorrow is Earth Day....Omigod...everyone is running around spouting about how "green" they are going to be. Walk twenty miles don't drive.....(doesn't matter that when to do walk the twenty you'll probably pass out on the road. The ambulances will come wasting more precious gas to get you to the hospital where thousands of watts, or whatever of energy will be wasted to get you going again....Let alone the gas used to get the ambulance drivers from their homes to the volunteer ambulance garage to get into the gas guzzler ambulances...).

For crying out loud, the way I see it is, we boomers have a lot to fix. We're the ones that demanded so much crap and excesses that spilled over to our kids. That's generally speaking...I, on the other hand have to say, as a child of the 60's. I learned not to waste. So much so that my kids think my husband and I have a screw loose. When we buy things, we take care of them. We don't discard them if something newer, greater, more powerful or better looking, comes along. Consequently, we have some really old stuff we've used for years. So what? It works (probably way better than the "newer, better, upgraded" things)..Recently, we had to have our snow blower overhauled. The fix-it guy took one look at it and said to us, "Wow, I've never seen a snow blower this old look so clean and shiny. Holy cow, you have ALL the original parts on this...How did you do it?" He looked at us as though we were alien counterparts of the humans who lived in this house. Larry and I looked at each other in wonder. I wanted to scream at the guy, "WE TAKE CARE OF THINGS WE OWN, FOOL" But being the very caring person I am, I gently stated, "Well, we know we may not be able to buy another of these things so we make sure to take care of them. It doesn't take much to wipe it off after it's used and put it back where it belongs". Now I ask you, how hard is that? Apparently, very difficult, if I'm to understand what I see and read.

Case in point:

I know many folks who haven't learned the concept of: Just because you CAN buy and own something, doesn't mean you NEED to buy and own something. And, when you do decide you MUST have it, at least learn how to maintain it. These folks have all the "newest, greatest, fastest, brightest, etc" THINGS, and they're smothering under the weight of STUFF in every part of their lives. I don't get it.

Several folks I know would not buy any item Consumer Reports says is less than "the top of the line". Why? I don't get it. Sometimes the top of the line item is good, but then again, sometimes the item that's the top of the line has options on it I'd never use in a 100 years. From past experience I know machines that have "extras" on them sometimes fail more often. The extras usually fail, not the basic machine. O.K., not all the time, but if you aren't going to use the extra little ditty, and you've never seen the need in the last twenty years to have that extra little ditty, why pay extra money to have it added to your basic machine that surely will increase the cost of the stupid machine. I don't get it.

I'm not opposed to technology, I understand the need for things. God, help me I would die without the technological advances that have been made in household appliances over the years, but some of the stuff is getting out of hand. In my house I have: a juicer(so I can juice vegetables to make me thin and trim. I'm not yet there, but I have the juicer just in case I ever decide to use it) , blender(frozen drinks-gotta have that thing), hand held blender(when I want to have only one drink, I can use this instead of pulling out the big blender), hand mixer (I use this when the stand mixer has too many items in front of it and I can't get to it), stand mixer(I use this a couple of times a year, to justify having it),accessories for the stand mixer, (meat grinder-just in case the supermarket has the ultimate break down of grinding equipment-I have my own...Why? sausage accessory-for the times I grind all the meat and want to make sausage-never happened yet...but there's always a first time) big crock pot(for all the stews and things I make twice a year), little crock pot ( for all the dips I serve...),George Forman Grill(actually I do use this thing- mainly because I'm convinced George has a computer chip that tells him when the grill is not being used and he comes to your house and hits you for not using his grill),pannini maker, pizzelle maker, sandwich grill (different from the pannini maker- it doesn't leave lines on the bread), electric fry pan, electric Wok, rice maker, can opener,electric carving knife, electric scissors, popcorn maker, other popcorn maker, ice crusher(yes, I know you probably have one on your refrigerator, but I don't...I also don't use this ice crusher...I find a hammer and a plastic bag is better, and bonus, I can pretend I'm smashing someones head as I whack the ice), etc., etc., etc..

I'm betting you have the same, and probably more of these, "can't live without" appliance do hickeys. Look around, yeah, there are some that make your life easier, but honestly do you really NEED all of them? I'm sure most of us could survive without the use of many of these "so-called" conveniences.

I think back to a time when I was back in Scotland visiting relatives (I was born there and moved to the US as a kid). I will never forget my Aunt saying, "Suzanne, there is one luxury I will never give up....I can give up all others but not this one..." I'm thinking, furs, diamonds, caviar. She continues," I will never give up "hot water". I looked at her in amazement thinking I never gave a thought to hot water being a "luxury". I thought of it as sort of a "right". The "right" to have hot water as opposed to only cold water. I really started looking hard at what I had and what I took for granted. You have to spend time away from your comfort zone to be able to understand what you have.

So going back the "Greening of America" topic. I wonder if it will last longer than just Earth Day. I wonder if we'll all get serious and try to conserve, at least a little bit. I'm doing my part, I'm pounding the ice in a plastic bag small enough so I can throw it into the glass and add the liquor without the use of the big blender OR the little blender.... Every little bit step at a time...

Friday, April 18, 2008

Camping--MY kind of camping......

I haven't been writing much lately, I've been too busy in this semi-retired state I find myself in today. I used to work every day. I was counting down the number of days before I could say I was, "semi-retired". I had it all planned, I would have all kinds of time to do the things I've wanted to do in the past, but was too tired to do when I came home from work. I knew when I finally said, "So long..." to the 9 to 5 routine I'd be golden. I don't know what happened, but damn! I'm busier now than I was when I was working full time.

I know the first paragraph has nothing to do with the title but I wanted to ease into the camping stuff slowly. I have a "thing" about camping and all it entails, and it takes me a few minutes to really start the brain blood flowing to make things coherent (chalk that up to my advanced age...the age that advanced another year the other day'd think when you had so many birthdays society would give you a pass on one or two...not so....)

Anyway... I was in a parking lot today and I nearly drove into one of those stupid cement poles the lights are attached to, as I tried to read the banners, signs and bumper stickers on one of the largest RV's I've ever seen. The banners, etc. were professing the owners love for Jesus, the bible and all the other stuff that many Christians feel the need blare out for everyone else to see how pious they are. Now, before you get all hot and bothered about my possible "dissing" (see I'm not THAT old I know what that means...although that's probably not the term used today for disrespect...but you know what I mean) someones beliefs. I think you don't need to BLAST your beliefs from the highest mountain, or in this case the largest RV, in the world...or the Walmart parking lot. But, whatever floats your boat...go for it...(I wonder how the guy would feel if some other RVer had the Koran slogans all over his RV???I don't think that would go over as well...ya think?)

The RV reminded me of the time we had an RV, albeit not one of those giant things. Ours was more like a pregnant large van. It sort of looked as though someone took a van, put a giant straw into the front window and puffed out the sides and the rear end. It slept four, although you had to be pretty small, unfortunately we aren't small. It had all the amenities for little people, not dwarf type little people, more like leprechaun little people. There was a tiny ...imagine a coffin standing upright....area for the bathroom. It was kind of cool. You had to press a couple of buttons on both sides of the coffin, pull out, and the coffin became like a double sized coffin. The carpeted floor came up and lo, and behold the floor became a waterproof area with a drain in the middle:a shower area. The toilet was directly in front of the door, above the toilet you pressed another magic button and a sink dropped down, faucet and all. Yep, the coffin became a full fledged bathing/toilet facility. You couldn't turn around in it, but it had all the amenities needed to do your duty. I must admit though, there were many times when you could see a rear end popping out of the shower curtain. But it could be used as the needed bathroom.

It was OK when two people were using the RV, but if you had more than that, well let's just say it wasn't pretty. Between making sure no one was in the way of the "magic moving coffin" and the door to the outside, we were always struggling to climb out of the way, over the top of things and in general trying hard to have fun, fun, fun. Bahh....It was a pain in the neck.

My idea of camping is going to a motel that doesn't have a sauna, so when this RV thing came into our lives I was less than thrilled. I know, you're wondering why did we buy it? We didn't. I inherited it from my Dad.

My Dad always wanted a big boat (yes, I said "boat"). Mom didn't want anything to do with a boat, so they compromised and bought this, pretty high tech (for the times) RV. He researched it for months and found exactly what he thought was the greatest thing since sliced bread. It really was quite an engineering miracle (for leprechauns). It was state of the art. He convinced my Mom that they could save money on the trips from Florida up to New York to see the grand kids....Why, he even tried to convince her they could come up more often since they would be saving so much money on motels and food on the way up. It worked. The thought of seeing the grand kids more often won her over.

They bought the thing. It was really spiffy the first time we saw it. Although, it did have a pretty good dent in the rear end... My Dad hit a pole in a gas station...the pole was connected to a display of antifreeze...the antifreeze displayed was knocked over...someone trying to avoid the multitude of rolling antifreeze bottles hit a police car...the cop was standing outside the car and fell into the garbage can...My Dad got a ticket........ He was really upset about the whole thing as my Mom was trying hard not to laugh herself into wet pants as she was telling the story...That was the first trip they had taken in the "thing". It didn't bode well for the future.

My Dad parked "thing" along side of our house and plugged it in. He and my husband would sit out there, watch TV and drink some beer. It was the first "Man Cave" I think. He loved it. My Mom, on the other hand, thought it was a pain in the neck. She tried to keep it clean and nearly killed herself trying to contort her body in anything but human shapes to wash, dust, disinfect, shine, polish and all the other things women of her generation do to keep everything looking like no one has ever eaten, slept, walked, or used the bathroom. It was nuts... The result of this was my Dad wanted a place to relax, Mom wanted to make sure that anyone looking at the "thing" would know it was clean, neat and tidy. (for who? the freakin leprechauns?) As I said...nuts....

They did have a few good times with it and I'm glad my Dad got to go in it a few times. My Dad became ill the following year and before he died he gave the "thing" to me........(remember, my idea of camping is going to a Motel without a sauna..).

The kids were older, and the thought of going anywhere with their parents was a fate worse than death to them. Consequently, it was Larry and I who used the "thing" for camping. To give the "thing" its due, it had all the options that make camping easier. It had a furnace,central air conditioning, a generator, gas stove, electric lights, alternate source of power, a control panel, cable connections, portable microwave, sink,built in cabinets and a whole lot of other things that make camping easier for those of us that don't do "dirt, tents, and the like".

We used the "thing" for all kinds of purposes. It moved kids into dorms, out of dorms, into apartments, out of apartments, brought engines home from Canada for cars that didn't run( nor would they ever run...but that's for another blog entry). All in all we did some fun things with it other than camping. It was great to take a bunch of people to football games, (talk about the perfect tailgate party was that). But like everything and everyone, it gets old.

Some of the trips we took in the "thing" were legend though. One in listen carefully, I can't say this more than once because I'm convinced we're (Larry and I) still on the lam from the Canadian Mounties, or at least the police of Kingston Ontario.... I think we're ok in Nova Scotia, but I KNOW we can never go on the Catamaran from Bar Harbor to Halifax...unless we wear disguises.

We decided to take a trip up to the St. Lawrence River in Canada. Our plan was to cross the river on a tiny bridge in New York over to Kingston Ontario. The weather was gorgeous. Everything was going fine. We went through customs with no problem. We made our way toward the beautiful city of Kingston. Larry was tired so I was the driver. Kingston is a pretty good sized city and we didn't know our way around the city. We had maps, but this was before the days of Mapquest or GPS devices. While I was driving through the city the traffic was building and I was lost (note here...this is not unusual for me..I'm navigationally challenged, unless it's for shopping). I noticed there was a street fair going on and decided we had to stop to check it out. Larry was resting his eyes. At the point where I decided to drive into a parking lot, a car pulled directly in front of me making me pull the wheel of the "thing" sharply to the left, Larry fell off the seat in back, the "thing" lurched, as we drove over a kind of curb....Now, you would think that it was OK, and it would be if this was a car. However, the "thing" had its grey water (not so bad used water) and its black water (the worst stuff you can imagine that comes out of you, mixed with toilet paper, chemicals and water) under the unit near the tires... When I ran over the curb thing, I ripped off the ...BLACK water reservoir, so our toilet was spilling out onto the paved parking lot. I looked in the rear view mirror in horror as I saw little globs of stuff mixed with fluorescent blue water leaving a trail behind me.

Now I ask you, what do you do in a situation like that? Well, I'll tell you what I did. I stopped the thing, grabbed a towel from the coffin bathroom, jumped out and stuffed the towel into the open raw sewage pipe that was attached to the "thing" spewing out its guts. By this time Larry was wide awake and running around the parking lot trying to find our missing toilet receptacle and cap, paper towels in hand, trying desperately to clean up what he could...It was awful...there was no way we could clean it up ourselves and I don't think the city of Kingston had enough water to neutralize the blue chemicals that were spewed all over that parking lot, not to mention the unmentionables.

After a short time we realized we couldn't clean it all up. We did a damned good job. Luckily we had a huge supply of paper toweling and old towels. When we thought we had camouflaged the place enough, we moved the RV to another parking lot so no one could track us....

I looked up to the sky. The sky that was blue and cloudless, and prayed to all that is holy as I said, "Look this was an accident. We didn't mean to deface this foreign land. If you could just give us some rain about now, it would be really kind of you". We honestly didn't know what to do except clean ourselves up (no easy task) and go to the fair.... We were worried, thinking about all the fines we would face if anyone knew we were the culprits of "the toilet that took over Kingston".

I have to tell you I was a wreck. Larry took it in stride figuring if the worse came to worst he'd probably be OK in a jail in Canada, at least he'd get a break from his work. He thought the whole thing was hilarious....He didn't do it...I did...

While we were at the fair, Larry eating all the things I wanted but couldn't think about eating, I was watching to see if the Mounties or the police were coming after us. I looked around and I watched the sky as I witnessed, what I am sure was the hands of the Gods, pushing aside the blue sky and pushing in the storm clouds. It started pouring rain like I've never witnessed in my life. I stood in the middle of the fair, looked up at the sky and thought to myself, "I will never again deny the power of prayer......" And I'm not all that religious, honest.......I'm convinced it was my Dad's hand at work with the help of some higher power, knowing we needed ALOT of water to neutralize the situation a couple of blocks away...

We managed to jury rig the toilet and left the city of Kingston quickly, in the rain. We haven't been back...The story about the Catamaran will be for another day....

Monday, March 10, 2008

Little Old Ladies

I live in Upstate new York. We're not talking, Westchester county ( We call them "downstaters") we're talking Northern New York, capital district (that's Albany, for those of you that don't know your state capitals---by the way what's with THAT, anyway....we should all be familiar with state capitals....after all this is the country we live in and all the states are part of it....but wait a minute I'm getting off on one of my tangents....sorry) anyway, I live in the North country of New York, Saratoga Springs to be exact (don't give me the crap about...."omigod, you should never tell anyone where you live.... for God's sake you can find out about how many times I poop in a day if you do the research on the net, so what's the big deal about saying an area where I live??? geesh...)

Saratoga Springs is known for all sorts of things, Health (we have mineral springs, baths, and many massage areas...I think I'm supposed to live longer than the average person because I've lived here for so long...although, I don't think the folks that think that way understand that with the minerals comes, radium, strontium 90 (whatever THAT is?),and those things kill you....I figure one wipes out the other so I'm going to live as long as my body wants me too.), Horses (we have the oldest thoroughbred race track in the US that brings the city to a frenzied pace July-September. We get all the rich and wanna be rich folks here at that time as well...I'm not so sure that's the best thing) Houses (we have many gorgeous homes "painted ladies" from a by gone era. Most of them are original, then we have the new ones that look like the originals but with more amenities for modern life. I like the old ones better. Walking into the old ones, you get a feeling of majesty. The new ones have a phony facade, once you step into their "foyays" (a.k.a. foyers) the resemblance ceases. The new beauties are clearly copycats, and not always good ones, at that) and History(We are the site of the famous Saratoga Battlefield and all that goes along with the war things of the Revolutionary war).

We also have the Harness racing track which houses the Racino, gambling establishment. We've always been a city with a gambling history, so when the Racino came to town it didn't surprise me. What has surprised me is the number of little old ladies who frequent the place.

Now, listen, I'm a little (well...maybe not so little) old lady, but I gotta tell you I'm not like some of these ladies I encountered in a recent foray to the wilds of Racino...

Normally I'd say, " Now close your eyes as I describe this..."but since you wouldn't be able to read this if your eyes were closed, imagine this...

I walk in to a noisy, light flashing, machine laden building. People are on chairs in front of machines that are enticing them to feed the machines. The machines have buttons, bells and whistles, and if you can get them in the right sequence you might be able to get about 10% of the money you just lost, back. The people you must watch out for are the little ones with the white,gray,or thinning hair. They usually look pretty friendly, but watch out, they can turn on you in an instant. I mean really bad. You might lose an arm or a leg, at the very least you'll get tripped or have the chair pulled out from under your butt.

These women all look like some body's Grandmother, but it isn't true. They're wearing masks to put you off guard. They're bad asses, listen up.

I sat down next to one of these women. She immediately pulled her sweater over the top of her pocketbook sitting on her lap. She bent her head down towards the bag, shifted her eyes toward me, and I swear to God, her mask started to slip and I'm sure I saw the face of an alien monster from the planet Klingon looking at me. She sort of growled at me when I smiled trying to diffuse what I thought might get ugly. I quickly pulled my players card from the machine and walked away facing her, God help me, I didn't want to turn my back on her... No telling what would have happened. I found a machine by itself with no one near it. I sat for a minute trying to catch my breath and bring my heart back to a normal beat.

I feel it's my duty to warn society about these...women. They look pretty normal. Most of them wear, pants, sweaters with some kind of design on them or sweatshirts that say, "World's Best Grandma"--yeah right. The worst ones are the ones with really badly made up faces. You know, eyebrows that no human should have, round rouged cheek bones, eye shadow in colors that are unearthly, lipstick so thick you can cut it with a knife (that's to camouflage the real lips....). So be on the lookout for this species if you go to a casino, I hear they're all over the place. (The casinos AND the little old ladies (?) ).

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Passwords! Who the Hell thought up THAT one??

OK, OK, I know, we have to have passwords to protect our identity. But I ask you, is it working? My understanding is, the majority of the folks that steal identities are relatives.

So here's my problem. I am not rich, but, I have a portfolio with investments in different financial institutes. Because we live in this new, wonderful modern world where we do things on the Internet, and with all kinds of electronic equipment, and we don't go to our neighborhood bank, we have to "prove" our identity before we can proceed to find out the simplest things about our own finances. It wouldn't be so bad, but I can't remember what I ate this morning and I'm damned sure I can't remember what my password is. Consequently, I have a little notebook with all the numbers, symbols and letters, that I've used in different ways to make up my personal passwords. I think the list is up to about 150 right about now. The problem I have is, I can't remember where I put the notebook. I'm in deep trouble...very big trouble.

At my office, in order to open up my computer I have 7 different passwords that must be kept under lock and key. God help the USA if someone finds out some of the stuff that's in my "my documents" file....(cripes, they may find all the stored e-mail jokes or pictures of my grandkids....).

I have to call in and be "voice recognized" in order to go from one area of the company to another. (What are we the: CIA? FBI? NATO? League of Nations? Super Heroes? What?) The same company, just different divisions. I have to prove who I am at every connection. How paranoid have we become?

My personal favorite is the one password I have to give in two parts, one part to one person and one part to another. I think one person is sitting in an office in Greenland, the other is in Siberia, at least....maybe.

The real reason for this password stuff is to give someone justification for their existence. I swear to God, I truly believe it. Some paranoid jerk decided that we all have to become as paranoid as he/she is and developed a need for the passwords. Then the jerk figured he/she could make a bundle of money if they could convince corporate America that there was a huge risk of corporate espionage and they had to protect their investment. Some other CEO jerk, (who is probably the Uncle of the original jerk who thought up this whole scam in the first place) made sure that the board of directors took the paranoid pills and they all agreed to go this multi-functional-stupid password scam. It makes perfect sense to me.

Every single day I hear on the news, or in a newspaper about someone who's had their identity stolen and they are in all kinds of trouble through no fault of their own. My question is this, I thought this was supposed to be a country that believed in someone being innocent until proven guilty. I guess in the case of identity theft, the operative word is "theft" which means that something, usually money, has been taken from someone else and it's all about the money, not how the money was taken, or by whom. Whomever is at the front of the suspect line IS the culprit, no matter what they say.

I'm lucky, I live in an area that still has neighborhood banks that haven't been swallowed whole by the giant banking conglomerates. I think it's time for me to rethink this Internet, electronic banking system in this country and become better acquainted with my neighborhood banker.

Now if only I could find the original jerk who thought up this password dilemma my life would be complete...after I strangle him/her with my bare hands... hmmm.. I wonder if he/she knows where my "password notebook" is?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

I'm afraid....I'm very afraid

I know when folks get older they tend to look to the younger generation and think...."Holy Cow, what's to become of us...this new generation is: nuts, crazy, lazy, inefficient, slow, unthinking, selfish, etc...". I swear to God I thought I, being an educated, enlightened person, would not be one to look around and say things about the younger folks, but believe me, was I wrong.

Point in case:

Does anyone under 30 know how to make change without the use of a cash register??? I think not.

Whatever happened to "playing store" as a kid and learning how to count back the change?

There's a chain letter going around the Internet about someone going to Mickey D's. It goes something like this"

My daughter and I went through the McDonald's take-out window and I gave the clerk a $5 bill. Our total was $4.25, so I also handed her a quarter. She said, "You gave me too much money." I said,"Yes I know, but this way you can just give me a dollar bill back." She sighed and went to get the manager who asked me to repeat my request. I did so, and he handed me back the quarter, and said "We're sorry but we can not do that kind of thing." The clerk then proceeded to give me back $1 and 75 cents in change.

Now, maybe you think this is funny, and it is, but it's a pretty sad state of affairs as well.

I thought, "well, it's on the Internet and how true can that be?...I know some times we all get ruffled at times and make mistakes. Probably that's some kind of urban legend stuff, rearing it's head again. I really didn't think too much about it until last weekend.

My husband and I went to a local farm stand to buy some apples. The woman in front of me decided to buy a bag of apples ( now, this is the God's truth....I swear...I should be stricken down with a horrible death if I'm lying.....). She proceeded go to the counter and asked the cashier ( a man about 25) if he could tell her how much the apples were by the pound. The bag was clearly written that it contained 10 pounds. The price for the 10 pounds was $6.95. To me it was pretty obvious the price per pound was .69 cents. (.69 X10= 6.90 , OK so .69 and a half cents). The guy looked at her as though she asked him to solve a world crisis....He stammered, "Well, I have to take the bag to the scale over in the other part of the store and it will tell me, come this way..." . They both marched to the other side of the store where he proceeded to place the bag on the scale, plug the scale into the socket (apparently it was an "electronic device") wait for it to warm up(what the Hell....warm up?? give me a break!). I finally walked over and said, " The price per pound is approximately .69 cents. " They both looked at me as I explained how to divide $6.95 by 10 to solve their complicated mathematics problem....

The woman buying the apples said, " I was an English major in college. Math was never my thing". The guy behind the counter said, " Oh, I'm in graduate school, for EDUCATION(!!!) I was never a good math student"

We're all in freaking trouble!!! We better start learning, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Indian, Pakistani, forget the Spanish....

Be very afraid

I'm afraid....I

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

The Male of the Species

Can I ask why it's so much more intense when the male portion of a family has a problem? I don't care if it's to do with clothing, eating, drinking, doing chores, or worst of all, being sick.

My significant other has a cold...mind you, a cold; sneezing, running nose, coughing, sore ears, sore throat, you get the picture. Now, before you start thinking I'm an uncaring female, let me enlighten you to the myriad of things that happen when he feels less than his best.

1. He dresses in clothes that I'm sure a homeless person would know the kind I mean: old shapeless flannel pants with the rear end blown out, but repaired some what, a sweat shirt that saw better days in the 1960's, a ski hat, huge wool socks with slippers over the top, but you can still see the socks because of the holes in the soles of the slippers. Over the flannel and sweats, a quilted flannel work shirt that any self respecting redneck would reject, even if they were going out to dig a new outhouse hole.

2. He sits in his chair with the remote in his hand. The side table is filled with all the things he will need while he sits and complains: tissue, Tums, saline spray, sore throat lozenges, cough drops, aspirin, Tylenol, water, soda, something that with slide down his throat easily. (From my side of the room I look at him and wonder if a knife would slide down easily.

3. Every so often I hear, "Oh God, just take me away." "Is this what my final days will be like?" "Cough, cough-Oh my God....when will it end?"" $%#@ this #$@% cold, I'm freakin' dying here, and nobody cares." "Just leave me to die here...I'll go slowly-just not quietly."

4. When anything is suggested to help alleviate the pain/nausea/headache, whatever, he looks across at me as though I should be drawn and quartered for suggesting anything so benign to help him get through this deadly sickness he alone must endure. When I suggest he do something as logical as "gargle with salt water." I become the victim of eye daggers thrown from across the room to pierce my body, and leave me bloodied.

and so it goes....

Finally, I put my foot down and throw him into the car and head out to the Doctor. He looks as if fire will flame from his eyes as he tries to refuse to go, but I know his vulnerabilities and I've had enough. He knows better than to defy me when I'm in this frame of mind.

The ride to the Doctor is one in silence. He's angry. I'm angry. We're both tired.

The receptionist tries to do her job, asking all the questions she needs to ask to fulfill her paperwork. He's mad. She gets up to go to the printer. He looks at me and says, "Why does she have to ask all the same things that she can read on the computer? she can just read the answers that are on the computer....She's a dope." I say, "I think she has to verify all the information and be sure it's up to date." "No," he says, "she's a dope." I look at him and wonder what happened to the man I married and fathered my kids. Surely this man sitting next to me isn't the same one.

The receptionist comes back and takes us to a "sick room." He looks at me as if to say, "See, they know I'm sick."

The Doctor finally comes in. Asks some of the same questions again. She looks down the throat, checks in the ears, listens to the chest. She sits down and says, " Looks as if you have a cold, and probably a little sinusitis. It's not bad. We'll give you some stuff to take and in a couple of days you'll be back to normal...No problem." She leaves and I look at him. He looks at me and says, "What the Hell is she talking about? I have pneumonia at the very least, probably Bubonic Plague as well."

The Doctor comes back in,, hands him the script and walks out. The nurse says, "OK out you go, Enjoy the rest of your day."

I watch him as he walks to the car. His head is down, he's coughing and sputtering about the lack of caring of all of the females in the world. I hear him say, "They just don't know the pain I'm in...I'm dying here...and nobody cares."

He's fine. A couple of days on the medicine, a good night's rest, doing what I tell him to do to alleviate the discomfort, and he'll be right as rain...Thank the Gods for small favors.