Blog: Says who?
Praying for bible's return
June 15, 2012
When people call the Messenger to place a classified ad, they’re usually looking for help, looking for work or looking to sell something. When Lenora E. Greene called a few weeks ago to place an ad, she was looking for a missing bible.
The oversized, large-print bible once belonged to her parents, the late Phillip H. and Effie (Fyffe) Skaggs. Their marriage certificate is tucked in its pages. Phillip used it for services during his years as a minister in Kentucky. Effie gave it to the church 30 years ago, and a little over two years ago, the church gave it to Lenora.
The keepsake went missing when Lenora, 87, moved from Kentucky to Plain City a year-and-a-half ago to be closer to friends, grandchildren, and doctors.
“It was wrapped in a towel in an unmarked box,” she said when I paid her a visit to appease my curiosity about the subject of the unusual classified ad.
She said she was sick at the time of the move and didn’t go through things as carefully as she would have liked. Some items went into storage and others were donated to the Country Closet Thrift Shop in Plain City. The box containing the bible accidentally ended up at the latter, which burned to the ground last September when a lightning strike sparked a fire.
Lenora only recently realized the bible was missing when she tried to retrieve it from storage. She called the thrift store, and as fate would have it, one of the workers remembered selling the bible before the fire. The news was a relief, but the worker did not know the person who bought it. So, Lenora put up flyers at the store and placed the ad with us.
She hasn’t gotten any bites yet, but she holds out hope that the bible will return. She remembers as a child watching her father preach from it at the pulpit of Old Blain United Baptist Church in the little town of Martha, Ky., near where she and her nine siblings were born.
Phillip Skaggs remained the reverend at Old Blain until 1941 when he and the rest of the family, including Lenora, 17 at the time and newly married, moved to central Ohio for work. Lenora said her father was a good man; she told the following story as one piece of proof.
“Back then, in the mountains of Kentucky, people made their own drink. One night, a guy fell over a hill because he was so drunk. Dad came across him after visiting someone who was sick. He picked the guy up and carried him three miles on his back. He carried him to the church house, built a fire in the pot-bellied stove, and sat with the man until he thawed out. That’s just one of many stories,” she said.
She remembers the markings her mother made with a pen to highlight certain passages in the bible. Her mother was deft with a pen when it came to writing, too.
“I have my mom’s written history of the family. I sit at night and read it. It’s like she’s sitting right there, telling me a story. I can just see her doing these things.”
Just as she can hold and read something her mother wrote, Lenora is looking to once again hold and read something her mother and father once read—the bible.
“It is part of my family. I planned on reading it the rest of my life,” she said.
Good night's sleep in a hotel? Yeah, right!
May 9, 2012
I’m a good sleeper. Name the time, place and length of time you want me to sleep, and I’m up to the challenge... unless the place is a hotel.
Over the last couple of years, noisy hotel stays have awakened a dormant inner diva I never knew I had. On a trip a couple of weeks ago, I changed hotel rooms three times over a two-night stay!
It started with a room positioned over the check-in desk. The clerk assured me it’d be quiet because it was offset from the other rooms on the second floor. In the 90 minutes I spent trying to fall asleep, I lost count of the times I heard the front doors clunk open and closed as guests arrived and departed. The crystal clear conversations wafting up from the lobby put me over the edge. I requested a room change.
Bleary-eyed and bed-headed, I transitioned to a suite a floor up and at the back of the building. I flopped into bed and gave sleep a go. Periodically through the night, I’d hear a loud rumble that sounded like a freight train running through the room. I didn’t have enough fight left in me to care.
When the rumble woke me up for good at 7 a.m., I pulled back the curtains. Guess what. It really was a FREIGHT TRAIN! The tracks ran within half a football field’s length of the back of the hotel. Just between 7 and 8 a.m., three trains went by. The complimentary ear plugs positioned next to the tiny soaps, shampoos and lotions should have tipped me off.
The third try was the charm—a room at the front of the hotel, away from ice machines, stairwells, front desk business—and FREIGHT TRAINS!
The whole experience got me to thinking. Why can’t hotels offer separate sections for the various types of hotel patrons? They could set aside a block of rooms for people who like to repeatedly drop heavy things on the floor without regard for the people staying in the room below them. Or how about a section for people who don’t know when or where to use their “outside voice?” A wing could be set aside for people who have no other place to throw late-night parties. And for people who want the unthinkable—a quiet room in which to sleep—a no-noise-after-10 p.m. zone would be ideal.
Until this concept catches on, I’ll be packing my white noise machine, consulting Google Earth satellite images for outside distractions (i.e. FREIGHT TRAINS!), and stopping just short of asking hotels for a copy of their blueprints.
Wouldn't trade my life in the trees for anything
May 3, 2012
I grew up in a 25-acre woods with parents who once worked for the U.S. Forest Service. Guess what... I like trees.
This Arbor Day (April 27), news of tree plantings and dedications stirred up memories I associate with my favorite bark-covered beauties. Most are happy, some are sad, and at least one is embarrassing. Let’s start with the happy.
My first instance of tree respect came in my pre-woods days. Until I was 7, my family lived in a trailer on my grandparents’ property. The place was covered with vegetable gardens, berry patches and a nice-sized orchard. I especially liked the tart cherry tree that stood right outside our door. Any tree that produced pie-makings was cool by me.
The sprawling apple tree that stood along the fence row at the back of the orchard served a much more somber purpose. Every dog of my father’s childhood and one from mine was buried at its base. For that tree, I held a different kind of respect.
When we moved a half-mile down the road to the woods, my brothers and I went from climbing cultivated fruit bearers to cutting foot paths around wild landmarks. I loved the “slingshot tree,” a maple in one corner of the woods that at about eight feet up split into just two branches to form a giant “Y.”
I loved the big beeches that, with their smooth, gray skin, looked like giant elephant legs. (Nine years ago, a house hunting experience brought back that visual. Visible through a double back door was the straight-as-an-arrow trunk of a substantial ash standing inches away from the screened porch. The house could have been falling down around that tree; I still would have told the realtor “yes.” Sadly, the ash succumbed to the emerald ash borer last year. We counted 47 rings in its sawed-off trunk.)
Then there was the mystery tree that sat at the edge of a small clearing about 200 yards behind my family’s house. To this day, we have no consensus on its type. As a dreamy, awkward teenager, I would take my French horn out there, sit under that tree, and play... badly. I might have spared my family, but I wasn’t doing the woods any favors.
So, from providing food to standing sentinel over a final resting place, from sparking imagination to reserving judgment as a silent audience, the trees of my childhood performed admirably. It’s comforting to know that most of them are still at it.
Not "just 10 balloons"
September 13, 2011
A couple of weeks ago, I got a call about a balloon launch set to take place on the front lawn of the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) in London. The Ohio Crisis Response Team was planning a short ceremony followed by the release of 10 balloons signifying the 10 years that have passed since the terrorist attacks on the United States.
In analyzing it as a photo-op, I thought, “Just 10 balloons? What kind of visual impact will just 10 balloons have?”
When Sept. 9 rolled around, I made my way up Route 56 to BCI, camera and notebook in tow. I snapped pictures and took notes as Cindy Kuhr and Jeannette Adkins, co-founders of the Ohio Crisis Response Team, told their story.
Jeannette was president of the National Organization for Victim Assistance when the events of Sept. 11, 2001, unfolded. She suggested sending crisis response teams to work directly with survivors and victims’ families.
Just days later, teams from Florida to Oregon were mobilized. Ohio’s volunteers piled into a van and drove to New Jersey where they were the first team on site to help set up and man the Victims Assistance Center.
With the smoldering Ground Zero visible across the Hudson River, the teams went to work. They debriefed first responders. They helped families file missing persons reports.
“When families realized the bodies of their loved ones would not be recovered, members of our team escorted them to (Ground Zero) to collect ashes so they would have some type of memorial,” Cindy said.
The Victims Assistance Center provided support around the clock through June 2002. Ohio’s 25 volunteers took turns rotating in and out of the site during those months. Among them was Kayla, a certified therapy dog.
“The firemen, policemen and other first responders didn’t talk much about what they were going through, but they would come up to Kayla. She was our foot in the door,” said Lori Morgan, Kayla’s handler.
The yellow Labrador retriever, now 14.5 years old and the third longest serving therapy dog in the United States, was at the 10th anniversary balloon launch at BCI. So were many of the Ohio Crisis Response Team members who made the journey to New York/New Jersey a decade ago. Also there were members of Madison County’s Crisis Response Team, which was just forming when 9-11 happened.
When it came time for the balloon launch, everyone gathered into clumps. Each clump got a balloon or two, and as many people as possible grasped the long ribbons tied to the balloons. Then, on Cindy and Jeanette’s cue, they let go.
The chatting stopped and everyone watched the breeze carry 10 red, white and blue balloons up and over the fields.
I can’t speak for what it meant to everyone else, but for me that was the moment the lightness and heaviness of it all set in. Tears came to my eyes as I thought about the uplifting work a determined group of volunteers from my home state did in the middle of so much loss. And my heart sank as I tried to fathom the grief that comes with the loss of nearly 3,000 lives.
It wasn’t “just 10 balloons.”
From Rhonda Barner—"As someone who was present at the balloon launch and also a crisis responder who spent 9 days at the Family Assistance Center in late-October 2001, I wanted to let you know how much I appreciate your article. Certainly the event was meaningful to me and my colleagues - but, it is heartwarming to know that you captured so much of the day and realized, as we do, the impact of the events that necessitate our work. Thank you for your words!"
From David Lowell—"Thank you for your words. From one of the ones on the string."
January 26, 2011
Some people fight over the wishbone. As a kid, I called dibs on the gizzard.
Gnawing on that chewy chicken stomach was my initiation into the family’s unofficial Organ Eaters Club. I didn’t know I should be grossed out. It’s just what you did growing up down the road from your grandparents’ farm.
Later in life, I graduated from gizzards to heart salad and its equally delicious variant, heart-and-tongue salad. Every New Year’s Day, my grandma would boil then grind up the heart and/or tongue from that year’s freezer beef. She’d add mayonnaise, pickle relish, and onion and serve it cold. I’m telling you, a Ritz cracker has never been better topped.
In the last decade, my culinary adventures have shifted away from organs to the realm of raw fish, but I haven’t completely abandoned the rites of my upbringing. Just the other night, I made liver. Liver Fiesta, to be exact.
While my husband—like others who have married into our family—has never tried our New Year’s Day delicacy, he isn’t entirely opposed to beef liver. I’ve made it a few times over our 17.5 years of wedded bliss, opting for the traditional flour-dredge-and-fry method with onions thrown in.
When I recently warned him I was thawing liver, he cringed then suggested I find a new recipe. I obliged, cranked up the Google machine, and found a 4-year-old Yahoo!Answers chat string featuring an entry for “Liver Fiesta.”
As it turns out, even if you cover liver with a can of tomatoes, cumin, oregano, red wine and crumbled bacon, it’s still liver under there. My husband choked down half a serving, then issued this review: “If I had to eat it to live, I would.”
I admitted it was no fiesta for me either, but I had my organ-eating rep to maintain. So, I ate my full serving, as well as two more big helpings the next day for lunch and dinner.
Guess where the rest of the leftover liver went? Mom and Dad were happy to take it off my hands, proving the old adage: “A family who eats organs together, stays together!”
(Well, I doubt anyone says that, but it sure would make an interesting bumper sticker.)
December 13, 2010
I’m an Ohio girl, born and raised, but that doesn’t mean I welcome winter with open arms. Instead, I make my way through the season in stages.
Stage 1: Denial
Stage 2: Submission
Stage 3: Aggression
Stage 4: Embrace
I hope I make it to Stage 4 this year. Maybe I should ask Santa for a sled.
Art to faint by
July 13, 2010
I recently walked the two blocks from my London office to check out an exhibit at Gallery On High. I saw paintings, photographs, ceramics, turned wood, and even some whittled characters.
I went because one of our Messenger photographers was among the exhibitors. (Amazing photo, Mike!) I left reminiscing about the time I nearly fainted in art class.
It was my freshman year at college. I was excited about everything. So, as a diversion from my English courses, I signed up for “Intro to Drawing.” For our first real assignment, we had to draw something we found in or around the studio. My choice was a dried-up walnut.
The day the assignment was due, we all filed into the studio with our sketchpads tucked under our arms. That’s when Faint-Inducing Surprise #1 happened. Instead of collecting our drawings to review in private, our professor told us to line them up on the display rail.
Then came Faint-Inducing Surprise #2: He said nothing.
After a few moments of uncomfortable silence, he explained that it was a peer critique. He was keeping his two cents to himself.
What?! Not only was my penciled nut up there for all to see, I also had to hear—right then—what 15 other people thought of it? My heart leapt into my throat.
While I chewed on my ego, some brave soul dared to be the first to comment. He picked a drawing he liked and said nice things about it. Someone else then made a suggestion for a small improvement. Before we knew it, we were critiquing each other left and right—gently, politely, constructively.
Someone said my walnut was floating in space. They were right. Later in the semester, my still life of laundry on a dorm bed suffered from too much detail—or as a classmate put it, “too much of a good thing.” (We got really good at wrapping criticism in compliments.)
I ended up enjoying the peer review format and went on to take a printmaking class and two creative writing classes, all of which involved baring my creative side to “the masses.” You could say it was good training for what I do for a living. These days, I only feel faint every now and then.
Open Studio Time: Paint or draw from 4 to 8 p.m. on Tuesdays at Studio 7. Bring your own materials. The Arts Guild provides still life set-ups and models.
Meet the Instructors: From 10 a.m. to noon on Saturdays in August at Studio 7, local art instructors will conduct demonstrations and provide information about the classes they offer. Stained glass, basic drawing, crochet, jewelry-making, plein-aire painting and more are on the list. Classes will start after Labor Day.
Exhibits: The current exhibit at Gallery On High features photography by Bob Rea, James Parson and Linda Bradley. The show runs July 15 through Aug. 22. Gallery hours are Thursdays 11 a.m.-2 p.m., Fridays, 5-8 p.m., Saturdays, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., and Sundays, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
How do you spell 'release'?
June 23, 2010
I am a professional Scrabble player.
Here’s to perspective!
The Get-Off-Your-Butt-And-Move Accountability Device
May 28, 2010
If you see me and notice a small, rectangular lump on my right hip, don’t be alarmed. I haven’t gone retro and returned to the age of pagers.
A slice of nice
March 26, 2010
For $2.99, a stranger bought me a little faith in humanity.
It happened one night last week. I was watching television with my hubby before heading out to cover a school board meeting. One of the commercials featured a restaurant’s pies. We both said “Mmmmm, pie,” then lamented over the fact that we had no pie.
I silently vowed to remedy the situation on my way back from my meeting. Well, the meeting was a doozy and took longer than expected. The clock foiled my plan to stop at the shuttered Der Dutchman in Plain City, so I buzzed into Bob Evans, crossing my fingers that they were still open.
They were, but barely. The staff was in shut-down mode. Besides me, the only customer was a guy at the register. I explained to the cashier that my only need was a piece of pie to go. She directed me to the lunch counter, where I made my selection and returned to the register.
The guy ahead of me asked which variety I chose. I said, “French silk.” He smiled, finished his transaction, then left the restaurant.
Pie and money in hand, I stepped up to the cashier. She handed me the receipt and said, “He paid for your pie.”
I hustled out to the parking lot, just in time to yell, “Thanks!” as the guy got into his car. He yelled back, “You’re welcome.”
So, in the process of procuring a sweet surprise for my hubby, I was on the receiving end of a random act of kindness. That one piece of pie represented a double-dip of humanity. It’s too bad people don’t fall over each other all of the time, trying to be good to one another.
How Death Valley made me feel alive
March 2, 2010
When my husband suggested we spend half our vacation in Death Valley, I was apprehensive. The guidebook all but dubbed it the most godforsaken place on the continent.
I didn’t expect much, but what I got was a lot.
The valley floor is vast. Blanched holly bushes, their leaves soft to the touch, cling to its stingy, dirt-and-gravel lining.
Hills and mountains form the valley’s sides. One giant pile of shiny black volcanic rock jams up against a mound of red-hued stone that flows into a series of treeless, golden hills, textured like brain wrinkles. Greens, pinks and creams dot the palette, too.
I took a picture of a bug in the sand dunes, the only animal we saw besides a few random crows, a tiny lizard and a skulking coyote. I took a picture, too, of the solitary road that disappears into the horizon.
I marveled at what it feels like to visit land that gets to be just land, and I basked in the absolute silence.
It was in the silence that I slipped into the metaphorical.
I deemed the sparse valley floor to be a person’s life waiting to be charted.
The road I saw as society’s definition of the straight and narrow way to traverse life, there to reset your compass, if you need or want it to.
The hills and mountains became family and friends—the snow-capped elders standing tall in the distance—watchful, protective, steadfast.
Instead of feeling insignificant and alone in the middle of 3.5 million uninhabited acres, I felt like an adventurer whose home base is rock solid.
It’s amazing what a change of scenery can do for the spirit.
February 5, 2010
As soon as I got home this afternoon, I grabbed the shovel and started making my way through the six inches of heavy snow that had accumulated on our driveway, sidewalk and bushes.
My attire for the job was as follows:
• A hat featuring three braided tassels—one sprouting out of the top of my head and the other two hanging from the ear flaps.
• A 10-year-old, Army-green coat with a torn pocket
• Hiking boots covered in dried mud from a trek taken through Hocking Hills three weeks ago
• Ill-fitting cargo pants and a plain brown turtle neck
I had cleared the driveway and the path up to the front door, knocked the snow off the bushes, and was about to tackle the sidewalk when my husband got home from what has been a very long week at the office.
He exited his vehicle, surveyed my work, and said, “You’ve never looked more sexy to me than you do right now.”
I smiled back at him, wiping snot from my nose onto the back of an old knitted glove.
Beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder!
Don't nuke the Messenger!
January 29, 2010
Once, as a teenager, I got the brilliant idea to ring the doorbell with my tongue. My arms were loaded with groceries, and I needed to get in the house. Great solution, right? Shockingly, no.
This week, I ran into a reader who related to me her own experience with electronics and bad decision-making. At the center of her story was the newspaper I edit, the Madison Messenger.
“My dogs like to run across the street and snatch the bag the Messenger comes in off the mailbox,” she told me.
A couple of weeks ago, one of the dogs made the trip across the street but didn’t make it all the way back to the porch with the bag. The reader retrieved it herself from her snow-covered yard.
“It was wet, so I thought I’d dry it out in the microwave,” she said.
Great solution, right? Shockingly, no.
The microwave caught on fire.
Days later, a service rep made a house call and officially declared the appliance dead. He gave our dear reader a coupon for money off a new microwave. She headed to the store.
“I found a nice microwave at a good price, but I wanted to check out other options,” she said. So, she shopped, found a better price at another store, talked the salesman into honoring the competitor’s coupon, and got a great deal on a mack-daddy microwave.
But that’s not all.
“I figured while I was there, I’d buy that new ceiling fan we’d been talking about, and I also picked up some of those under-cabinet lights for the kitchen. I’m so excited! And to think, it's all because I really, really wanted to read my Messenger!”
So, the moral of my story is: Don’t ring the doorbell with your tongue unless you want lightly fried nerves and squished groceries.
The moral of our dear reader’s story is: One way or another, reading the Messenger boosts the local economy. (At least that’s the message I took away from it...)
January 22, 2010
When my husband bought a beefier vehicle to haul around his bandmates and tow his trailer o’ gear, I inherited his 2004 Subaru Impreza WRX.
I had no idea the speedy little hand-me-down would make me the envy of teenage boys and oil-change techs everywhere.
Take this conversation I had on Monday after ordering a double cheeseburger from the young gentleman manning the McDonald’s drive-through in West Jefferson:
Young Gentleman: “Is that your car?”
At this point, another car pulled up behind me, which brought our conversation to an end. It’s a good thing, too. If he’d asked one more question, I’m sure I would have blown my cover.
See, I know nothing technical about the Subaru other than I can make it go fast when necessary (or not necessary). But I don’t let the salivating male gear-heads know that. I get too much of a kick out of being an awe-inspiring anomaly—a middle-aged woman behind the wheel of a cool guy car.
Thank you, hubby, for driving a soccer-mom minivan to work and to gigs. I’m enjoying my all-wheel drive, 2.0-liter horizontally opposed, liquid-cooled 4-cylinder, 4-stroke boxer engine with hood scoop air intake, 227 horses and 217 foot pounds of torque.*
Surprises and thank-yous
January 15, 2010
I like little surprises, like...
• Putting on a shirt for the first time of the season and finding in one of the sleeves, the nylon trouser sock I thought the dryer ate the season before.
• Discovering a co-worker’s homemade cookies in the break room on a day when I packed my lunch but left it at home on the counter. (Cookies beat a microwaveable box any day.)
• Reaching into the fastfood to-go sack and coming across a couple of crispy, salty French fry stubs that escaped their carton. (Bonus!)
Not only do I enjoy such surprises, I know how to react to them. I smile to myself, savor the moment, then move on. It’s between me and the sock, me and the cookies, me and the fries.
I don’t do so well with surprises that are plotted out specifically in my name and involve a human audience.
Don’t get me wrong, I love unexpected gifts and kindness. They’re the best kind. I’m just terrible at spontaneously showing my appreciation for them.
Other people immediately jump up and down, give bear hugs, gush words of thanks. Some even shed tears.
I, on the other hand, smile, awkwardly mumble “thanks,” and days or even weeks later, after it’s sunk in, finally make a more substantial response via phone, e-mail or snail mail.
Pathetic, I know, but it’s the way I’m made. The “yippees,” “wows,” and “you shouldn’t haves” are in there. They’re just dammed up, and my flood gates are on a timer.
Between the pages
January 7, 2010
With electronic book readers, you can carry a whole library in one hand, but you know what you can’t do with them? Find part of your heritage literally tucked between the pages.
A couple of weeks ago, I was standing in front of my bookshelves, hoping to find a story I’d not yet read or had long ago forgotten. My collection is too big for the space, so the shelves are a mess. My newest acquisitions are stacked haphazardly in front of and on top of the neat rows of books that first inhabited the shelves. I needed to dig deep to have any hope of finding a spine I hadn’t cracked.
Squatting, peering into the shelf second up from the floor, I found one. It was a thin hardback, only a half-inch thick. The black lettering on the spine and cover spelled out “Here Is New York” and “E.B. White” on a plain green background.
The book was old and I couldn’t recall where I got it. Then, I opened the front cover.
Tucked inside, in front of the title page, were two envelopes. One was postmarked May 1, 1946; the other, May 28, 1947. Both were addressed to Mrs. Arthur Meck. My mom’s mom. My grandmother.
The first envelope contained a letter from one of my grandma’s friends. In it, the friend talked about her daughter, Mary, having the three-day measles, that she seemed to be over them, and the family was still planning to come down for a visit, if that was alright.
Because the letter came from Bryan, Ohio, I figured out that Mary is the same family friend from northwest Ohio who joins us for holiday functions a few times a year. Her mom was my grandma’s college roommate.
I not only got to picture Mary as a baby peppered with pocks, but I also got to picture a baby version of my mom, who is mentioned in the letter: “Does Sue still wear the pink corduroy suit? It surely will be hot soon tho’ and then she’ll just wear diapers.” The letter was written three weeks after my mom’s first birthday.
The other envelope contained an invitation to a Golden Anniversary party for a couple who exchanged vows in 1897. Their names weren’t familiar to me, but that didn’t matter. I just liked touching something my grandma had touched and probably my grandpa, too. Grandpa Meck died in 1970, shortly after I turned 1. Grandma Meck passed away in 1997.
I know somewhere in that crazy mess of a bookshelf—or maybe packed away in a box in the basement—I have more treasures to discover or rediscover. Like the leaves my Grandma Bender (my dad’s mom) collected from all over Marion and Delaware counties. She’d press them between the pages of her biggest books in preparation for the annual leaf collection project one of her grandkid’s surely would encounter at school.
Just show me an electronic book reader that can do that.
October 30, 2009
My favorite Fall 2009 moment came last month when I attended one of my nephew’s junior high cross country meets.
The experience was an invigorating mix of nostalgia and in-the-moment giddiness. It’s been 19 years since I ran my last cross country race and nearly that long since I’ve been to one. I had forgotten how much I love everything about the sport:
The weather—just enough of a nip in the air to make you thank Mother Nature for keeping the sweat out of your eyes.
The people—cross country runners are a unique breed. (Example: One boy at the meet was wearing a propeller hat and carrying a boom box on his shoulder between races.)
The course—no monotonous track oval here. Instead, it's two miles (or three, if you're a high schooler) of spike-snagging tree roots, heart-stressing hills, and dewy fields.
From the minute I got there, I was physically and emotionally overwhelmed.
I expected the physical response. My knees are toast, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to resist plotting out a cheering strategy that involved hoofing it from point to point on the course. In a preemptive strike, I loaded up on Ibuprofen.
What I didn’t expect was the emotional thing. Seriously, I was so happy I was laughing and crying at the same time.
Watching my nephew run his personal best time and finish first for his team made me burst with pride.
Watching coaches and parents pop blood vessels while screaming at their kids to sprint into the finish made me grin so big, I had to put my hands over my mouth. It was so ridiculously passionate that it was cool.
Watching one of the last kids come in—a guy with thick glasses, a headband and knobby knees who was chanting to himself “Go big or go home!”—I lost it. I was laughing because it was a little bit funny. I was crying because it’s all relative. This guy was running his race; he was in his own moment; nothing else mattered.
Yeah, it’s just herds of people putting one foot in front of the other as fast as they can. But, that’s the beauty of it. Within the herd, it’s just you out there.
Love it, love it, love it.
Adventures in Babysitting Land
October 9, 2009
For me, a kidless woman whose childcare resumé consists of watching the neighbor’s kids twice as a teen, babysitting is new territory. A couple of weeks ago, I came across terrain that quite possibly left me scarred for life.
It happened at my brother’s house, where I was stationed for a couple of hours to watch my niece and nephew while Chad and Tanya attended a friend’s birthday party.
For the record, I adore Chad and Tanya’s kids. Sophia is 2 1/2. Evan is 1. They’re super cute and super squeezable, but on this occasion, they took me over the line.
You know, the line where on one side, you’re Auntie Kristy enjoying a visit with the kids, and on the other side, you’re sucked into the vortex of everyday child-rearing.
I entered the vortex right around dinner time. I had survived the initial 30 minutes during which Sophia and Evan efficiently disassembled nearly every room in the house. Next up was getting them fed.
Evan eats anything, as long as you keep it coming. Sophia, on the other hand, is the picky eater. So, I stuffed Evan in his high chair and filled his tray with taco meat and shredded cheese. When I turned to Sophia, I found she had decided to eat her weight in whole strawberries, most of which ended up down the front of her Cookie Monster sweatshirt.
Taking two seconds to wolf down some of my own food, I turned back to Evan to see him looking at me expectantly. Amazed at his David Copperfield-esque ability to make large amounts of matter disappear in the blink of an eye, I frantically refilled his trough.
At the same time, Sophia announced, “I pooped.” I told her, “That’s great. We’ll get to it in a minute.”
That satisfied her...for a minute.
“Kiki, I pooped.”
I said to myself, “Yeah, that’s what diapers are for. We’ll get to it.”
Then, the message changed.
“I poop in the potty.”
Oh... Oh! Really? Right now? We’re going to do this right now, in the middle of dinner?
So, after checking to be sure Evan was secured and supplied, I headed into the bathroom with Sophia. She showed me how to put the kid seat adapter thingy on the toilet (you know, so they don’t fall in!), then dropped her drawers.
Wonder of wonders, she had already done the deed, but insisted on giving it a go big-people-style anyway.
Once she agreed with me that nothing more was coming out, she disembarked the throne and said, “I put poop in the potty.”
At this point, I was horrified.
After a split-second of slack-jawed stupor, I tapped into a deeply buried motherly instinct that realized this was part of potty-training, and obliged the little red-headed girl.
Plop, plop, plop. In went the contents of the aforementioned diaper. Sophia flushed and gleefully watched her deposit swirl out of sight.
Meanwhile, still reeling from the experience, I craned my neck around the doorframe to make sure Evan hadn’t started eating his own arm. Seeing that he was still smiling and still fully limbed, I set Sophia up for what turned into a 10-minute hand-washing session, complete with little red-headed girl commentary.
With both of them occupied, if only for a short time, I slumped into my chair at the dinner table, ate my cold tacos, and marveled at the fortitude parenthood requires.
When Chad and Tanya returned a short time later, I turned in my Babysitter On Board badge and stepped back over the line.
Packing it away
September 13, 2009
I am possessed.
Not all of the time. Just on select weekends in late summer.
Her name is Pioneer Woman.
She takes over when my parents show up with bushel baskets full of tomatoes, onions and peppers. With an apron for a cape and a food vac as her secret weapon, she slices, dices, sucks and freezes mountains of produce.
So far this summer, my alter ego has brewed eight quarts of spaghetti sauce, hand-crushed 10 pounds of stew tomatoes, wept through eight cups of chopped onions, and undressed four dozen ears of corn.
Pioneer Woman’s kryptonite, however, appears to be over-production. Her pride in finding long-term storage solutions for copious amounts of earth’s bounty has left little room in her freezer for other staples, like ice cream and microwaveable dinners.
Her remedy has been to find new vessels. Don’t think Mason jars. Think stomachs. That’s right, for the last week, her host body and that of her husband’s have been making their way through three-and-a-half quarts of homemade V-8 juice. In the quest for quick consumption, they’ve gulped it down like a daily vitamin, chanting in their heads, “This is good for me, this is good for me.” When that stopped working, they turned a few ounces into a passable tomato soup.
Now, they’re back to the beverage form, breaking up the monotony with a few well-placed drops of Tabasco sauce. With renewed vigor, they should polish off the pitcher in the next couple of days. The juice from the overflow container—a Saran-wrapped Guinness glass from a bar giveaway—was the first to go.
Note to self (and other self): Tell parents to ease up on the seed order next spring.
No more mountains...only molehills
July 10, 2009
I’m through with to-do lists. I have a better system.
June 23, 2009
On our way to my parents' house for Father's Day, my husband and I saw this sign posted in someone's yard. On our way home, we had our camera ready for a driveby shooting. I wish we would have had time to stop. I have so many questions!
1. FIrst of all....Really?
2. How much do baby skunks go for these days?
3. Are they purebred (with the papers to prove it)?
4. Do they come declawed and de-stinked?
5. Is it even legal to sell skunks?
6. And, again...Really?
(I'd say this sighting qualifies as a Flash of Funny. See entry below.)
Flashes of funny
June 15, 2009
Yesterday, I was at an intersection, waiting to turn left. I scoped out the line of oncoming traffic, trying to gauge the next break. Then, I spied a flash of funny.
A flash of funny is something humorous that you glimpse while driving your car. You’re not expecting it, so you only have a few seconds to process it and start to laugh before it’s out of sight.
In this most recent case, I watched as a man dressed in a white tux shirt and tails, dress shoes, and shorts whizzed by me on a motorcycle. I couldn’t help but smile.
What was his story? Was he late for a wedding and figured he’d finish getting dressed at the church? Or was this just his preferred outfit for a Sunday afternoon ride? Either way, it was funny.
Here's hoping you get flashed soon, too!
Who's calling, please?
June 1, 2009
When my cell phone rings, I know it’s someone I know. When the regular home phone rings, that’s not always the case.
Telemarketers still manage to get through on the home phone, but thankfully hang up when a human doesn’t pick up.
The Red Cross has me on heavy rotation, making me feel guilty any time I let their give-me-your-blood calls go to voice mail.
Then, there’s my mom. Obviously, she doesn’t fall into the I-don’t-know-you-so-I-can-ignore-your-call category, but she does have a knack for calling the second we sit down to dinner, whether it’s at 5 or 8.
One of the few times my shoulders don’t sag when the home phone rings is when the caller-ID shows my brother or sister-in-law’s name. Then, I know there’s a chance that a high-pitched greeting is waiting for me on the other end of the line.
I’ll pick up, I’ll hear nothing for a few seconds, and then I’ll hear a crystal clear “Hiiiiiii, Kiki!”
It’s my 2-year-old niece, Sophia, who in the last month has found a new love for calling up her Aunt Kiki. (“Kristy” is too much of a mouthful of consonants, so she created her own name for me. She’s also decided to refer to herself as “Fufu,” so we make quite a pair.)
I love it when she calls. It cracks me up that I can hear her mom in the background, coaxing and coaching her through the conversation. I love that I can only make out every 10th word. I love that the call can stop in mid-sentence because she’s suddenly more interested in her crayons or her Goldfish crackers.
There’s just something about that little-kid voice that makes me happy. I guess it’s the fact that it’s untarnished, and it’s calling specifically for me.
Giving new meaning to hat head
May 3, 2009
I ventured into a high-fashion situation on Friday and lived to tell about it.
The scene: Franklin Park Conservatory
The theme: Hat Day
The crowd: 550 women dressed to the nines to raise money for plants
Where did I fit into this picture? Well, anyone who knows me knows that my head is too big for hats and I’m lucky to dress to the fives most days, let alone the nines. I like plants. Plants are good. But I’m no green thumb.
My place at the fundraiser was as a sidekick to my mom. My parents’ photography studio does all of the imagery for the Hat Day invitations, programs and promotions. In exchange, mom snags a couple of tickets to the big event. Since she is the lone female in the company and my dad hasn’t worn a dress since his high school talent show gag, I got the extra golden ticket.
Of course, with the ticket came the obligation to put something on my head. My collection of hats is limited to a Yankees baseball cap I got on vacation a few years ago and a black stocking cap embroidered with a gas company logo (a freebie from my husband’s work).
While I’m no fashion diva, I knew neither of these would fit the bill. I also knew better than to give into rebellion and buy the trucker hat I saw at The Andersons that said “High Voltage” on the front.
Mom came to my rescue. She showed up at my house a week before Hat Day with a bag full of bling: three newsboy style hats, each bejeweled with rhinestones. I got my pick of color. The selection worked on so many levels:
• The poofy style accommodated my girthy skull.
• None of the colors matched the two dresses in my closet, which means I got to wear pants!
• When the rain clouds cleared, the rhinestones sparkled in the sun, taking attention away from the fact that I burned a perfect imprint of the iron into back right leg of my don’t-set-the-iron-on-high nylon capris pants.
• Mom’s hat matched mine in every way except color, which put us in somewhat the same company as the woman whose New York-designed canary yellow feather number matched the one her lapdog was wearing.
Who knew dressing up could be so much fun?
I'm gonna dance if I want to
April 6, 2009
The other night, I was knuckle-deep in meat, watching a Rick Springfield concert on television...the perfect atmosphere for a little contemplation, right?