Snowballs in July

I opened my freezer and noticed a bowl of snow in there from last week.  Anyone for snow ice-cream in 75 degree weather?

When I was in 8th grade, I was sitting in the library, book in hand, talking and giggling with a girl across from me at the table.  Suddenly our teacher starts fast walking towards us.  We’d been caught.  The so-called friend looks up to see the teacher coming closer, yanks the book from my hand, and pretends to start reading it, while I sat there like a sitting duck. 

My 8th grade English teacher bends over the table, scolds us for acting up in the library, then wags her finger at me, and tells me that she was thinking of referring me to Honors English, but the way I am acting is showing her that maybe that isn’t such a good idea after all. 

I hung my head in shame.  This was the first time a teacher had really shown much interest in my learning, who saw  potential in me.  I hated that I disappointed her.

She walked off, I took my book back from the girl who left a smudgy dirty thumbprint on the page where she grabbed it from me.  My teacher held true to her word, however.  I was put in Honors English  my Freshman year, and it ate my lunch. 

I was used to making A’s easily, not working for B’s.  We were assigned to read a book by Ray Bradbury called Dandelion Wine.  We would read an assigned chapter or chapters, then have a class discussion of “literary terms”  like irony.  I never understood irony.  It’s like poetry to me.  Other students’ hands would be in the air, ready and eager to answer my teacher’s questions about “what does he mean on pg. 25 when he says he walks like an Indian?”  I tried to keep up.  I still remember parts of that book.  I don’t remember the plot or the climax or the resolution, but I remember the feeling of home it gave me and several scenes.  Especially one in particular where he saved a snowball and put it in the freezer to throw at his brother in July.  That idea quickened my spirit and I imagined myself doing it, looking at my sister’s surprised face with her tan legs and tank top when a snowball hit her in the face. 

The next time it snowed, I got a snowball, packed it good, wrapped it in Saran wrap, and put it in my grandmother’s side by side refrigerator/freezer.  I  hid it, so no one would know my ploy, on the bottom underneath something else that looked white and icy.  I started counting off the days.  My anticipation was high.  But as a young teenager blossoming into womanhood, my energies soon turned from annoying my sister to friends, boys, cars, and cruising the drag and I forgot about that lone snowball hibernating in the freezer.  Much time passed, and then I remembered.  I rummaged through the freezer burned food.  I never found it.  I asked my grandmother if she had thrown it out, but she claimed she never saw a snowball in the freezer. 

It’s probably best.  I’m sure it rapidly turned to a round block of ice and it probably would have taken Jolea’s head off. 

As for my English career, I went to the counselor and asked to be put back in regular English for the next year.  It was just too much work.  Someone should have taken my head off.

Goulash, Grandparents, and Regret

Last night I attempted cooking, which in and of itself is a feat.  I can honestly say, of the things I have been complimented, cooking is not one of them.  There are people who are renowned simply for being a good cook.  If their name comes up in conversation, people’s eyes roll back in their heads as they utter the words, “oh, she’s a good cook, Have you ever tried her carrot cake, she can make the best homemade rolls I’ve ever tasted.”  Etcetera, etcetera. Blah, blah.

Not me.  Okay.  It’s not something I’ve ever learned to do or really enjoyed doing.

Last night, my little drummer boy husband grabbed his drumsticks and headed out to play a  gig, so it was just me and my niece Ashlynn at home. 

I wanted goulash.  J-Dub doesn’t like goulash, but I love it.  Mind you, I’ve only ever had one person’s goulash in my entire life, and that was my grandmother’s.  If she ever used recipes for cooking, I haven’t the foggiest as to where to locate those.  So when I searched the internet for recipes similar to her goulash, I was met with an assortment of crap.  Crap, I tell you. 

Obviously, goulash is a Hungarian dish, not a southern poor man’s dish as I always thought.  The  recipes called for ingredients that I’m sure my Grannie never had in her pantry at any time, like Rotel for instance.

So I text my sister, and she immediately texts back with a bunch of rigmarole ingredients for so-called “Grannie’s Goulash”. 

I had an idea that she was crazy.  Mustard really?  So I called my Aunt Bert (my Grannie’s daughter).  She thought it was a little this, and a little that, and maybe some of this. 

Well that seemed closer, but it just wasn’t good enough for me.  I need a recipe!!!  I need to know how much of this and that. I operate in teaspoons and tablespoons, people.

I returned to the internet, and googled Southern goulash.  Recipes popped up with okra in them.   Who in the world puts okra in their goulash???? Huh?  Huh?  Just answer me that.   Next I googled Old-fashioned goulash.    Marjoram and tomato soup?  Puh-lease!!! 

Then when my frustrations were at an all time high, and my stomach was growling, I got the crazy notion to google my grandmother’s name and goulash.  Just hoping maybe, just maybe, someone had published a long-lost recipe of her goulash. 

And to my surprise, that brought up absolutely nothing. 

Except it led me to an ancestry site. 

So my search for goulash took an unexpected turn to ancestry on my mother’s side.    And I’m fascinated.  I’ve never given much thought to my ancestors, but now that I’m getting older, my brain is changing, along with my priorities, and I’m understanding  the impact of my lineage. 

Growing up, I didn’t have a lot of “old” family.  There are people my same age, who grew up with a great-grandmother, a great-great grandmother even, but not me.  I’ve only ever had grandmothers.  My great grandparents died before I came into this world, and I never even knew a grandfather.  Sad huh?  I guess my people died young, or procreated old, and too many years are in-between.

I’ve heard my Grannie talk about her parents, but I’d forgotten their names until last night when they started showing up on my computer screen.  Suddenly they became real people, with dreams, and love for one another, and hopes, and journeys, and trials. 

Just like me. 

Now I wish when I sat in the TV room with my Grannie,  while she rattled on with stories I’d heard before, about people who were cold in the ground, with events that were unimportant to my teenage ears, that instead of slumping over in my chair and wishing she’d stop droning on, that I’d had a cell phone with voice recorder, a video recorder,  a tape recorder, shoot even a pencil and pad and would have written down her stories.  But of course, I never thought they’d matter to me. 

How foolish we are in our youth.

Since I’ve begun blogging, I’ve been forced to dip into my memory banks.  Often I find them empty or half erased, and I must fill them in with how I believe it must have been.  Was I wearing tennis shoes in that blizzard, or were they high heeled show girl boots like my dad remembers? 

I have stories to tell, people to remember, events to unfold.  Other people may not care about them, but I do.

“You and your husband might have looked out the same kitchen window for twenty years, your eyes might be as green as  your uncle Harry’s, but twenty bucks says you don’t see the world as they do.  Start writing to save your life.  Stories only happen to those who can tell them.”—-Lou Willett Stanek



And then others must remember them, and in turn, tell them.

My great -grandfather Eugene “Gene” Ira married my great-grandmother Emma Olive (oh my gosh I love that name) and had 2 daughters, Mary and Imogene, my grandmother. 

I want to talk to those people.  I want to talk to them real bad.  I imagine their black and white faces, their frumpy clothes, their aprons, their weathered hands.  They were tough.  They had to be. I want to hear their stories, and share their stories.  It’s like instantly, I realize I am on this earth, in part because of these people. 

They are MY people.  

My great-grandparents:

Eugene “Gene”  Ira: Aug 22, 1883-Jan 15, 1966  Age. 81

Emma Olive:  Dec 7, 1879- Aug 7, 1911 Age 32

My grandmother Imogene, whose name came from her dad Gene and her mom Emma loved me, cherished me, delighted in me and made the best goulash of which I can not recreate.

And me?

I’ve forgotten her stories.

 Stories only happen to those who can tell them.

The Memory of a Sound

I recently purchased this magazine.
I say recently, but it was way back in 2010.

I have no idea why I would purchase a magazine called Do it yourself, since I don’t do anything myself.  There must have been something that caught my eye on the cover, but now…..who knows? This is one of those mags that if you have nothing to do all day except create adorableness from egg shells and paper, this is your heaven.

It does have some extremely cute crafts in it.


See, I even dog-eared this page on crafting with felt.  Felt makes me happy.  Not that there’s even a remote chance I’ll be frolicking with felt in the future.


This is an old railroad tie used as a mantle.  I love it.  We have a similar piece of rustic roughness found in an old building that we are going to use as a mantle in our little trailer house on the prairie.  Maybe in 23 more years or so.

But the point of this whole post is this:

These canisters.

My old grannie had an ugly-as-sin, avocado green tin canister just exactly like the one in the back of this picture.

It sat on her countertop next to the stove, and she sometimes stored goodies such as homemade peanut butter cookies in it.

I remember stealthily trying to lift the lid off to sneak a cookie or treat.  The “swoosh” of the lid coming off the canister echos in my head.  I would try not to make a sound, and inevitably always would pling, plang, and gong one against the other, giving myself away.  Like sneezing during a game of hide-and-seek.    

Sometime during my childhood, we got a new step cousin in the family.  He wasn’t one of us, and I remember treating him as an outsider.  When memories like these flood back, I always try to blame my sister.  But truthfully, I don’t know who was the instigator of being harsh with him.  It could’ve been my idea, or my cousin’s (his step-brother) or my sister’s, regardless I remember the four of us being outside huddled under a tree, being ugly to our new family member and telling him that “WE (the privileged real grandchildren) knew our grannie’s secret hiding place for goodies and that he had better be nice or we wouldn’t let him know.”

I wish I could go back under that tree and change that conversation.  I hope he doesn’t remember.  I’m ashamed.

Seeing these burnt orange canisters in a magazine stirred something inside me.  I asked my mom, who now lives in my grannie’s old house, if she knew where that avocado green canister was.  She said it was around there someplace.  Then about one week later, I received a call, and lo and behold, the little criminal she has living with her (another story for another time) was cleaning out the garage and it turned up. 

Here it is.  On my kitchen countertop by my stove. 

It’s not in as good of condition as the orange ones in the magazines. 

Why I have this in my house, in my blue and yellow kitchen, is something that I must explore deep within my soul.  And maybe discuss with my therapist, which happens to be Marie, my school librarian. 

Why, when I am desperately trying to simplify and minimalize, did I bring this old junky, unfashionable, semi-unpractical item out from the dust and mire of a dirty garage to sit purposeless on my already cluttered kitchen counter? 

Why do I sometimes go to my kitchen for no other reason but to lift the lid just so I can hear the pling from my childhood? 

I know why. 

It’s so I can see my grannie sitting in her chair with a poodle on her lap. 

 Or standing at the kitchen counter pressing out the peanut butter cookies.  She would let me mash on the cookie dough with a meat tenderizer to create the little indented designs and then sprinkle sugar on top when they came out of the oven, soft and warm.

I’m suddenly having a peanut butter cookie hankering.

And I need a tissue.

The Land of Less is More—Mile #1—Cleaning out the closet

Today’s gargantuan leap in my journey to the Land of Less is More begins with my closet. 

I think I can.   I think I can.  I think I can.

I needed direction so I found a site with 7 simple steps.

I got scared off by the first step which says to take everything out of my closet, yes everything, so I developed my own system.

Angel’s Steps to Cleaning out the Closet.

Step 1:  Adopt this motto:  If you’re going to be a bear, be a grizzly. 

Step 2:  Put on some music that gets you in the groove.

Step 3:  Sit down and drink a Red Bull and tell yourself you really need to get up and clean the closet.

Step 4:  Get a cardboard box.  Or seven.

Step 5:  Begin in the back where 700 hangers are crammed within an inch of space.  These are the clothes you more than likely haven’t worn in 10 years and are easier to say good-bye to.

Step. 6:  Attempt to try on a pair of size 8 capri pants that you love.

Step 7:  Sink into depression when you cannot get them over your pasty, jiggly thighs.

Step 8:  Relieve depression by eating a pack of Rolos from the case your husband bought you for Christmas.

Step 9:  Repeat steps 6 and 7, ad nauseam.

Step 10:  Regret that you recently cleaned out your email and unsubscribed from Weight Watchers, Losing it with Jillian Michaels, The Firm, and Spanx.

Step 11:  Resolve to lose weight in 2011.

Step 12:  Come to the harsh realization that you will never wear some of your clothes again.  Ever. 

Step 13:  Adopt this rule:  “If you haven’t worn it in a year, say adios to it.”

Step 14:  Get your butt back to work clearing out your clothes.

Step 15:  After 13 minutes, lose momentum and crash from your sugar high.

Step 16:  Waste an hour on facebook

Step 17:  Slap yourself three times and drag yourself back into the bedroom.

Step 18:  Work until you lose momentum…..about 10 minutes.

Step 19:  Take a nap on the couch since your bed is covered in clothes and cheap plastic hangers.

Step 20:  Wake up refreshed. 

Step 21:  Realize your husband needs a place to sleep tonight.  Get up and finish the job.

Step 22:  Take the boxes to a local charity.

Step 23:  Reward yourself with ice cream on the way home.

Step 24:  Step back and look at your clean closet and feel good about your accomplishment, but not your thighs.

Softball and other life matters

A few days back my niece Ashlynn tried out for softball.  It’s an effort to redeem the family name from when I played. 
From the year I played.
From the year I attempted to play.  

You see, I should have been a ballerina.  But my sister was an all-star softball player.  Not to mention a klutz at ballet.  So my parents, God love ’em,  erroneosly thought that since we both possessed the same genetic code, that I too, by default would be an all-star softball player as well.  Or maybe I begged and persisted until they cratered.  It doesn’t matter now does it?  It’s just one of the many hobbies I took up that vanished rapidly.  Like painting, quilting, guitar, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

An allstar, I was not. 
The three words that best describe me and I quote,
“Stink, Stank, Stunk!”

I was number 9.  I remember well because I was also nine years old.  Our team was called the Panhandle Perforators, whatever that means, and our green caps had  very large white letters PP emblazoned on them.  It might as well been the scarlet letter.  Two red P’s or yellow P’s for that matter, could have only worsened the situation for me. It was humiliating to this nine year old girl who would rather be wearing toe shoes and tutus to wear a ball cap with PP on it.  If you have already surpassed the maturity level of a nine year old girl, I’ll help you out with my humiliation.  Pee pee and doo doo.  Get it,  PP? 
They stuck me out in right field where I picked dandelions and did pirouettes with not a care in the world of what was happening in the game. 
What ball?
I was daydreaming of rainbows and glittery ponies.
My dad would occassionally walk down the fence line and come visit me in my lonely position where nary a ball came.  Never.  Never, ever.  He’d give me a drink of his coke, lean on the chain link fence and advise me to “Look Alive.”

I’m sure my parents buttons were really busting when I got up to bat.  I had no intention to swing the bat.  I already knew deep down that I would never swing, even at a perfect pitch.  I wouldn’t choke up on it, I wouldn’t even get in a stance.  I stood there, stiff as a board with the bat resting on my shoulder, butterflies swarming in my stomach, palms sweating, heart racing, and I prayed.  I prayed for four balls to get me to first base.  I wasn’t going to swing.  Two strikes may whizz past, but I continued to pray.  It was too great a risk to strike out on purpose.   My nine year old, self-conscious logic told me, I’d rather strike out standing there like an idiot than to strike out swinging and prove to everyone how pathetic I really was.  It makes no sense.  It’s completely illogical.  I realize that now.  

But alas, my nine year old faith grew as strong as the mighty oak, because more times than not, the Great Coach in the sky heard my childish prayer and delivered me into the safety of the first base where I would run and grin back to my parents applauding in the stands.  I don’t know why they didn’t wear paper sacks with two cut out eyeholes to my games.  Ah yes, because my sister was playing on the same team.  They surely wanted to be associated with her.

I still have my jersey.  Twenty-six years later, I can’t bear to part with it.  I’m sentimental like that.  We also made it to the championship and earned a trophy.  I still have that too. 
Actually, I think I scored the winning run.
Or maybe I was on the bench the whole game.
My memory escapes me now.

When I discovered a few days back that my little bitty, non-athletic, chicken-legged, never thrown a softball in her life, niece was trying out for softball, the first thing I did was pull out the scissors and the papersack and went to work. 

We are anxiously awaiting to see which coach pulled the short straw.  But I’ll be there at her games, nevertheless, cheering her on as she twirls in right field.
If you’re looking for me, I’ll be the one with the sack on my head. 

I once read a report that asked some 100 year old people what they regretted most in life, and the most common answer was they wish they had taken more chances, more risks, and not always stayed on the sidelines. I think of those centuryites, centurians, centuropians old people often.  And I, with my wrinkles and wisdom, look back on my younger years.  And I wish I would have swung that bat.  Swung it like I meant it.  Whether I struck out or not.  At least I would have taken the chance.

So to my niece I say, play your heart out, whether you’re good at it or not.  I’ll be cheering you on.

And to all of you as well.

We only get one go at this, so swing for the fence.