Friday, March 28, 2014

Stories from My Son

I worked with a woman and her son. The son got into some serious trouble with the law. I could see that she was distressed so I spoke to her when I had a chance to some privacy with her.

She told me that she was so ashamed. The first thing I told her was that she had nothing to be ashamed about. She had done nothing wrong. She had committed no crime.

I also told her it was okay to still love her son. He may have done something wrong but he is still her son. A mother should love her children no matter what. And even though what he did (and admitted to doing) was wrong he is still a basically good person. I knew him and believed that.

Then I told her that I knew how she felt because my son was also in prison.

My son is a wonderful person and I am terribly proud of him. You need to remember that because it is important. If he did anything he should not have done it does not change the fact that he is a generous caring person who loves his family. His family loves him. Period.

When he found out that I was writing this blog my son became so excited. He, as well as his brothers and sister, have been after me for years to write these stories down and compile a family history. I send him copies of what I have written and he comments back.

Then I got a bonus. He has been sending me stories. Some of them I knew at least parts of. Some are new. He told me I can share them here. I will write them in his voice.

One day I was at my house with my girlfriend. It was the middle of the day when I got a phone call. It was my girlfriend's ex-boyfriend. He said he was in front of my house and wanted to talk to me.

I went out and he was there in his car with his brother. His brother was a cop from a small town on the other side of our state and in full uniform.

I walked to the car. The brother told me I needed to stop seeing his brother's girlfriend... because he said so. He put his hand menacingly on his gun and said he wasn't playing. I told him he would have to do a lot more than that to scare me.

He pulled out his cell phone and called the police. "Officer needs assistance. An officer has been shot. Officer down!"

I couldn't believe what I just heard him say! In less than 2 minutes there were 30 or 40 cops at my house along with the police commander. The police grabbed me and searched my house.

The out-of-town cop told them I had kidnapped his brother's child and girlfriend and was holding them in my house.

Inside the house they asked my girlfriend what was going on. She told them that her "ex" had been stalking her for more than a year with his brother's help.

The police commander of my city was mad, really mad! He told them that you don't call an officer down call in the city when nothing is going on. He cussed them both up and down, then he apologized to my girlfriend and me and let us go back inside.

He took the two men with him. I never heard from them again. My girlfriend didn't hear from him for a long time. When they did run into each other he was very polite and never spoke of the incident.

I spend a lot of time in the library studying the law books, I've helped a lot of guys beat indictments and lessen sentences. One group of guys were looking at 20 years minimum because they all had past felonies.

I met them in jail. They were on a drug indictment and their lawyer told them to take a plea deal because there was a lot of evidence against them.

There was a tape recorded meeting with a Drug Enforcement Agency officer talking about going to rob a drug house for about 20 kilos of cocaine. When they got done talking they were all supposed to go to the place. At the last minute they decided not to do it and turned the other way.

As they were leaving a police car pulled them over on a "routine" traffic stop. The police searched their car and found a gun. All five were taken in and charged with possession of the gun and a cocaine indictment.

I showed them that the search was illegal because of a new case out of Arizona. It made it so your car can't be searched without a warrant, just like your house. Their lawyer told them I was wrong and to not listen to me. I gave them the case and they took it to the lawyer. He said that it was new and that I was right.

Then I showed them that even though they had abandoned the robbery they could still be indicted for conspiring to sell cocaine. Since they reasonably couldn't get any drugs, the police had to charge them with the lowest possible amounts. Every one of them was looking at less than 1 1/2 years.

They were shocked and again their lawyer thought I was wrong. Again I gave them a case to study.

I was transferred because I was going to court so I didn't hear from any of them for a while. Finally I got a letter from one of them. The government threw out the whole case because they did not want to spend the time and money to prosecute for a case that would net so little jail time.

They had tried to find me but I was "lost in the system". They wanted to give me some money even though I had not asked for anything in return. They found a friend of mine and told him to give me the money and to tell me thank you. They would help me with anything I need.

It is just one more reason the feds hate me. I didn't just study the laws. I learned why they do the things they do. I understand them. Most people don't take the time.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


I love food. I like the way it looks when it is presented attractively. I like the way it smells. I like the textures and tastes as I enjoy chewing and swallowing. I like the cozy feeling I get when I have finished eating.

There are few foods that I do not like. Liver is the first I think of. I like the taste but the texture is gritty to me and I cannot eat it. Coffee smells so good but it tastes oily and bitter so I have never developed a taste for it. Calamari looks, feels, chews, and tastes like those extra wide rubber bands teachers are so fond of using. I am not fond of a lot of meats. I like my meat dry and a lot of meats are just naturally greasy. Game animals do not appeal to me for a variety of reasons.

I am fond of one dish meals like soups, salads, and casseroles. I have always said that there is nothing you can do to hurt them. Homemade breads are definite comfort food.

That all being said I have some definite favorites. Perhaps more than many people. Let me mention a few.

Lobster tail. I really like lobster but a whole lobster is just too much. The tail is full of meat and is just the right amount for a good meal.

Devil's food cake with fudge frosting. My mother made the best fudge frosting. She made it like regular fudge but it did not set quite as hard. It would spread on the cake and then set a bit more. I have tried to make it myself but I just cannot get the right consistancy.

Creamed peas and potatoes. I often would ask for them along with scrambled eggs for my birthday dinner.

Chilaquiles. This is a Mexican dish. It is made of chunks of tortilla fried with salsa and scrambled eggs.  Try it, you'll like it.

Baclava. Some call it sweeties. It is a desert made with phyllo and honey and nuts. It is extremely rich and sweet. You can only eat one piece.

Pumpkin pie. This is something I could eat until I made myself sick. I have to exercise extreme caution.

Stuffed peppers. Another meal in one piece. All the flavors blend together and yet they are also distinct.

New England boiled dinner. A combination of corned beef, carrots, potatoes, turnips, onions, and cabbage along with a lot of seasonings all in one big pot. My mouth waters just thinking about it.

Sweet and sour chicken.The contrasting sweetness and sour of this just has a party in my mouth. Add some shrimp fried rice and I'm in heaven.

Cheese cake. I like the New York cheese cake the best but the no bake kind is really good too. I will not turn either one down.

Manicotti. That big piece of pasta filled with cheeses and covered with a tomato based sauce makes you feel like you have eaten a definite meal.

Poppyseed coffee cake. The poppyseed filling is a custard type with lots of poppy seeds in it. One must be careful though. Poppyseeds are a natural laxative.

Corn on the cob. With lots of butter and pepper it is one of the happiest things of summer.

Watermelon. I could eat it every day and several times a day if the opportunity arose. Sweet, juicy, and a little messy, it is a good way to keep cool on a hot day.

Tea. I like Earl Grey and Irish breakfast tea the best. Some of the herbal teas are too sweet for me.

Chocolate candy. Especially chocolate covered cherries. I also am overly fond of chocolate covered peanuts. Chocolate covered fruits are a treat too.

Frozen fruits. I like to munch on them in the evening while I watch television.They are sweet and cool and they take a while to eat each one.

These are a few of my absolute favorites. Of course if I am having a hot dog and potato chips, that is my favorite at that time. A good steak and baked potato makes my mouth happy. Banana cream pie bursts with flavor and is my favorite while I am eating it. I like food.

Friday, March 21, 2014


I talked about Christmas in a previous story so I will leave it out of this one. Christmas is my favorite holiday; that is why I devoted so much time to it. It is the one time of year when you are somewhat forced to show the people you care about how much you care about them. We should make that time all year long but we do not. So even if you think Christmas is too commercialized, enjoy the feelings of love given and received. The gifts and food are the excuse to get together to do that.

New Year's Day is the beginning of the year in the United States. It is treated as a holiday and most workers have a paid day off. The truth of the matter is that New Year's Eve is what most people celebrate. They go to bars or parties to celebrate and drink with their friends. It is the holiday that Americans use as an excuse to get drunk.

I worked as a waitress in a bar for several years. We both hated and loved New Year's Eve. As a group we would rent tuxedos to wear for the occasion. It was not something our employer asked or expected of us... it was what we did to make it fun for us. So we paid for the tuxes out of our own pockets.

The place I worked sold tickets and only allowed a certain number of people in. It cut down on the misunderstandings that sometimes come with overindulgence. It was also just more orderly. Regular customers would make reservations so that large groups could sit together to welcome in the new year. They might even request that they be seated in the section of their favorite waitress.

It was a jolly mood and people would have a good time with each other. There was a DJ and a live band so music and dancing were a large part of the night. We also stayed open an extra two hours to give them a longer time to celebrate.

All of that was fun. But the waitresses and bartenders worked hard all night. We were not paid more by management so we hoped for good tips. After a couple of years we realized the reason the tips were so low. In a big party of people (sometimes there would be twenty or thirty in one party) a lot of them thought that everyone else was tipping so it was not necessary for them. We made less money on that night than any other night of the year.

One thing I do not like about New Year's Eve is that some people think it gives them the right to drive drunk. There are so many drunk drivers on the streets that I do not go out anymore. Not even to the movies. I simply stay home and watch the ball drop in Times Square on television.

St Valentine's Day is a cute holiday. When I was a little girl it was great fun to sign my name to little valentine cards for all my classmates at school. We usually all took some sort of treats as well because there would be a little party at the end of the school day.

St Patrick's Day is huge in my family. My children are all Irish you know. Wearing of the green and tales of leprechauns and banshees are the order of the day.

My brother-in-law had a huge St Bernard dog. He built a little cart that the dog could pull. For St Patrick's Day my sister-in-law would decorate it in green. Then my niece and my daughter would dress like the Irish lassies they are and ride in the dog-powered wagon in the St Patrick's Day parade.

I always loved Celtic music, especially the Irish Rovers. I know you remember them. They sang The Unicorn song. I had always wanted to go see them live. My children were no fun and none of them would go with me. None of my friends were ever interested and it did not seem like it would be any fun to go alone so I never went.

Then my darling granddaughter said she would go with me. I got the tickets and we made a night of it. We went out to dinner. We dressed in our finest greenery. What a good time we had.

My granddaughter was enthralled. She glowed as she watched them sing. The man sitting on the other side of her was having as much fun watching her as I was. She loved the music and she loved the jokes and bantering onstage.

After the performance the Irish Rovers gather to give autographs and take pictures with fans. They were so nice to my granddaughter and talked to her to say they were glad she was there. She was in love. We have an annual date now to see them when they come to town before St Patrick's Day. The guys in the band remember her and make a point of speaking to her. Sadly this will be their last year of touring.

Easter was fun when I was a child. Easter baskets full of goodies and colored eggs all over the house . We would search for the eggs the Easter Bunny hid. Somehow Mom always knew exactly how any there were.

Often we would go to the farm to eat a nice Easter Dinner with my grandparents and aunts and uncles. Cousins would come with other aunts and uncles. If the weather was nice we would hide and re-hide the eggs all day outside. On rainy days we went to the attic and hid them there. Of course someone always hid an egg in the mouth of Grandpa's stuffed bobcat. Of course I was always the one to see it first. Of course my competitive spirit forced me to take that egg. I would shake as I took it but I always got that egg.

When I was grown we continued the celebration for our children. We would gather at my parents' house and let the children hide and hunt eggs all day.

Then my father died on Good Friday. We were all devastated. He was truly the center of the family. We tried to keep things as normal for the children as possible to try to ease their pain a bit.

We did not realize it but we sort of stopped celebrating Easter after that. Easter baskets were delivered by the Easter Bunny and there was food but the joy was not there and we did not even know we had stopped celebrating.

The years passed and my youngest son was married and had two children. He asked me why we did not have the big Easter get-togethers any more. I was shocked. I told him I did not realize that we had drifted away from them.

He re-started fun family Easter celebrations. There were games and food and egg hunts again. The thing that my grandchildren remember most is a new tradition. Once the eggs have been mauled by the hunters, they all get together and have an Easter egg fight. They throw eggs at each other until kids and adults are covered with shells and egg stuff. How times have changed.

May Day is not celebrated much anymore. I can remember making May baskets out of large paper cupcake holders and pipe cleaners. Then we would fill it with candies. We would go to the home of someone we liked. We would go to the door, ring the bell (or knock), set down the basket, and run. If the person receiving the basket could catch you that person had to give you a kiss.

Nobody had explained how this worked. I had prepared several baskets and was with my mother delivering them. I knocked on the door and stood there. Mom was yelling, "Run, run!" I was confused. After my first kiss, Mom explained how it worked. Now she tells me.

Memorial Day is a special time. It is the day we take to remember those we have lost over the years. Trips to the cemetery are the order of the day. Graves are cleaned and headstones washed. Flowers are planted. Flags are placed. At one cemetery we are fortunate to have a man playing bagpipes who wanders through the cemetery playing appropriate music.

July 4 is the birthday of our country. We celebrate it with fireworks and baseball games.

I had a friend on the city council of our city. She told me she had tickets for people who wanted to sit on top of one of the buildings downtown to watch fireworks. How many did I want? I asked how many I could have.

I was able to take my cub scouts, my little league baseball team that I managed, all my nieces and nephews, my brother and sister, and my mother and father. There were folding chairs for everyone to sit on. We were right at the edge of the river. The fireworks were launched from a barge in the middle of the river. It was beautiful.

Labor Day is the day to honor the worker. Most workers have a paid day off. It is also known as "the last blast of summer". Many people get together and cook out for one last time before putting the barbecue grill away for the winter.

Then comes Halloween. My second favorite holiday. It is so much fun. There are scary scarecrows, people dressed in scary or funny costumes, and trick-or-treating.

My brother and his friends dressed as KISS every year until they were grown. Then the younger boys took over. Now my grandchildren are KISS. Is my family obsessed or what?

There have been other notable costumes. When I was in kindergarten Mom made my costume. I was a pumpkin. My costume was held in it's rounded shape by metal coat hangers. I had trouble getting through the door to my classroom but I loved that costume.

My second son wanted to be the Grim Reaper. I found directions in a magazine to show me how to get the make-up done. It turned out so well that he went like that for several years in a row.

My oldest son decided he was too old to trick-or-treat. He was. He dressed as a scarecrow. He used an old pillowcase over his head so he did not look human. An old hat and baggy clothes with newspapers stuffed in to make him look lumpy and a few pieces of straw around the neck, arms, and legs completed his costume.

He sat in a chair at the end ot the steps where we were passing out treats. He would wait until a child was the only one looking at him then he would give a little wave. After the initial shock of seeing the scarecrow move the child would tell his mother about it. Every time, the mother would soothe the child and tell him it was his imagination. Then as soon as she would look away it would happen again. My son had a lot of fun.

It was more fun than he had as a werewolf. We used Elmer's glue and fake whisker bits to make his face and hands nice and hairy but not evenly so. When he returned from trick-or-treating he could not wait to get it off. It itched.

My oldest grandson was a little old to be trick-or-treating but he and his friends went just to have fun. He dressed as a ghost with a white sheet and a white pillow case over his head. His friend went as an escaped prisoner. His friend happens to be black.

People were acting really funny when the boys knocked on their doors. Finally the police came. My grandson was told to go home and take off his costume. People thought he was dressed as a member of the Ku Klux Klan!

My second grandson was reading the Bible... for pleasure. He does things that one would not expect of a child but there you are. He decided to be Moses for Halloween. He got a great many compliments on his costume but most people thought he was dressed as Jesus even though he was holding the tablets with the 10 Commandments.

Thanksgiving is the holiday for being thankful for all the good things in your life. The traditional meal is centered around a roast turkey. And a lot of everything to go with it.

In my family Mom always cooked a huge dinner. Then we could eat and nibble whenever we wanted to. The thing was that there were also football games on television. Mom and Daddy watched as many as they could find. And woe to the person who had the temerity to get between them and the TV.

Mom would yell to get out of the way. Daddy did not yell. He simply took off his slipper and let it fly. We usually went to our rooms and played cards or read.

We are back to Christmas. Much love to every person I care about.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Man I Married

You have already met my ex-husband. What I did not tell you was how very intelligent he was. He did not have an education which he equated with being stupid. He was wrong. I also did not tell you how very funny he was. He did not realize that he was funny which made him even funnier. He was also an alcoholic which is sad.

I will start with his drinking. It makes some of the stories a little easier to understand.

My husband did not start out as a drinker. It was a gradual thing. But as the years passed (we were married for 20 years) his drinking increased. Beer was his choice and he was usually a "sleepy" drinker. By that I mean he would drink then get sleepy and go to bed.

But if he drank vodka which was the only hard liquor he drank he would want to fight. I cannot tell how many times he would call me to come get him. "They're picking on me," he would say. I would get to the bar just in time to see him and some other guy rolling on the ground fighting.

Once I got them separated the fight was over. Then he would get up, look at the other guy and say, " Man, that was a good fight. You want a beer?" And back into the bar they would go. I shake my head just thinking about it.

In case anyone has a concern about his temper, my husband never threatened or hurt my children or me. He thought that was the lowest thing a man could do. And that is something I would not have endured.

One evening a friend of my husband's had come to do some work on our television. My husband came in from the bar and sat to look thoughtfully at the man. After several minutes he said, "You know, for fifty dollars I could have you killed."

The man very quietly said that he would come back another time. He packed his tools and went home.

The next day my husband could not understand why the TV was not working. I told him he threatened to have the guy killed. He did not believe me.

After several days of no television my husband went looking for the man. Surprisingly he agreed to come finish his job.

It was late and I invited him to supper with us. As we were eating I told the man that my husband did not remember what happened and did not know why he had not returned right away to fix the television. He reluctantly and with his eyes peeking from under his brow looked at my husband and said, "Man, you threatened to have me killed."

My husband could not read. It embarrassed him and he went to night school for beginning readers. He learned a little bit. Then he got a new job and we moved out of state so there went his education.

However my husband could make anything. And I mean anything. Once a driver came into our junk yard driving his dump truck. My husband asked for a favor.

The driver lifted the dump bed on the truck with the hydraulic equipment. Then he would lower it again. My husband squatted on the ground watching the workings of the hydraulic system as the driver repeated the lift and return several times. Then he thanked the driver. He had seen all he needed to see.

My husband then proceeded to make a hydraulic lift system for one of our trucks. But he did not go buy materials. We had a junk yard. He used scrap metals that were just lying around. It worked perfectly.

He also built the winches to make our tow trucks. Again he just used scrap metal that was there. They turned out so well that he even made a few for colleagues in the business.

Like I said he was intelligent. He just thought everyone could do what he did.

My son owned a shop where he worked on his fleet of trucks. He was out taking care of business one day when a friend called him. "I thought you would like to know... Your dad's on television."

My son raced to the nearest place that had a set. There was his father, so drunk he had to sit on a tree stump to give his interview to a reporter.

He had been removing trees from the lot around my son's place of business to make more room. He was using a backhoe/front end loader to knock the trees over. One of the trees fell onto the power lines and took out the power for the whole area. More than 200 houses and companies were without power.

On top of that the power lines landed on a trailer my son used for staorage. The whole thing caught fire and everything was lost.

My son's father sat on the tree stump giving his slurred statement to the reporter. The machinery he had been driving was laying on its side near him in view of the cameras. My son was mortified.

My husband also owned a truck or two. A driver for one of his trucks was going up a small hill and somehow ruined the clutch. The truck had about 100,000 lbs of cargo. The friend who let them use a tow truck only had a small tow truck. Too small for the job but that was what was available.

Naturally my husband had been drinking. My son was with him to help try to get things moving.

They hooked up the tow truck. Then the police arrived. There were two males and a female. My husband was driving the tow truck. It was obvious that he not only had been drinking but that he still was. The police did not comment on that. He stood at the door of the truck talking to them.

Now my husband never ever gave any thought to what other people might think. He stood there talking to the police then abruptly went around the truck and to the back of it. The female officer followed him to make sure he was not trying to escape.

My son just held his head. He knew what was coming. Between the trailers of the truck, he set his beer down on one of them. Then he proceeded to unzip his pants and urinate. The female officer turned away in shock. The male officers were laughing so hard that one of them actually fell onto the ground. My husband finished and walked around the truck as if nothing had happened out of the ordinary.

One of the officers said that they needed to get the truck out of there or the truck would be impounded and all parties were going to jail.

A quick huddle was held to plan what they were going to do. My son got in the truck with the bad clutch. His father got in the tow truck and began to pull. My son got his truck started. It was not easy but he did it. The tow truck popped up in the air then came back down.

Off they went. They left the police looking in wonder at what had happened.

My husband was driving his truck. As he was going through an intersection in the city, a motorcycle ran the red light. The bike and the driver were under the truck when my husband stopped. He jumped out to help the motorcycle rider. When he looked under the truck he saw that there was no helping him.

The rider was tangled in the framework of the truck. In order to free him my husband would have to back the truck over him. It was not a good option. All he could do was crawl under the truck and try to give comfort to the man as he died.

That was the man I married. Most of these stories happened after we were divorced. My son actually told them to me and I promised I would include them here.

Most of them make it sound like he was a hopeless drunk. He actually never missed work because of his drinking. That is not to say that he was not drinking at work because he usually was. He was also basically a good man.

I have four beautiful children thanks to him. Each of them have traits of their father and each of them looks like him. I would be a pitiful person to think ill of a person who gave me all that.

Friday, March 14, 2014

I Will Dance, Just Ask Me

I love to dance. I am not a good dancer but I am an enthusiastic dancer. I have a good sense of rhythm and I pick up steps easily.

When Elvis Presley was first becoming so popular on the radio I used to bop around the house as we listened to him sing. Maybe it was not my first attempt at dancing but I do not remember anything earlier.

My sister and I desperately wanted to go to a dance. There was a live band instead of jukebox music. We begged until Daddy drove us and dropped us off. He would pick us up later.

We were so much younger than everyone else there. And neither of us actually knew how to dance. We stood against the wall most of the night. We felt terribly out of place. Once in a while we would turn our backs and practice a few of the steps we saw others doing. What a relief when Daddy came to pick us up and take us home.

In junior high school we learned to do "partner" dancing. Because girls and boys were not allowed to mix during school hours I usually took the place of a boy because I was tall. And of course National Bandstand (which later became American Bandstand) was on television so we could learn the popular dances at home.

As we walked in the door at the dance we were given a piece of construction paper with a number on it. The boys got a blue paper and the girls got a red one. The first dance was announced. When the music began the boy and girl with matching numbers would dance the first dance with each other.

The boy who had the same number as me and I found each other. I walked up to him, put my arm around his waist, took his hand in mine, and began to lead him around the dance floor the way I had learned.

I was so embarrassed. As soon as I could do so gracefully I went home.

In high school we were required to take a semester of modern dance. We learned how to wave in the wind like trees. We learned to mimic the movements of animals. And we learned two choreographed dances.

One was to "Shortnin' Bread". I do not remember the dance. The second was to "Go You Chicken Fat, Go" sung by Robert Preston who played the leading role in the movie The Music Man.

The dance was awful. We had to contort our bodies into shapes and positions that are impossible for most people, including me. The song is fast and long. It was supposed to be a song to accompany an exercise program, not a dance.

As time had progressed I had learned to dance however. I could do all the popular dances. The slop. the bop, the jitterbug, the Frug, the jerk, the lindy hop, the stroll, the twist, the hand jive... all of them and more. I am also quite good at following the male during a slow dance so I learned something from my earlier embarrassment.

My boyfriend and I went with his best friend, his friend's sister and parents to their club. It was dance night. The two adults were doing a fascinating dance. They were watched by everyone. I do not to this day know what the dance was but it was great.

The father asked his daughter to dance with him. When they returned he was chuckling because every time his daughter would loosen up and relax a bit while he was trying to teach her their dance, she would lapse into the jitterbug. They had a good time but they looked awkward.

Then he asked me to try. I tried to relax and just let him lead me around the dance floor. I followed him and we did quite well. A lot of people came up to compliment me afterward. It felt good.

They played all sorts of music that night. We even did some square dancing. I had such a good time.

I do not think I ever mentioned this before but my children are no fun. They liked it when I sang to them for instance, but they would never sing along. And when I tried to get them to dance with me... they would absolutely not do it. Even if they were very small and I was holding them in my arms to dance with them, they would wiggle out and run away. My dancing is not that bad.

When my daughter was taking dance classes (Yes my daughter. She still would not dance with me) some of us mothers would go out for a while after our children were taken home. Usually it was to somewhere that there was dancing.

We were in a bar one night. There was a great big bear of a man who was celebrating. His wife had just given birth to a baby girl. He was buying shots and serving them to everybody in the place.

This big man came over to ask my extremely pretty friend to dance. She said, "No, but Emma will." I did not know how (at that time) to refuse him so I got up to dance. I am tall and solid so I was surprised when he started dragging me around the dance floor. I was flopping around like a rag doll. All my friends were laughing so hard. I threatened to kill them all, with a particularly slow and agonizing death for the one who offered me as a dance partner.

My husband was driving a truck owned by the proprietor of a bar. The man was Mexican so naturally he had a Mexican bar. Often we would go into the bar to pick up my husband's paycheck. They had Mariachi bands sometime and sometimes they had regular bands who could also play Mexican music.

My husband did not dance but if he had a few drinks under his belt he would get up and flail around. We learned to do a Mexican line-type dance. Everyone danced following a great big circle. We called it the Mexican polka but I do not know if that is what it really is.

Then we discovered the band that I eventually managed. That is another story. But they played fifties and sixties rock and roll and some country music.

We could shimmy, conga, pony, cotton-eyed Joe, electric slide... and line dances were all the rage. Some of those line dances were really complicated. There was even one that employed calisthenics as a part of the dance.

Of course there were slow dances too. The band called them "belly rubbers". And not all partner dancing is slow. One that I could never get the hang of was the polka. I do not know why but it eluded me.

Then the father of one of the guys in the band asked me to dance. He was a very nice man and an accomplished dancer. We waltzed, cha-chaed, and then came the music for a polka. I tried to refuse but he insisted. As i followed him I DID IT! I did the polka. Now if someone can lead me through it I can polka.

Dancing is excellent exercise. Because of the music it is fun and you do not even realize that you are doing so much good for your body. Try it, you will like it.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

From the Ground Up

We had a large family. My final sibling, a little brother, had just been born. We had a little house. There was barely enough room to turn around sometimes. But Daddy had a solution.

One block over and one block down (we lived on top of a hill) there was a lot for sale. We bought it. And we were going to put a house on it. Not just any house. We would build it ourselves.

Mom and Daddy found a company that specialized in pre-cut homes. They were not prefabricated. But each and every piece of wood was cut to specification for the home you wanted to build. My parents chose a ranch style home with three bedrooms.

My father could build anything. He was sort of a jack of all trades and he was a master at most.

First we had to hire someone to level the ground. That is important if you want a level floor I suppose. Daddy marked off the area with posts and string. Then we hired a truck to bring in cement for the floor of the basement. Daddy leveled it and we had to wait for it to dry.

Next Daddy mixed some mortar and began to build the foundation walls using cement blocks. He checked periodically to make sure his blocks were level. Level is so important when building. This foundation would also serve as the walls for the basement. Even though Daddy was doing the bulk of the work we all helped by handing him blocks, trowels, and more mortar. And lots of coffee.

Once the foundation was ready we began on the base of the house which was what would lie below the flooring. Then the skeleton of the structure and the roof. It was beginning to take shape. Daddy showed us how to hammer in the nails to hold everything in place. No holding the hammer "like a girl". Hold it at the end of the handle so you get a more accurate and stronger down stroke.

Then came a flurry of covering the skeleton. Outer walls, inner walls, flooring, ceiling, roof... we were really working now.

Mom liked hardwood floors so that is what we had. It was a lot of work to do that right. Once the wood was fitted into place it had to be sanded, finished, and waxed. But oh my was it nice.

We put up drywall to be painted when the time came. We got to choose the paint colors for our bedrooms. My sister and I chose aqua.

We had the largest bedroom. Young ladies need room you know. It had nothing to do with the fact that my younger brother and youngest sister were also in this room. My sister was not much more than a baby but she was a girl. My brother could not be in the same room with the two older boys... they would have killed him. So we needed room for two double beds as well as the other furniture needed in a bedroom.

The boys had the room next to ours. It was quite a bit smaller but had plenty of room for them.

My parents' room was at the end of the hall. It was spacious. My baby brother's crib was in there.

The bathroom was across the hall. Centrally located. The living room was large and had a huge picture window that looked out toward the street.

The kitchen had room for the stove, refrigerator, and a small table. Being a modern family of the 60's we usually ate in front of the television in the living room. Of course there was the kitchen sink. It was where my sister and I were expected to do the dishes every day. I hate washing dishes every bit as much as I hate outdoor toilets.

Daddy did all the plumbing and electrical installation. He was not licensed to be a plumber or electrician so he had to have everything inspected as he went along so sometimes we had to wait until the inspector could sign off on it. He installed the furnace in the basement. There was an extra space in the basement for an extra room we used as a play room.

The basement also held the washing machine. It was an old wringer washer. In decent weather I would wheel it outside the basement door and do the laundry outside in the sun. I did the family laundry once a week to get out of doing dishes that day. (I also spent another day doing the ironing of said laundry to get one more day of not doing those hated dishes.) In bad weather I just did the laundry inside.

We all feel a bond with that house because we were the ones who built it. I went to that town a few years ago on vacation. Of course one of the first things I wanted to see was the house. It looked exactly the same. I knocked on the door to let the people who lived there know why I was taking pictures but no one was home.

I have since moved back to the area. I drove by the house one day and saw a notice on the door. I thought it was a notice that the house was going to be demolished. I was heart-broken.

Recently I drove by there again to see what had happened. The house was still there. Instead of the beautiful blue we had painted it and it still was after all the years, they had painted it a milk chocolate brown with dark chocolate trim. It's actually very nice. There was a set of swings in the front yard so I know children are living there. I felt much better.

So now you know that when i say we built a house you know we actually built it from the ground up. It was a wonderful accomplishment and it is a tribute to my father that it still stands after 50 years.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Work, Work, Work

I have had a huge variety of jobs over the years. I wish I would have planned better for my old age but I am rather childlike in that my interests change and I move on. When I am doing something I become obsessive about it. Then my interest wanes and I move on. It is a character flaw.

I began as a child. I had lemonade stands. I do not remember selling any but it tasted good. I weeded gardens, both flower and vegetable. I shoveled snow. I even sold imprinted greeting cards.

The first job that I paid income tax and had social security taxes withheld was as a pinsetter in the bowling alley. I was 11 years old. We actually had four whole lanes in the bowling alley. However we did not have automatic pinsetters that are common now. But we were semi-automatic.

The pinsetter would sit on a perch between the alleys and up out of the pit where the pins and ball would fall after the bowler let loose. Then we would pull a rope to put the barrier down so no one would accidentally bowl and hit us as we did our work.

We jumped into the pit and gathered the pins and replaced them in the rack that would eventually deposit them in that triangular formation when we told them to. We picked up the ball and sent it rolling on the track back to the bowler.

On league night we were really busy. I always managed to get the lane where the chiropractor's wife was bowling. She was a "pleasingly plump" little ball herself. She wore heavy make-up and a tight corset. Her eyebrows were obviously applied using a stencil and solidly colored in. Yikes.

Because of her corset she could not move easily. Bending to release her ball was impossible. She would waddle up to the line then set the ball on the lane. Only the slope of the lane made it move towards the pins. I cannot tell you how many times it did not have the velocity to knock the pins over. It would just stop when the pins blocked its path.

Then I would have to crawl out through the gutter, ease the ball so it would not knock any pins over, and get back to the pit to send the ball back to her.

That woman ordered herself a personal bowling ball. I do not know what it was made of but it stunk so bad. We all hated to handle that thing.

Occasionally one or more of the pins would be slightly off center and it would jam the rack. The rack would not go back up until it had gone all the way down. So we had to find the faulty pin and dislodge it.

It was dirty and greasy back there. In the summer it was so hot. Sometimes we were allowed to prop the back door open to move a little air through. We made one penny per line. A line is one game per person. So if ten people each bowled two lines we made twenty cents. It was decent money.

Two of my brothers and I delivered newspapers. Practically everyone in town got the paper because that was our major news source then. We were kept busy.

On Sundays the papers were not dropped off in town. We had to drive about fifteen miles to the next town to get them. On the way back we delivered to subscribers who normally got them in the mail. With no Sunday mail we left them in the mail box.

We then went through our town to the next little town where we left a stack of papers for people to buy there. Then back to our town to fold the papers and deliver them.

Christmas mornings were like Sundays. We did all the Sunday things. Then we could go home and open our presents.

As I got older I baby sat. Twenty-five cents per hour was the going rate. I had regular customers who would leave right before supper and return early the next morning. For 12 hours I would make $4.00. It was good money then.

I also did some volunteer work. I worked as a candy striper in a nursing home. One day while I was walking to the nursing home I got caught in a downpour. I was totally saoked from the top of my head to the insides of my shoes. After clucking fo a while about how wet I was the nurses just put me to work answering phones.

I did some volunteer work at the local museum. It was in a small house and everything was piled on top of other things and dusty. We were trying to organize and catalog the historical items. The museum has moved to larger quarters twice since then. I still recognize some of the things from the first museum.

When I was in high school I worked at Christmas time ringing bells for the Salvation Army. I was one of those people you see on street corners ringing a bell and standing in front of the pots where you can drop in money to help the less fortunate. It was really good money. Minimum wage was seventy five cents an hour. That is what they paid us.

One night I was at my assigned corner. It was bitterly cold and the wind was blowing hard. Luckily I had on my winter apparel plus the cape the Salvation Army supplies. Those capes are super warm.

I was standing on a flattened cardboard box to help keep my feet warm by not touching the cement of the sidewalk. A big gust of wind came and caught the little sign on the stand that the pot hung from. It fell right over. No money fell out but I took the sign off so it would not happen again. Soon they came and collected me, my pot of money, and my lovely warm cape.

Fresh out of high school I had a job in the dietary department of the hospital. We made the food for all the patients according to dietary needs. It was all made from scratch. We also supplied the cafeteria so hospital employess and visitors could eat.

I worked the early morning shift. There were two older women who had been there since the hospital opened and each of them thought they owned the place. And they were so jealous of each other and expected people to take sides. I am not good at taking sides but I am good at agreeing to whatever they said then doing things the way I intended to do them from the beginning. I actually got along well with both of them.

I was assigned to serve pediatrics on the first floor and then go up to obstetrics on the fourth floor. We had heavy steam carts to keep the food warm and we pushed those to the floors we served. The individual trays had been sent ahead with name cards on each one so we knew what type of diet to serve.

For breakfast I went first to pediatrics to serve the children. There were toasters in each little kitchen on the floor. So I made toast and served the food onto plates. The nurses and aids took the food to the rooms. Then I would go to obstetrics and repeat. I made $240 per month. It was good money.

I have been a waitress both in restaurants and bars where I also tended bar. I managed a band. I was the assistant manager of a body shop where we repaired cars that needed body work. I did telemarketing (I know I hate them too) selling long lasting light bulbs.

I was a cashier in a major department store chain in the state. I was promoted to cashier in charge meaning that I was in charge of the other cashiers during that shift. Then I made it to the cash office where we counted down all of the cashiers' drawers to make sure they balanced and kept all of the financial records for the store.

I was secretary/bookkeeper for a man who conducted liquidation sales for stores that were going out of business. I worked in a fast food restaurant. I absolutely hated that job. It was the people I worked with not the job but it left a real bad taste in my mouth.

I worked in a factory making industrial shocks. We made shocks for rides in amusement parks like Disney World. We made the shocks that made Batman's cape turn into wings in the Batman movies. Eventually I was assigned to laser print the company logo and part number onto the shocks. Because of the laser I was in a little room that n o one could enter unless I let them in. I loved that job.

I ran junkyards. We took junk cars and scrapped them. That is another story altogether.

And I drove a truck. What kind? Any truck. If a vehicle has a steering wheel and gas pedal I can drive it. Eighteen wheelers, delivery trucks, cars, hi-los, construction equipment... I can drive them all. Again this is another story.

Now I am retired. I worked most of my life. I paid taxes for more than 50 years. I think no one should be expected to work that long.

Like I said I did not plan well for my old age but I am doing better than just getting by so I guess things worked out okay. I do however get really angry at those politicians who begrudge me my government payment every month. They call it an entitlement. Entitlement my Aunt Fanny. I paid into that for more than 50 years. The money is mine, mine, mine. I earned it.

Other than that life is good.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Another Brother

Meet the baby of the family. Mind you he is not the youngest of my siblings but somehow he always seemed like the baby. In my mind's eye he is still 3 years old.

There were seven of us. Somehow we were grouped into the boys, who were my oldest two brothers; the girls, my sister four years younger and me; the kids, my youngest sister and my youngest brother; and my brother. It was not because we loved him less or anything like that. It was just that he sort of got caught in a place where there was no one to match with him.

My brother loved to play cars and trucks. He would spend hours in the sand box under the tree making roads and driving his little cars and trucks to all the imaginary places that only he knew. He was more than happy to have company but he never really played with us. He played beside us.

At our grandmother's house he would take the garden hoe and drag it along her driveway to create the most marvelous road systems. Keep in mind that the driveway was half a block long then turned a corner and was another half block long. Until someone drove over his roads or it rained he could play to his heart's content.

When my brother was playing whatever he wanted to play that day he was completely oblivious to everything around him. I often said that he seemed to have a cloud around his head. He just did not realize that there was anything but the moment and what he was doing in that moment.

My brother loved our dogs and they loved him. They allowed him liberties that they would not have taken from any other human being. He could stick his little fingers into any facial orifice on a dog and they would not even flinch. He was not cruel just very young and curious.

One of the many Suzies was our dog. My brother snuck up behind her as she was eating. The dog did not expect it and did not know who it was that suddenly jumped her from behind. She turned around and bit him.

The bite was severe. My brother's upper lip had a deep wound and the lower lip had a bad but not quite as bad wound. We had a doctor in town and my brother was rushed to the doctor.

All the doctor could do was clean the wound a bit. He was older and he said that he could not do what needed to be done for my brother because his hands were not steady enough any more. He recommended a doctor in the next town.

My brother required stitches to close the wounds. Usually they do not like to stitch dog bites because for some reason they tend to become infected more easily that way. But my brother's upper lip was bitten almost completely through. The doctor said he would probably need corrective surgery when he got older. I am happy to tell you that he healed so well that there is a small scar that you can see if you look closely but no surgery was necessary.

My brother married young. His wife is a beautiful person inside and out. She is quiet and warmly dignified. They had two children.

My niece was ill with a terminal kidney disease. She suffered and died when she was 8 years old. Her mother and father suffered right along with her.

Her medical bills were outrageous even though my brother had excellent medical insurance through work. There was not enough money so my brother took a second job and as many odd jobs on the side as he could find. My sister-in-law also found work. For a young family with a sick child, another child that also needed attention, and no time to spare for each other it was too much. Their marriage failed.

My brother had the court ordered child support automatically withdrawn from his paycheck. He also saw to it that the children had the things they needed. He is a good father.

He was thrilled when his little boy started getting a little bigger. He had someone to play cars and trucks with. My nephew was not as interested in them as his father but they had good time together and that is the important thing.

When my niece died both parents and of course my nephew were all devastated. We all were. She was a loving and giving child who enriched the lives of all of us.

About two years after her death my sister-in-law went to my brother to remind him that child support was still being withheld for his daughter. She had just realized it and told him that she would let the authorities know. She wanted him to be ready in case there were any papers that would need to be signed.

My brother told her not to say anything. The money was directly taken from his pay before he even saw it. He would not miss what he did not see. He told her to put it in a fund for my nephew for when he was older.

After 25 years my brother met another lovely woman. He took that long to get over my sister-in-law. These two women could not be more different. But they are both wonderful and both have been good for him.

His new wife is outgoing and bubbly. She embraces life and is just a fun person to be with.

And my baby brother is a grandfather. His granddaughter is the apple of his eye and he adores her. She adores him back. She just graduated from high school and he is so proud.

I know he misses his daughter. He still has his son and his family. And he has a new wife. His life is good.