Friday, January 30, 2015

Wrestling Night

Professional wrestling has been on television since television became popular in the 50's. It was not like it is now.

For one thing wrestling was regional. There were a small few wrestlers who were nationally known. Gorgeous George comes top mind. He strutted down to the wrestling ring in gold lame and beautiful capes. His golden locks were held in place by Georgie pins. No common bobby pins for him. He was in large demand and visited all the regions.

Most wrestlers wrestled in one region only. There were the good guys and the bad guys. They hated each other and battled it out every week for all of us to watch.

I was a little the early 50's. I did not care much for wrestling. All those old fat men grappling with each other held no interest for me. The moves consisted of full Nelsons, half Nelsons, headlocks, and the like.

One wrestler would put another in a sleeper hold and they would remain in that hold for what seemed like hours. It was so boring.

My grandparents lived on a farm that had no electricity yet. We had a television and we got wrestling. Each week when they came to town to do their shopping my grandparents would stop at our house when they were finished and watch wrestling.

If the weather was decent the kids went outside to play. Wrestling just was not something we wanted to see.

It was dark when we went out. There were still things to do. We could catch lightning bugs and keep them in a jar. We often played hide-and-seek-in-the-dark. It was easier to hide when there were all those nice shadows to cover you. It was harder to find them if you were it. That was one of our favorite games.

Often we would just go to the garden. We would lie between the rows of vegetables and watch the stars. As we looked for the various constellations and pointed them out to each other we learned a lot about the stars. Sometimes we even spotted a shooting star.

If you spy a shooting star and make your wish before it shoots out of sight It is supposed to come true. I wish I could remember what I wished for. I would like to know if it worked.

Even though we lived in town it was quiet at night. As we were lying there in the fresh smelling dirt between vegetable rows we sometimes told stories. We took turns making them up. It was great fun.

I doubt that there were any scary stories. I do not recall knowing about ghosts or goblins at that age. In that time children were to be protected from ugly things in life. The only mean characters I knew about were the eveil witches in fairy tales. We all know what happened to them.

So we liked wrestling night but not for the wrestling. It was slow moving and really boring.

Now wrestling is a faster moving thing. The wrestlers jump off ropes, have high kick moves, and fancy submission moves. It is seldom that you see a half Nelson in hold for minutes. The wrestlers are far more athletic in their moves.

They no longer try to pretend that the outcomes of the matches were not predetermined. It is called sports entertainment instead of a sport like Olympic wrestling is. They rely on personalities and story lines to keep viewers tunig in next week.

Even so most wrestlers have small fan bases. A few are well known and their names will be remembered in the future.

I have fond memories of wrestling night when I was little. None of them include watching a wrestling match.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Winners And Losers

I had a large response to my post about competition. Thank you to everyone who read it. I hope it opened some conversations even if they are internal. At the same time you may have created a monster. I now feel compelled to follow that post with this one.

Recently the news was filled with the tale of a high school girls basketball game. The final score was 161 - 2. Cheating was NOT an issue.

The coach of the winning team says that he used no starters (best players) after the first half of the game. The game "simply got away" from him was what he said. He was suspended from his job as coach accused of poor sportsmanship and running up the score.

As you might expect the parents of the winning team feel that their daughters did what they were supposed to do by scoring as much as they could. The parents for the losing team are outraged that the other team beat them by such a large score and feel that their daughters are embarrassed and think they are lesser players. They feel the winning coach should have instructed his team to not play so hard once they had a large lead in scoring.

The losing coach said, "People shouldn't feel sorry for my team. They should feel sorry for his team, which isn't learning the game the right way?" He still has his job.

I heard a woman on a talk show saying that perhaps the winning coach and losing coach should have traded a few players at the half-way point to even playing abilities. Another woman told her that winning and losing is a part of life. The players needed to learn to do both with grace and dignity.

Nobody mentioned whether either team did their best. I did some reading and discovered that the losing team had lost several games by very large margins just as the winning team won a few by very large margins.

I feel bad for the girls on the losing team. Perhaps they just are not as talented or perhaps they were not as dedicated. Perhaps they just got beat.

I am happy for the girls on the winning team. I would like to think they put in a lot of time polishing their skills. Perhaps it was just one of those days where everything went their way.

Steroids. They are the bane of the sports world. Players are using drugs to enhance their bodies and natural abilities. It gives them an unfair advantage against their opponents.

As nearly as I can narrow it down steroids began to be commonplace in body builders. The steroids helped them to form larger, firmer muscles for competition.

Professional wrestlers admired the bodies of the body builders and began to use the steroids. It is believed the larger more muscular bodies gave them an edge over the wrestlers who did not bulk up.

Baseball players were discovered to be using steroids to give them an unfair advantage over other players. By now they are being called performance enhancing drugs. There has been a huge scandal in baseball resulting in fines, suspensions, and terminations for players found guilty of using these drugs.

Suddenly performance enhancing drugs were popping up in other sports, even bicycling. Players who use them are called cheaters.

My opinion of steroid users is that they are trying to cheat. They are looking for an easy solution to help them be a little better than the next guy. Artificial assistance is wrong. Working hard to improve your own abilities is what they needed to do. Often the ones who were the worst violators would have been star players without the drugs.

That brings me to the subject of cheating. Cheating is breaking rules or deception to gain advantage. Who are you cheating?

Of course you are cheating the people you are competing against. They are also trying to win. If they are palying fairly and you are not it is not really a competition.

My opinion is that you are cheating yourself. You do not have enough faith in yourself to participate in a fair competition. You are selling yourself short. You also cheat yourself of knowing what you could accomplish on your own and feeling the satisfaction of doing your best. You will have no motivation to improve you skills.

I have even seen people playing solitaire cheating. My goodness. You are playing against yourself. 

Winning and losing are both important. We have discussed this so I will not elaborate. But I have an example of what each can do.

My sons were on a little league baseball team. There were only four teams in this league. It was church sponsored. Each team had a sponsor of one of the area businesses. They had team T-shirts and caps that were required to be worn during games. Each team had its own coach who was responsible for teaching and practice.

My sons' team had never in its history won a game... not one. After each game we parents would take up a collection to give the coach to treat the boys. Then we all drove to the little neighborhood store that was their sponsor. The boys would receive from their coach something to drink and a snack. It was a fun way for them to feel together and sort of rehash the game. They learned to rebound from the loss.

Then at practices they would work at learning their game. They learned the rules. They learned how to bat and run the bases. They prepared for the next game.

Then came that fabulous day when they won. The other three teams knew that playing against our team ensured a win. That first team they beat was not at all happy. Their coach was furious.

Our team congratulated the other team as was a rule of the league. They lined up and as they walked in a line congratulated each player from the other team on a game well-played. Usually they simply said, "Good game." It is enough.

The fun thing was that on the way to the store for their treat the boys were hanging out car windows screaming, "We're number 4! We're number 4" They had not felt that they were even to be ranked before because they had not won a game. Now they were legitimate players and deserved to be the number 4 team. It was a good lesson for us all.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Hero Or Coward

Normally I steer away from political statements here. I have my own views on everything. I do not completely agree with any person I have ever met or seen on television. But I feel so strongly about this that I have to say something. If you do not wish to be caught up in my rant now is the time to run.

The Sniper is a new movie. It is a true story about a soldier whose position in the military is as a sniper. A sniper is a person who lies in wait to catch the enemy and shoot to kill that enemy.

I will not see the movie. My brother was killed in Viet Nam. Even after all these years the pain is still too close to expose myself to watching people kill each other. I had no plans to see the movie when they first began to advertise it.

However... there are people who are loudly branding the soldier as a coward. Others are calling him a hero. He was trying to protect other soldiers.

I personally know the person who began all this nonsense. He has narrow views about this. And I strongly disagree. This person and I are not friends (or enemies) but I do know the person.

War is a violent confrontation usually between two countries or large groups. The idea of this "game" is kill as many of the enemy as possible until one side gives up and a "peace" is proclaimed. Usually there is not a winner.

War is not nice. But when a war is declared each side must play to win. Each participant in the game wants to emerge with his life intact and his/her body whole. Most are not successful.

There must be a place to have this war. There may be innocent and not-so-innocent people who actually live in that area. Unless they can remove themselves from that area they are likely to be hurt or killed. It is not right but that is war.

Many combatants from each side contribute what they have been trained for. If we are totally honest some are trained (whether they know it or not) to be casualties. But casualties reduce the number of combatants so those in charge try to keep the numbers low.

One of the ways to do that is to train some who show a talent for accuracy to place themselves in a spot where they are not readily seen by the enemy. They can then watch for single enemy soldiers or civilians who might cause harm to his own soldiers. His job is to kill them before they can cause damage.

Does the sniper enjoy killing people? I doubt that most of them do. But they feel as if they are protecting their fellow soldiers.

War is a dirty thing. Most people who participate would rather be home with their families. Most do not want to kill other people. Most do what they can to help their side win.

In our country we enjoy certain rights. They are guaranteed by The Constitution which is our law. Military personnel work hard to protect us and our rights. For this we should be grateful to each and every one of them.

We have the right to agree or disagree with the reasons our country has for being at war. We have the right and responsibility to see that we follow the rules set up for conducting these awful confrontations. If someone breaks the rules that person should face whatever consequences are for the infraction. If our country breaks the rules the same applies. We also have the responsibility to support those who work at keeping those rights alive.

I support every individual's right to have an opinion about war. War is a nasty thing. Innocent people suffer. That is the nature of war.

But to call a soldier who is assigned to protect his mates a coward simply because he does not stand out in the open as a target is wrong, wrong, wrong.

Name-calling is not a right. You have a right to your opinions. You have a right to state your opinions. You do not have the right to hurt another person. As the old saying oes, "Your right to swing your fist ends where the other person's nose begins." You do not have a right to besmirch another person's character.

I know that our soldiers are heroes. Their families are heroes because they sacrifice at home to allow us to be free. No more of this coward nonsense.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A Dog's Life

My family has had a lot of pets. I learned at a very young age to not become too attached to a pet because they die. I do not dislike animals. In fact dogs love me. I just try to not grow to care for them because it is too hard to part with them.

When I was very young my family had a dog named Trixie. She had a large litter of puppies that my brother and I dropped into the the outdoor toilet. You can read about that here. We lived in the country and Trixie roamed free. She was hit by a car and died.

If our parents allowed us to name a new dog we always chose the name Suzie. I have no idea how many Suzies there were but we had a lot of them.

Once my father came home with a tiny wire-haired terrier. I thought it was a chihuahua. I no longer remember it's name. My father had found it in his duties as town marshal which included him being the animal control officer. He brought home so many animals because he could not bring himself to kill them.

One dog he brought home was a stray. He held it for the required amount of time to see if an owner claimed it. No one came forward. Daddy said he took it out into the country, shot it, and buried it. When he got back to town the dog was waiting for him. Whether Daddy was completely truthful or not did not matter. We had a new dog.

My sister knew a woman who had a dog that she showed in dog shows. She could no longer keep the dog for some reason. My sister took it.

Misky was the dog's name. She was a pretty dog with long hair that my sister liked to groom.

The only problem was that Misky had a problem. When she had to defecate she would go outside and scream in terrible pain every time.

My sister took her to several vets and they found the problem but could not see a solution. There was something wrong with her intestines that made it painful for her to do what she needed to do. Eventually the pain became so severe that Misky had to be put down.

My husband brought home a coon hound named Redneck. Redneck immediately loved the children and they loved him.

He was a funny dog. He would begin with a bark and end up baying... arf, arf, arf, arf arrooooooooo. He would run after vehicles. He especially liked motorcycles. The bike riders thought he wanted to bite them and some would kick at him to try to keep him away. They did not realize that he simply wanted to race.

Redneck was a Lothario. He fathered most of the puppies in the area. The give-away was the red color in their coats. Redneck was the only dog around who was that color.

One day I heard someone outside talking. At first I thought it was someone walking by on the sidewalk but I heard it for quite a while.

The kids were in school so I knew they were safe. I opened the front door to see what was going on. There was the dogcatcher standing on the sidewalk in front of our house trying to entice Redneck into coming to him. He could not come onto private property so he could not catch Redneck who was up against the front door. I smiled sweetly at him as Redneck came into the house then I shut the door.

Although we could never prove it we believed that a junk yard owner with a lot of female dogs shot him and killed him. Others had told us that it happened.

My husband and his friend were working when they saw a dog lying in the street. She had been hit by a car and could not move. She was afraid and tried to bite everyone who got too close. My husband got a blanket to throw over her and took her to the vet.

Sheba (that is what the children named her) had a leg broken in three places and her hip was shattered like a jigsaw puzzle. When my husband brought her home she was in a cast from her waist to the bottom of her broken leg. She required a lot of care and she healed more quickly than the doctor had originally thought.

Sheba was now in a cast for only her leg when she came into heat. We carefully kept her separated from Redneck for obvious reasons.

We went for a family outing. To make sure that Redneck and Sheba would not get too friendly we put Redneck in the back yard. It was completely fenced so he would be safe and could not roam. Sheba was in the house safely away from all males.

Several hours later we returned home. When we opened the front door there were both Sheba and Redneck to greet us with big smiles on their faces. After the appropriate amount of time Sheba successfully and safely gave birth to her litter.

Sheba was a Doberman and Redneck was a little red coon hound. The puppies all looked like Dobermans except that where a Doberman is tan they had red fur.

As we found homes for all the puppies but one Sheba began to be more and more attached to my husband and oldest son.  She would not allow the children near my husband. Then came the day she viciously snapped at my daughter who was only about three years old. We had to find her another home.

As I said we kept one of the puppies. He more or less was my oldest son's dog but all the children loved him. He was named Attila Thor Doberhound.

Attila thought he was one of the children. He knew he was a different kind of kid but he was still one of them.

He would sit with his rear end on the couch and front paws on the floor to watch television with the others. He played games with them too.

His favorite game was hide-and-seek. If he was it he would wait a while and then go looking until he found them. Then he would hide so the new it person found him. He was a smart dog.

He liked to wander like his father did. Often he would come racing home with the dogcatcher in hot pursuit. He would run up close to the fence in front of our house because he knew that when they threw that circular net to catch him it would land against the fence leaving Attila an opening to keep running until he was safe.

Attila disappeared when we were moving. The kids searched for him constantly. After a couple of months they found him at the dog pound. He was severely injured and the doctors there did not think he would survive.

Someone had hung him up by his hind legs probably with a wire. The skin was gone or damaged at that point. They did not know if he would be able to walk again. He was malnourished. It was recommended that we "put him to sleep".

My second son was having none of that. He said he would take care of him and made them show him what to do. And he did. It took a long time but my son nursed Attila back to health. He could walk and run but not as fast as before.

After some time Attila disappeared again. We did not find him that time.

My oldest son said he wanted to have a dog of his own that he could raise from a puppy. He wanted to give it a good life and have it until the end of its life.

I was visiting a friend and sitting on the front porch enjoying a nice spring day. The neighbors had a puppy tied up outside. I noticed that it had no water and had been out there for a long time.

Then the little boys who owned it came out to play with it. Their idea of play was to taunt the puppy with sticks. I had to go tell their mother that they were hurting the puppy.

Her attitude was oh well. She was taking it to the pound the next day anyway. I took the puppy home with me and gave it to my son.

He named her Tilly after Attila. She adored her new friend.

Tilly never ate table scraps. She knew they were people food and she was not a people. She would also never eat in front of us. If she was given a dog treat she would take it and go to another room to eat it.

Imagine my surprise one day when we had gone to Wendy's to get something to eat. All my children were there so we sat in the living room talking as we ate. I set my frosty on the floor so I would not have to hold it all the time.

The children were all struggling not to laugh. I had no idea what the joke was and asked but they just kept choking in laughter as their eyes watered.

I reached for my frosty. There was Tilly lappng away at it. She actually stole food! I laughed too. After that if we went to Wendy's we made sure to get her a frosty of her own.

She also liked cherry flavored cough drops. She would get into them in my son's room and eat a few.

Another thing she liked was the money my son kept on a shelf just over his bed. He did not like to carry much money with him so he would just pull it out of his pocket and put it on the shelf. Often he would come home from work to find that Tilly had pulled down all the paper money onto the bed and was just rolling in it gleefully.

Tilly began to walk in circles. It was a constant thing. From one end of the house to the other she just walked all the time. When she had a seizure we took her to the vet. She had a brain lesion and would eventually have to be put down. The vet said we would know when it was time.

One night after a particularly severe seizure my son decided it was time. At the last minute he could not do it. The next morning she began having one seizure after another. Between seizures she whined wanting my son to make it better.

We took her to the vet. The vet was so understanding and went to ready the injection that would end Tilly's suffering. Tilly looked up at my son with pleading in her eyes to make it stop. The vet came in as she started to seize again and administered the shot. It was over in seconds.

They handed us a box of Kleenex and left us to say goodbye. Many tears and a box of tissues later we went home to grieve.

Now my son has another dog. He went for about 15 years before he felt able to care for another dog. Her name is Isabella. He causes her Bella.

My son got her from a family that was moving and could not take her along. She had been rescued from an abusive situation as a small puppy. She had been left to die in a closed apartment with no food and no water.

Bella did not like men at all. She resisted being close to my son for months. But he was the only one to take care of her so she slowly gave in. She now goes to him to be petted which she did not like at first. She sits on his lap even though she is a big dog. She is getting the love she needed as a puppy.

Bella gave us a scare last night. My son gave her one of those little rawhide treats that is tied to look like a bone. She loves them because she can toss them around and play with them before she eats them.

She was happily tossing it in the air and chasing it when she started to act strangely. The thing was caught in the back of her mouth and she could not get it out. She was digging frantically with her paws.but she could not reach it.

She seemed able to breathe around it but it was really stuck and who knew how long it would take for a shift to block her air.

My son and I tried to hold her so that one of us could reach in and dislodge the thing. She knew we were trying to help so she tried to let us do it but she was fighting panic too.

It was Sunday so I was trying to find a vet that would help us when my son said that she had finally gotten it out. He and I both collapsed in relief.

Bella's paws are swollen today. She did not cut them because we looked for blood but they were certainly irritated. My son said the inside of her mouth looked raw but other than that she is fine.  We were lucky.

There have been a lot of other dogs that I did not mention. One day I will tell the tales of the left out dogs.

Friday, January 16, 2015


I have read about the progressive schools that do not give out grades or encourage the children to other than what they feel.The reasoning seems to be that the children will feel better about themselves if they do not worry about failure. Feeling better about themselves will ensure success in later life according to those schools.

Then there are the children's sports teams who play but do not keep score. The premise is the same. No pressure to win, no disappointment at a loss.

Parents often allow their children to win at all the games they play together. The children will not feel bad a bout losing the game and the parents know they would have won. Everybody is happy.

As you might have guessed I have a different view. I strongly believe in competition. I think it encourages one to aspire to higher things. I also believe that if competition is encouraged it need not focus on winning every time but focusing on doing one's best.

As a child we had little money. We amused ourselves by playing sports and games of all sorts. As gifts we would recieve sports equipment among the other gifts. There were also board games that were sometimes a family gift.

I played volleyball, baseball, soccer, football (even tackle football sometimes), softball, basketball, and any other sporting game that was being played at the moment. The object of any of those games is to beat the other team.

There were always rules that had to be followed. If the rules were broken a price had to be paid. So we learned to follow the rules even if there was no one to really enforce them. And we learned to call other players who broke the rules. We stood up for what was right according to the structure of the game.

If it was just a pick-up game among friends we still kept score. Teams were chosen by the two captains of the day. Of course the better players were chosen first but we all played. At the end of the game we knew who won and who lost. But we were all friends and we knew that the next game would consist of a different combination of players and we might be on the other end of winning/losing, It did not matter... we were still friends.

If it was an organized game for school we would be playing against another school. We played our hardest against them just as they did against us. It was all-out war for the time period the game lasted. Sometimes we won; sometimes we lost. At the end of games each team would congratulate the other team on a game well played. It was over.

At home we played games in the evening. We had board games and we also played games on paper and oral games where you needed to have a quick mind or be ousted.

My parents did not ever "let" us win the games. We learned that winning was not where the joy of playing comes from. It comes from trying your best. At the same time if we did win the game we had the satisfaction of knowing that it was our own prowess that allowed us to win.

Of course there are games that depend on luck too. Cards games are like that. Being an unlucky person I do not do well on games that rely on luck. That is why I am not a gambler. But if I can use my abilities I have a fighting chance.

When I was in school I liked getting good grades. At the same time I knew that learning was and is something that comes more easily to me than some others. It is the one thing I do really well.

I tried to be the first one to turn in a test paper and have the best grade besides. Sometimes I did and sometimes I did not but that was my goal.

I am a very competitive person. I like to win. If I do not win I want to know that at least I tried my best. I do not gloat and rub it in to other players. I am happy but I am a good winner. That is important to me.

If I lose I am a good loser. I am genuinely happy for the person beat me. As long as I did the best I could I am happy for me too.

Competition is a good thing as long as it is balanced. It teaches us to strive to do well. It stimulates us to understand what the other person is doing and how to strategize a way to counteract his moves. That is called thinking ahead. It is needed in chess which I am not good at... I am much too impulsive.

Maybe we can come up with a new plan to completely confound the other person. We have learned ingenuity.

Yes competition is a good thing. It need not be the only thing but it is good.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Wanna Fight?

I have known some interesting characters. My mother always said, "If there is a weirdo anywhere in town I can count on at least one of my kids to bring it home." I told her that she told us to surround ourselves with interesting people and weirdos certainly are interesting.

Of course those are not the only interesting people. And we have met and enjoyed many different types of people. But I am going to introduce you to some destructive people I have known.

I have never understood how damaging property solves problems. I do understand anger but use the anger to make a change not a mess.

My brother-in-law and sister-in-law have not always had a smooth relationship. When they married they were much too young. He had not finished exploring his feelings about women. She was saddled with three babies. So life was in a turmoil for them.

But they stayed together and eventually gained some sort of maturity. They had two more children and began to have grandchildren. They were extremely good to my children and to me. They were especially good to my daughter.

Then my brother-in-law started to act a little strangely. He was throwing small tantrums over small or imagined things.

My daughter came home one day and told us that he had gotten mad and started to throw cookie jars at the walls and breaking them. He had been collecting the cookie jars for years and they were all gone. What a waste of money.

I feel the need to mention that dementia has been in that family and those seemed to be the beginning signs. I thought it best that my daughter not spend her time there unless I could be sure she was safe.

There are the people who become angry with other people. Maybe a man and woman were in a relationship that dissolved. Maybe a brother is mad at another brother because "Mom likes you best". Maybe neighbors are arguing about the direction the leaves fall from the tree in the fall. How to solve these disagreements?

It's easy. Destruction. One of the angry people will sneak out late at night car keys in hand and leave a large scratch along the whole side of the other person's car.

What fun it will be the next morning to see the horror on the face when the scratch is found. Such glee. That will fix them.

But the other person plots revenge. The following night that person sneaks out late with knife in hand. All four tires are slashed and ruined. Hee hee hee. That will fix them.

A lot of money will be spent to make the necessary repairs. Hurt feelings at the injustice perpetrated on a helpless vehicle are on the surface of each person.

In the meantime a child of one party is seen holding hands with a child of the other party. They are best friends. What to do now?

Mama is mad at Papa because he came home late several nights this week. Instead of talking to each other and reaching a compromise they sit and fume. So Mama slams things around the house. Papa stays out late to avoid the situation.

Papa comes home late only to find all his personal belongings strewn all over the lawn. If he is lucky Mama did not set them all on fire.

Papa collects his things and finds a place to stay. Mama realizes that she cannot live without Papa and begs him to come home. What was accomplished?

I saved the strangest for last. We knew a couple who were normally very much in love... sickeningly so at times. But when they fought... Oh my.

In the middle of an argument one of them (not always the same one) would storm out of the house and disappear for a few hours. While that person was gone the other would go to work.

A baseball bat or a steel rod was all they needed. A quick trip outside. Bang into the windshield of the car. Then knock out all the lights. The back window was demolished. Then the side windows were smashed.

When the person who left came home they would make up and be all lovey-dovey again. And the rest of us would sit and laugh as the husband would go buy the parts needed to repair the car. Then it would happen all over again.

Between the two of them they could have used the money they spent for repairs to buy a couple of new cars. This scenario played out at least once a month.

It seems funny and we all laughed. They did too. But what a waste.

Like I said I do not understand what destroying valuable property does to make anything better. I do not know what else to say.

Friday, January 9, 2015

It's My Cousin

I am sure you have heard the jokes about people in the southern states of the United States are all related. It is a biased view and totally reprehensible.

It is also true however that if you trace far enough back you are probably related to most people. In less populated areas, more rural areas the relationships may be more prevalent. Also in cases of royalty throughout the world intermarriages were used to keep pure lines and to cement alliances. So the jokes do have a foundation.

When my sister moved to another state to be with the father of her sons they lived on a hill that was named after his family. They had owned it at one time way back in time. Everyone who lived on the hill was closely related. The boys came to know that side of their family quickly and they enjoyed it.

I told you previously how their father had not always been present in their lives. My father, their grandfather, was the first male role model for the oldest one. He died before the second was born. My husband sort of stepped in and we had the boys at our house often.

Then my husband was out of the picture. My oldest son stepped up. He enjoyed spending time with the boys and they looked up to him. He has been a huge influence in their lives.

So when the boys moved they were still in close contact with us. They spoke to us often on the phone.

One day while my son was talking to the younger of the boys my nephew was telling my son about school. He told of a boy he met on the playground who turned out to be his cousin.

My son congratulated him on making a new friend. And how amazing was it that it was his cousin.

My nephew then said, "Yeah. Every time I meet somebody new, it's my cousin!"

It was a joke in the family for a long time. Even when the older nephew married it was to the cousin of the mother of his first son. It is truly a small worls.

As they got older the boys came to know their sisters. As I told you their father had married and had several daughters. The younger nephew is closer and stays in contact more often with the girls.

One day one of his sisters called. She met a new girl at school on the playground. They were teenagers so they were just hanging around. They instantly liked each other.

As the girls came to know each other better they were surprised at the similarities in their lives. They even looked a bit alike.

When the new girl mentioned her last name the sister's ears perked up. That was her last name too. She cautiously asked what the girl's father's name was. It was the same as her father. As a matter of fact it was her father.

So the sister and my nephew hatched a plan. They ambushed their father.

A conference telephone call with the father only knowing that he was talking to the sister was arranged. She informed him that she had met another of his children. After a bit of hemming and hawing he owned up to being the other girl's father.

My nephew could take no more."HOW MANY KIDS DO YOU HAVE ANYWAY?"

Who knows how many siblings there are? I do not think the father even knows. It is a funny joke that is so sad. But we have a lot of humorous discussions about "Every time I meet somebody it's my cousin."

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Life Of A Salesman

My third son became a salesman for his company. It was a large pay increase for him and he was excited about it.

My son is very personable. He is one of those people that other people are automatically drawn to and like. There have been several of those in my family so perhaps it is genetic.

He quickly built up a loyal client base. He was to assess needs and suggest products for the client. He also handled problems with products previously purchased. Most of the time he was able to resolve the problem in a timely manner and satisfy the customer.

There was another salesman with the company who was more than happy to have an "assistant". He did not like to extend himself so he tried to have my son do his work as well.

Now I did not raise stupid people so my son did the right thing. He happily shouldered whatever load that man gave him. The clients were happy, the other salesman was smug, and my son learned a great deal. My son was also the one who knew what was going on and was able to answer all the questions about anything to do with sales.

The part of the job that my son did not like was the travel that was occasionally required. Going to another state and spending several days or a week took him away from his family. He is an extremely devoted family man.

Trips overseas were especially hard. They usually lasted about two weeks but some trips were shorter and some were longer. The boss insisted that both salesmen go.

They had credits cards issued to them by the company as well as expense money in cash. Rooms were reserved in advance and paid for by the company.

Germany was a place they went to often. A lot of businesses in the United States have subsidiaries or other relationships with companies in Europe, especially Germany. My son liked Germany but he says it is different in many ways. 

His fellow salesman was one of those people who give Americans a bad reputation around the world. He was one of those people who would loudly proclaim that he was an American and then he would expect priority treatment even while he was being rude. My son would just shake his head in embarrassment.

Another thing the other salesman liked to do when he was away from home and his family was to visit those places that have "friendly" women. You know the ones. They accept money for "companionship" for a short time. My son says he never participated and I believe him. He is a very moral person and he would not do anything to hurt his family or have them think less of him.

On one occasion the man visited one of "those" places. My son amused himself by wandering around the area and looking at the sights. He liked to see how people lived.

Suddenly there was a commotion. My son looked up to see the other salesman standing at the street screaming at the top of his lungs. He was accusing the woman he had been with of stealing the envelope containing his expense money.

My son managed to extricate the man from the area. The man did not want to calm down and at the same time he was terrified that his wife would find out that he had lost all that money when he had to call her for more. My son pulled the envelope from his pocket and showed the man. He had given it to my son for safe keeping and forgot what he had done.

The man liked to drink a bit too. He had drunk too much and they would be traveling the Autobahn so my son was driving. My son does not like the speeds people drive on the Autobahn because he distrusts other drivers' abilities to maintain control.

So while my son was driving slower than most of the drivers he was still going at a pretty good clip. The other salesman decided to get out of the car... while it was moving on the Autobahn! My son was able to pull the car over and stop. He reached over and closed the car door and settled the other salesman down. The rest of the journey was uneventful.

As salesman they were expected to look presentable at all times. My son would ask for an iron to press his clothes before he hung them in the hotel. It took a little while at the beginning but then he could enjoy himself.

The other salesman used a trick many of us know. A little steam from the shower will relax wrinkles from a suit on a hanger. So he turned on the hot water in the shower and hung his suit in the bathroom. He and my son went to get something to eat.

My son says that restaurant meals are not rushed. It was more than an hour before they made it back to the hotel rooms. My son was ready for bed.

But there was a frantic knock on his door. The other salesman was beside himself. When he went into his room there was water everywhere. The hot water from his shower had melted plastic in the water lines and water was spraying all over. What should he do?

My son called the front desk and told them that the other room was spraying water everywhere. They immediately sent someone to fix the problem. The other salesman was given a different room.

Before the repairman made it up to the room the wet plaster in the walls collapsed. Bathroom fixtures were on the floor. The room was demolished completely. You will be pleased to know that the other salesman graciously accepted the apologies of management for any inconvenience. (Yes I am being sarcastic.)

The one time my son went to France he was disappointed. He could not understand why the sidewalks were so full of mud. Until he realized it was not mud that covered everything. Apparently no one feels the need to clean up after dogs are walked.

They were asked to leave two eating establishments because they were Americans. He does not know if it was because of some bias against all Americans or if it was because the employees of the restaurants could not speak English.

He visited England several times. He liked it there. He was able to take a lot of pictures. The guards at Buckingham Palace were friendly. They posed for pictures with him and even took a few for him so he could be in the shots. I thought they were supposed to be totally aloof.

My son had a lot of fun in England because he had learned how to ditch his fellow salesman and go off on his own. He even managed a quick day trip into Ireland one day.

My son gave up the job of salesman. He just did not like being away from his family. It was a good choice for him. He now has a job that pays far more money and he is home every night. Now that he has three granddaughters he is even more happy to be there with them.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Taffy Pull

I am not young. Of course neither am I old. But as all older folks delight in saying things certainly have changed since I was a child. Some changes have made life much easier. And as I may have mentioned in passing I really like indoor plumbing... no more outhouses for me. But I digress.

Fast food was a thing of the future then. Cake mixes were not used. We started with flour and all the other necessary ingredients and made our cakes from scratch. The frosting for the cake was also made from scratch using a bit of butter, confectioner's sugar, vanilla, and water or milk.

Ready made cereal was too expensive for a large family like ours. Oatmeal, cream of wheat, cream of rice, and corn meal mush were the norm. I usually got up before the rest of the kids because I went to a different school (I was older) so I made breakfast enough for all of us. Then Mom could get a few minutes extra sleep. She had babies to take care of during the night.

For cooked cereals it is just as easy to make a lot as it is to make a little. I certainly did not mind doing it and I had a good hot breakfast to start my day.

There were no tubes of cookie dough to slice and bake. We mixed the ingredients and spooned them onto cookie sheets for snacks. Yum. We could make whatever kind of cookies we wanted to. Every home had plenty of eggs, butter, flour, and sugar. They were what was used in every day cooking.

I always liked to make homemade bread but that was a fun luxury for us. Store bread was inexpensive and a large family tends to use a lot of bread.

One of our favorite snacks was what we called bread-and-sugar. We just took a slice of bread and dipped it into sugar. If we had fresh cream we would spread the bread with that first. It was our favorite treat and so easy to make.

In the evening when we watched TV it was good to have a snack. One of our favorites was fudge and popcorn. We said it as one word because we felt they went together so well.

Of course fudge was a process. You had to mix the cocoa, sugar, butter, and vanilla with water. Then you had to cook it to just the right consistency. When you dropped one drop of fudge into cold water and it made a soft but definite ball it was done cooking. Then you had took stir it continuously until it hardened. Then pour it into a cake pan and it was ready to cut into pieces to eat.

This was also before microwave popcorn. It was even before Jiffy Pop. To make popcorn we heated a bit of lard in a pan until it was very hot. Then we put the popcorn kernels in the pan, placed a lid on top of the pan. Holding the lid in place and shaking the pan over the heat until the corn was done popping could be tiring for your arms but it was worth it. A little salt and Voila there was popcorn to go with the fudge.

One year Daddy decided we could save a lot of money and have some good family fun by shelling our own popcorn. He bought a couple of bushels of popcorn on the cob. We made a night of it. We all had containers to hold the kernels of popcorn that we removed from the cobs. All we had to do was hold the cob and use our thumbs to push the kernels off. I had a blister at the end of the night that I remember as being almost as big as my thumb. Maybe a bit of an exaggeration but it did hurt and it was big.

Mom cooked all sorts of things and taught us all (boys included of course) to make all these marvelous things from scratch. Cookies, candies, cakes, pies, breads... you name it we probably made it.

Then she found a recipe in a woman's magazine for some cookie bars. They were delicious and quickly became a family favorite.

She kept playing with the recipe until she had the best cookie bars ever. We all wanted to learn how to make them. She always said she had too much to do right then but next time she would show us. Next tiem there was another excuse.

My sister was helping Mom make Christmas cookies once and Mom was making her specialty. She had a recipe written. My sister sort of glanced over Mom's shoulder and Mom quickly closed her cookbook.

My mother died without ever sharing her recipe. And the recipe has never been found. We have all tried to make those cookie bars but they are never quite right. And somewhere my generous, giving, unselfish mother has a sly grin on her face.

Another fun family event was making taffy. It is another candy that needs to be cooked until the ball is the right consistency. Then we would put butter on our clean hands and as soon as the candy was cool enough to handle we would pull it.

We would take an amount of the candy and stretch it and fold it over until it hardened. It was such fun.

My granddaughter wanted to make rock candy. I remembered those science classes where we used strings to collect crystals of candy and make strings of candy. I was not looking forward to it. Then I found a recipe online that solved the problem.

We make the mixture of sugar, light corn syrup, and water. It is cooked until it reaches the hard rock stage. I use a candy thermometer now because it is so much easier than testing for the right consistency.

When it is ready we add whatever flavoring and colors we want and stir them in quickly. Then we pour it into a cookie sheet sprinkled with powdered sugar. It takes no time at all before it is ready to break into small pieces. It is the best hard candy ever.

When I was pregnant with my first baby my husband was working as an assistant candymaker. He enjoyed that job and was anxious to show off his new talents. He was going to make peanut brittle.

I was thrilled. I like peanut brittle and my husband had never cooked anything before. I sat back and let him go to it.

He cooked the candy and then he poured it out onto the kitchen table. Big mistake.

At work they had a huge marble slab to pour hot candy onto. Marble is not porous. My formica table was.

Armed with wet towels, spatulas, trowels, chisels, and several friends it took us hours to remove the peanut brittle from the table.

If I make a cake which is seldom these days I use a cake mix. It is easier and to be quite honest it is cheaper. But they do not have quite the same taste as the ones from scratch.