Category Archives: Holidays

Earth Day/Birthday Redux

You may have seen this before, but I tried to write something new about my sister Judy.  And, well, this piece really just sums up who she was better than anything I’ve come up with since.

She’s been gone now for 16 years.  Not a day has gone by since that I haven’t wanted to talk with her, laugh with her, or, alternatively because she was my sister, smack her.  There really isn’t a relationship like you have with a sister.  Even long after they are gone.

*****

Today, April 22, is Earth Day!  It’s the  Anniversary of the very first Earth Day.  Here  is Walter Cronkite’s report on the first Earth Day, 1970:

It would also be my late sister Judy’s 64th birthday.

Whoever made the decision to turn Judy’s birthday into Earth Day chose wisely.  Judy was a born environmentalist and recycler.

On the first Earth Day, Judy was a new, very young mother who believed in saving the planet.  She was the first “environmentalist” I ever knew personally, and well, I thought she was nuts.  There was a recycling bin in her kitchen for as long as I can remember.  And this was back when recycling took effort.  She believed in gardens, not garbage, and she made life bloom wherever she was.

I’ve got kids,” she’d say.  “It’s their planet too!”  

But years later, Judy took recycling to a whole different level when she helped people recycle themselves.  In the 1990s, Jude, who was then living in Florida, began working with the Homeless, assisting at shelters.   Then she actively began trying to help homeless vets food, shelter and work — to enable them to jumpstart their lives.

When she died in early 2000, the American Legion awarded her honorary membership for her services to homeless vets.  A homeless shelter was named in her  honor.  So she’s still doing good works, my sister is.  That would make her wildly happy.

Jude also gave me the Beatles.  So it is very appropriate that they wrote a song for her.

You see, the night the Beatles were on Ed Sullivan, it was MY turn to choose what we were going to watch.  And we were going to watch the second part of The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh starring Patrick McGoohan on the Wonderful Wide World of Disney.  My four (all older and MUCH cooler) siblings were furious with me.  But I was quite insistent.  You might even say that I threw a Class I temper tantrum over it, but I wouldn’t admit to that.  But hey, I was seven.  And it was my turn to choose.  Fair is fair, especially in a big family with only one TV.

Somehow, Judy talked me out of my turn.  She was always very persuasive.  Thanks Jude.

Hey Jude, Happy Earth Day-Birthday.

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Ancient Shit

It seems that while there is nothing new under the sun, there’s a lot of new stuff in bogs.  New-ish stuff.  New-to-me-and-you stuff.

Sometimes it’s just horse shit.

But sometimes it’s special.  Special horse shit.  That, apparently, is a thing.

You see, some folks dug up some old shit and decided they know who put it there.

Hannibal!

In a study published Monday in the journal Archaeometry, researchers argue that new evidence in the form of some very old poop might hold the key to solving this mystery once and for all.

Yup!  Using ancient horse shit, scientists are pretty sure they’ve figured out Hannibal’s route over the Alps.

They say that microbial evidence suggests a “mass animal deposition” (a.k.a. poop) occurred in the Col de Traversette pass in 218 B.C. — just when Hannibal was making his journey to Rome. By digging around in a peaty bog along the pass, the researchers found what they think are microbes usually associated with horse manure.

“Over 70% of the microbes in horse dung are from a group known as Clostridia and we found these microbes in very high numbers in the bed of excrement,” study author  of Queens University wrote in an article for the Conversation.

Hannibal and poop

I’m afraid I don’t know these guys personally, But Fox News tells me they are from Queens University in Belfast.  And who am I to doubt Fox?  This may be a FoxNews photo, too.  But I got it from Google.  I love you Google.  Fox?  Not so much.  I do love the Alps, though.  Does that help?

Now, you might ask, where are those legendary elephants?  I don’t know.

Here’s what they say:

Horses trudging through the Alps are suspicious, but solid evidence of elephants in their company might close this case for good. Until then, Allen and his colleagues will have to keep probing the poop and surrounding areas for more clues.

There are also reports of horsey tape worms.  But I do believe that that is a subject for another fake medical expert’s blog.  It’s bad enough that I did two poop posts in a row.  This is becoming a pattern.

Oh, and I personally have experience with horse poop of the European variety.  See:  https://fiftyfourandahalf.com/2012/05/24/me-and-julie/

Sometimes, a woman just has to accept her fate.  Shitty though it may be.

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Fasten Your Seatbelts

Holy shit.

This election just got really interesting.

Antonin Scalia died.  Anybody need a hanky?  I didn’t think so.

Mitch McConnell has already said that the next president should nominate someone for the vacancy.

So did Ted Cruz.

Of course they said that.  And of course, Mitch McConnell will block the nomination of whomever President Obama puts forward, even if the man or woman’s halo is clearly visible to Scott Kelly from space.

According to my husband the lawyer and Google, a 4-4 tie in the US Supreme Court means that the lower court ruling will stand.

Things are gonna get interesting.

Many thanks to my bloggin’ buddy Mark at Exile on Pain Street for letting me know the news.

 

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Hillary’s Chicken

Yesterday, I braved the grocery store to come up with an edible antidote to 2015.

I found myself pacing the aisles of the local Giant Foods, and well, I heard voices.  Or a voice.

If I were a Republican, I would have assumed it was God.

Jesus Meme

But as it was, I realized I was talking to myself.  Chanting.  And naturally I listened.  I’m not crazy, you know.

The Voice, my voice, told me what to do.  What to get.  How to do it.  And I saw that it would be good.

You see, I remembered a long-ago gift from my niece that actually held the secret antidote to 2015.  Only I had forgotten about it.

Congressional Cookbook

The Congressional Club Cook Book, Copyright 1987, The Congressional Club, Washington, DC

Yup.  Who woulda thunk that an antidote would be in a cookbook!  But this one is special.  You see, it was published in 1987, when the folks in government still believed that the government has an important role in the country.  When the government is, essentially, how we all contribute to improving our society.  Educating our kids, making workplaces safer, the air and the water and the land cleaner.  Yeah, I know it was published at the end of the Reagan years, but that cancer hadn’t yet metastasized.

Here’s the antidote to 2015:

Hillary’s Chicken.

Hillalry's Chicken

Congressional Club Cook Book, 1987, at page 266

As you can see from years of cooking smears, this is a well-used recipe.  It is simple and delicious. And I’m going to make it for New Years’ Day — and often between now and November.

Because while this woman eats chicken.  She is NOT a chicken.

Hillary Clinton at Bengazi hearings -- LA Times Photo

Hillary Clinton, Testifying for 11 hours at the Bengazi show trial.  Photo Image, LA Times

And the GOP?  I see little evidence that the GOP clowns are anything but chicken, can you?

Air Force

Google Image

 

Happy New Year!

 

***

 

It’s a little hard to read the instructions from this picture —

Combine all sauce ingredients, mixing until well blended.  Wipe each piece of chicken dry and coat well with sauce.  Place chicken,skin side up, in shallow baking pan.Tuck edges under, forming a compact shape, about 1-1/2 inches thick.  Roast in preheated oven at 450 degrees, basting occasionally with pan drippings.  Bake until opaque nearly to center, about 14-18 minutes, depending on thickness.  Remove to warm plates.  Spoon pan juices over chicken and sprinkle with parsley.  Makes 4 servings.  May be frozen.

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Home For Christmas Again

Does your family tell the same stories, over and over again?  Mine does.  Or my Mom and Dad did.   Oh and in case you haven’t noticed, I do too.

My husband is no doubt rolling his eyes and thanking his lucky stars.  Because  since I started blogging, he is forced to hear fewer repeats of my stories.

To me, the heart and soul of Christmas is Love.  And repeating traditions.  That is what this story means to me.  And even though Christmas is a sadder day than it once was, this story warms my heart.  And I tell it every year.

Here.  If you haven’t read it before, you may need this.

Handkerchief 2

Don’t worry; it’s clean.Google Image.

***

She told the story every year with a warm smile on her face.  Sometimes her eyes got a little bit misty.

“It was 1943, and the War was on, and your father was in the Navy, on a ship somewhere in the Pacific.  We never knew where he was.  Like all the other boys I knew, he was in danger every day.  We lived for the mail, we were terrified of unfamiliar visitors in uniform.  A telegram sent us into a panic.  And ‘I’ll be home for Christmas’ had just been recorded by Bing Crosby.  It was Number One on the Hit Parade.”

That’s how Mom started the story every time.

Of course I’ll Be Home For Christmas was Number One that year.  Everyone, or just about, was hoping that someone they loved would, in fact, be home for Christmas.  That all the boys would be home for good.  But all too many people were disappointed.  I doubt there were many dry eyes when that song came on the radio that year or for the next few.

Mom and Dad got engaged right around Pearl Harbor Day, but the War lengthened their courtship significantly because Dad enlisted shortly after the attack.  It was to be a long war, and a long engagement.  But Mom was in love with her handsome man.  If possible, I think that Dad was even more so.

Mom, Circa 1943

Mom, Circa 1943

 

My Dad was drop-dead gorgeous, and I have heard that in his single days, he was a bit of a ladies’ man.  Every girl in town, it seemed, had a crush on Dad.

Dad, Circa 1943

Dad, Circa 1943

 

In fact, my Aunt Sally once told me that she had been manning a booth at a church bizarre one Saturday in about 1995, when an elderly woman came up to talk to her.

“Are you Freddie E’s sister?” the woman asked Aunt Sal.

“Yes I am.  Do you know my brother?” Aunt Sal responded.

“I did,she sighed.  “I haven’t seen him since we graduated from high school in 1935.  Sixty years ago.  He was,” she stopped to think of just the right word, “… He was dream-my.”

“He still is,” Sally quipped.

One day not long after after Mom had passed, Dad and I were looking at some pictures I hadn’t seen before.

“Dad,” I told him with wonder looking at a particularly good shot, “You should have gone to Hollywood.  You’d have been a star.”

“Nah,” Dad said.  “Mom would never have gone with me.  And once the war was over, well, I wasn’t going anywhere else without her.”

Dad circa 1935

Dad circa 1935

Dad never quite got over feeling lucky that he had Mom.  And he never stopped loving her.

But back to Mom’s story.

“It was Christmas morning, 1943, and I went over to visit Dad’s mom and dad.  Grammy E’d had symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease for seven or eight years at that point.  She could still move around (she was later, when I knew her, almost completely paralyzed), but she could barely talk.”

Mom continued.  But your Dad’s mom was singing ‘I’ll Be Home For Christmas.’  Well, she was trying to sing it, any how. She kept repeating that one line, over and over again.  ‘I’ll Be Home For Christmas.’  I thought she was crazy.”

“You see,” Mom would say, “Your father had somehow managed to get Christmas leave – he was coming home!  He wanted to surprise me and wouldn’t let anyone tell me he was coming.  He was expected any minute, and there I was, trying to leave.  But I couldn’t stay.  That song made me cry; Freddie was so far away, and in so much danger.  I couldn’t bear hearing it.”

So Mom left after a while, she had other people and her own family to see.  Later Dad caught up with her and they spent most of Christmas together.  Both of them always smiled at the memory.  Dad was home for Christmas that year, just like in the song.  It was a magical year for them both.

Mom was always touched by Dad’s surprise and by his mother’s loving gesture in fighting back the paralysis that was taking over her body to try to get her son’s girl to stay.  To sing when she could barely speak.

“I’ve always wished I’d stayed.”

We lost Mom on Easter of 1997, and Dad really never got over her passing.

The song and Mom’s story took on an even more poignant meaning in 2000.  Because on Christmas of that year, Dad joined Mom again for the holiday.  He went “home” to Mom for Christmas again, joining her in the afterlife.

Even through the sadness of losing Dad on Christmas, I always have to smile when I hear that song.  Because I can just see the warmth in Mom’s eyes now as she welcomed Dad home.  This time, I’m sure she was waiting for him with open arms.

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Mom’s Most Memorable Meal

Today as I prepare a million different dishes for Thursday’s feast, I thought I’d share (for a second time) another family story, about the year my Mom forgot her turkey.  I’m pretty sure you’ll buy fresh from now on.  I certainly do!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

It seems like just the other day that I was talking about folks to whom strange things just happen.  Maybe that’s because it was just the other day that I told this story.

I have a secret, though.  I’m not the only person in my family with this, ummm, gift for attracting the strange and humorous.  Dad used to say that if there was a weirdo within 5 miles of him, that weirdo would find Dad and have a nice long chat.  But if something weird was going to happen, well, it would happen to Mom.  Somehow I managed to inherit both weirdness magnets.  Sigh.

But this is Mom’s story.

Mom wasn’t the bird lover in our family.  Dad was.  So I should have known something weird had happened when Mom identified a bird I was looking at from a distance.  Mom and Dad were visiting John and I in Connecticut.  She and I were driving not far from our house one day in about 1990, and I pulled over to look at the large birds circling above us.  Back then large predatory birds soaring were still an unusual sight — when I saw those large silhouettes, I always assumed they were eagles.  I mean, what else could it be?  I kept trying to get a good look.

“They’re turkey vultures,” Mom said with complete certainty.  “We see them all the time at home in Florida.”

You lookin' for me? (Google image, natch)

They weren’t eagles?
(Google image, natch)

Turkey vultures?” I said, not believing her for a minute.  I’d never even heard of such a creature.  Mom pursed her lips and looked back at me, slightly annoyed that I was questioning her (never seen before) bird identification skills.

I should have been suspicious.  I should have know there was a story behind Mom’s new-found large bird expertise.  I should have known that something weird was involved.

“They’re really big.  And up close, they really do look just like turkeys.”

“When did you ever get ‘up close’ to a turkey vulture, Mom?”

She tried to avoid the question.

“Mom….” It was never too hard to get Mom to tell her stories.  Something else we have in common.  “Fess up…”

“It wasn’t my fault.  That refrigerator at home is just too small.”

“Huh?”

“Well, it happened last Thanksgiving, but I didn’t want to tell you,” she laughed.  “I knew I’d never hear the end of it.”

“Mom …”

“Dad and I went to the grocery store on Saturday, as usual, the weekend before Thanksgiving,” she continued.  “And we bought a frozen turkey for Thanksgiving Dinner.”

“OK.”  I wasn’t catching on.

“Well, it was a frozen turkey.  Frozen solid.  You know it takes days to thaw those things.  You might as well try to melt an iceberg.  I put it into the roasting pan and placed it on the counter to thaw.  But I kept having to move it around that tiny kitchen to do anything else.  Then, on Sunday night when I was making dinner, I needed my counter.  So I put the still rock hard turkey into the carport.”

“Mom, doesn’t your carport get pretty warm?  It is in Florida, after all.”

“Well, that wasn’t really the problem,” she said, laughing.  “Not exactly, anyhow.  Or not at first.  The problem was that I forgot I’d left the turkey there.  I woke up Thursday morning, ready to get started on Thanksgiving Dinner and couldn’t find my turkey!  I thought I was going nuts.  I knew we had bought one.  ‘Where’d you put my turkey?’ I asked your father, accusingly.  ‘I didn’t do anything with it.  Did it get up and walk away?’ he asked.  And then I remembered – ‘Oh Lord, it’s in the carport.  I hope it’s still OK to eat.’”

“I went out the door to find the carport  filled with turkey vultures–I don’t even know how many were in there.  They were sitting on the car, on the workbench.  On the floor.  Everywhere!  And you know, they really do look just like turkeys.  They have those red heads and bulging eyes.  They had torn the packaging apart and were eating our Thanksgiving turkey!  I sent your father out to shoo them all away.  And then he had to go to Publix to get something for our feast.”

I roared.  So did she, remembering.

“I told him to get a piece of beef to roast.  I’d had enough birds for a while.”

Mom was absolutely right.  Turkey vultures look a whole lot like turkey turkeys.  Especially after they’ve just had Thanksgiving dinner.

Oh, and her instinct was right — she should never have told me this story.  She never did hear the end of it!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING to my fellow ‘Mericans!

To those who aren’t over indulging this week, can I send you a few pounds?

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An Ordinary Tuesday

There was no reason to panic, just because Dad had disappeared shortly before he was supposed to “walk me down the aisle.”

“Find Beth,” I said to Mom, who was there in the church’s multifunction room that was functioning as the bride’s dressing room.

Beth had been my problem solver for nearly three decades by the time I was getting married. And she’d never let me down.  Beth could calm the crazies in me better than anybody I’ve ever known.  Just knowing she was around, made everything OK.

And if you had a splinter or a cut or any injury at all?  Go to Beth.  That was true long before she became a nurse who treated premature babies.  If ever there was someone with nursing in their DNA, it was Beth.

Surely Beth could find Dad, who’d gone for a walk, and get the keys to the car from him.  Because, while I’d gotten my wedding dress out of the car, everything else I expected to wear, beginning with my underwear, was locked in the trunk.  And the keys were in absent Dad’s pocket.

Fast forward to 2009.  July 4th was just days away, John, Jacob and I were in Maine, and I was in a panic.  My eldest brother, Bob, had just been taken to the hospital.

For a decade approaching holidays had terrified me.  I suffered from “heortophobia”the fear of holidays.   Well, my heortophobia had a twist:  It wasn’t simply a fear of holidays.  Nope.  For me, it was a perfectly logical terror of illness at holidays.  Someone else’s illness.  Because If anybody I cared about had so much as a sniffle, well, they were gonna die.

As you may have heard 4,327 times, my family members have a nasty habit of dying on holidays.  They’ve hit the all big ones — In order of occurrence:  Thanksgiving.  Easter.  My birthday.  Christmas.  Ho ho ho!

So when Bob ended up in the hospital with Independence Day approaching, well, I knew Bob was toast.  The odds, and likely the Gods, were against him.

“He’s not that sick, Lease.”  Beth said.   “You’ve been sicker and survived.”  She’d contacted his doctors, figured out what was wrong, and called to reassure me.  Beth, a nurse, knew this sort of thing. But as a fake medical expert with then six years’ experience, I was learning more and more –enough to make me fear everything, actually .  So naturally, I wasn’t so sure.

“Beth,” I said, through slightly clenched teeth. “It doesn’t matter how serious his illness is.  It’s the dateA HOLIDAY IS COMING.  He’s going to die!”

As the eldest in the family, Beth had been able to calm me down my whole life long.  She didn’t fail this time, either.

“Nobody is going to be able to trump Dad dying on Christmas,” she said, matter-of-factly.  “The Holiday Death Sweepstakes is over, Lease.  Fourth of July?  Pffttt.  Independence Day isn’t even a contender!”

“I HATE holidays,” I moaned, panic starting up again.

“Lease, I’m gonna make you two promises.”  Beth had always kept her promises. “First, Bob will be fine.”

“Mmmm,” I replied, not believing it for a minute.  Still, I started to calm down.

“Second:  When I go, it’ll be on an ordinary Tuesday,” Beth laughed.  “I cross my heart and hope to die, Lease, I will not die on a holiday.  I mean it.  I couldn’t do that to you,” she laughed still harder. At me, not with me.  Had she been nearby, I might have smacked her for ridiculing me.  Hard.

Bob, whose illness wasn’t all that serious, was released before the holiday; his sentence commuted.  I breathed a sigh of relief, let me tell you.

Google Image, Natch

Google Image, Natch

But not for long.

On a Sunday, just over a month later, I called Beth.  We talked nearly every day.  Beth had had a pretty severe stroke two years previously. It affected her kidneys; she had been on dialysis for about two years.  Things hadn’t been going well, and she was more and more discouraged, depressed and disheartened.  More importantly, he hadn’t been feeling well in the last couple of days.

Still, I was surprised when her phone was answered by one of her sons.

“Mom’s in the hospital,” Chris told me.

It was a Sunday, though.  In August.  No holidays in sight.  So while I worried, there was no need to panic right?  Chris promised that he and his brother would keep me informed.

Late Monday morning, Dave, Beth’s eldest son, called me in tears.

“They don’t know if Mom’s gonna make it.”

I rushed home, packed a few things, and got into the car, and headed to Cleveland.

The weather was horrible.  Storms raged — the rain so heavy that I could barely see.  Traffic rushed by or crept along.  Trucks on the Pennsylvania Turnpike flew by at terrifying speeds when traffic moved.  But mostly, the highway was at a standstill, the rain not letting up.  I couldn’t get to Beth, and I couldn’t see to drive.

How much of my impaired visibility was due to my constant tears, and how much to the pouring rain, well, I didn’t know.

Dave called me again in the early evening to let me know that Beth was in a coma; they thought she would make it for another day or so.

So, exhausted I pulled onto an exit just above Pittsburgh, and into the first motel I found, where I collapsed into bed.

Beth’s doctor called me a few hours later.  Beth had taken a turn for the worse.  If I wanted to see her, to be with her, I’d better get back on the road.

I made it in time for Beth to personally deliver that second promise.  She died on an ordinary Tuesday, August 11, six years ago.

With her passing, Beth brought me an unexpected cure of my heortophobia, and even let me laugh at the bizarre trend she ended.

And on the way back?  The weather was clear.  The Pennsylvania Turnpike twists and turns through the mountains.  With each curve I rounded as I drove home, there was a rainbow.  Rainbow after rainbow.  I knew, seeing those colors in the sky, behind every turn, that Beth was comforting me still.

I miss you, Beth.  Oh, and I was the one who spilled nail polish remover on your new dresser in 1967.  Sorry about that.

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