Thanksgiving Dreamin’

LeeAnnRubsam.com

My husband had a deprived childhood. Never once in all his growing up years did his family sit down to a Thanksgiving turkey. You see, he and his twin brother were the little tykes who stayed home with Mom, while Dad and the older brothers were all off in the woods tracking Bambi every Thanksgiving. 

Still, Paul has pleasant memories of their peculiar holiday tradition: Spaghettios. Yes, you read that right. The left-behind part of the family gave their thanks with the help of spaghetti in a can. Mom dressed it up real fancy by adding ground beef and kidney beans. She and the boys thought it was a fabulous treat, because it was the only time of year they got to eat noodles of any sort. Dad hated noodles and forbade them at his table, while Mom craved pasta 364 days out of the year.

Why am I telling you about it? Because I find Paul’s childhood tradition inspiring. I am beginning to raise my family’s conscious level to the radical concept of Thanksgiving without the turkey and all the fixin’s. I hate cooking, and the day I hate cooking the most is Thanksgiving.

One of these years I will push past all the accepted traditions and plop spaghetti down in front of their faces — with baby carrots still in the bag as a side dish. I will not do the noodles-mummified-in-a-can version. I loathe Spaghettios and all of its cousins. No, the spaghetti will come out of a box and the sauce out of a jar.  And I will not adulterate our entree with kidney beans. They make me think of  their namesake body part, and that is not appetizing.

I will serve up our meal on a tablecloth-less table, and the spaghetti and its accompanying sauce will appear in their original cooking pots, not fancy bowls.  The silver will stay in its box and remain tarnished if it wants to, while we eat with the everyday flatware.  I will still bake pie-out-of-a-box to ensure that there will be no mutiny. And we will ALL enjoy ourselves immensely — especially the cook, who will not spend hours after the repast fighting food coma while painstakingly picking all the remaining meat off that poor gobbler’s bones and preparing stock for soup. 

Lest you think I will shock all my brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, and cousins ten-times-removed who expect the real traditional deal out of me, I must explain that the family gathering has shrunk down to four of us.  My mom will always get her turkey dinner if I have to buy it in a Swanson TV dinner box for her.  And we’ll work into this gradually. I am a long-range planner and can salivate over a revolutionary new concept for a decade before I actually put it into execution.  The rest of my family will be all right with the idea once they’ve heard about it a few times. My teenager doesn’t like turkey or any of the fixin’s anyway.  She endures until the moment of pie arrives.  My husband may miss the turkey and dressing, but when I remind him of how his mom used to do it, the pleasant memories of his childhood will carry the day.

I think it will work. And I may be doing the women of America a humongous favor just by writing this. The Internet is a powerful tool for raising up an army of radical thinkers, you know. I could create a grass roots  uprising of middle-aged women all over the country who never before had it cross their minds that they do not have to be slaves of  Thanksgiving dinner the way their mamas were.  The trend will eventually snowball to where grocers cannot keep enough pasta and Ragu on their shelves to satisfy the public demand at Thanksgiving time. All the turkey farms will be converted to fields of Roma tomatoes.

Yes, I like the idea.  Anybody with me? 

LeeAnnRubsam.com  

Of Bunnies and Beans

LeeAnnRubsam.com

At the risk of alienating all my gardening friends, I have a confession to make: I like bunnies.  It doesn’t matter what size they are – big bunnies, little bunnies, in-between-size bunnies.  I just like them.  (But the teenier they are, the more I’m likely to ooh and ah over them and call the family to come and see.) 

The back wall of our house overhangs the foundation a little bit, and that overhang is the perfect place for bunnies to live year-round.  In the winter, they have to tunnel through the snow banks to forage.  I leave carrot peelings and popcorn kernels by their hole to help them make it through those cold months.  They also help themselves to my raspberry bushes when the going gets tough. 

In the summer, as long as we get the chicken wire around the garden before the beans start coming up, our relationship with them is harmonious.  And the tiniest ones don’t have a notion of being afraid.  They sit within six feet of me and listen up carefully while I tell them all about how much I like them and wouldn’t harm a flea on their hides. 

But this summer I noticed that the bean plants were looking a tad nibbled on, and while investigating,  I discovered that my bunny friends were getting more clever — an excavation under the chicken wire had been accomplished.  The invasion was easily stopped with a barricade of bricks. 

A couple of days later, I spotted one of my little bunny friends doing strange things outside the garden fence.  He had his tiny front paws wrapped around the chicken wire and was shaking the fence as violently as an eight ounce rabbit can be expected to, all the while biting the wire frantically.  I had never seen such behavior before and thought, “My, he must really enjoy the taste of bean stalks!” 

But bunnies must be smarter than I had previously given them credit for.  You see, he was really valiantly attempting to rescue one of his partners in crime.   Somebunny had gotten trapped inside the garden when we bricked up the under-fence tunnel. 

I didn’t get it at first.  I was picking beans and noticed the little guy inside the fence.  When he saw me, he just laid down on his side about two feet from me, and watched, and panted.  “Poor thingy!  He’s so scared he doesn’t know what to do,” I surmised, and proceeded to talk with him about how the humans at this house didn’t hurt bunnies, and that as soon as I left the garden, he could find whichever new hole he had dug, and get out. 

But Paul had a different idea about why he was in there.  “He probably doesn’t have another hole; he got trapped in there when I bricked up his entrance.  If we don’t let him out, he’ll dehydrate and die.” 

The easiest way to fix the situation would have been to remove the bricks and let him find his own way out.  But retired husbands don’t think like that.  Paul decided to help that poor rabbit by chasing him around the garden until he either caught him or until one of them collapsed in a state of exhaustion.  

There is no reasoning with such logic.  The best I could do was to suggest the use of work gloves in case Mr. Bunny decided to fight back, and to direly intone about how unfun rabies shots are. 

“Paul, I have to run off to the dentist right now for a dose of tooth-dope and a hilarious session of lying upside-down with my mouth wide open for an hour, but when I get home and am once more semi-coherent, you’d better tell me if that rabbit bit you or not.  I don’t want anybody around here foaming at the lips, unless it’s just toothpaste.  And if you think rabies shots are a joy ride – twenty-one slow, painful injections into your belly-button …”  and on and on in my unique style of husband lecturing. 

While under the influence at the dentist’s office, I did not think about the battle between rabbit and husband going on back at the ranch.  And when I got home, I did not receive a blow-by-blow account.  But the headlines were that the bunny wore out before Paul did, the work glove advice was heeded, no one got bit or otherwise injured on either side of the confrontation, and the bunny scampered away to the rabbit hutch and lived happily ever after. 

“Paul, are you SURE you didn’t get bit and you’re just not telling me?” 

(Patiently) “I’m sure.” 

“And you didn’t toss the bunny hard — he didn’t get hurt at all when he landed?” 

“No, I was very nice to him.” 

(Sigh!) “Now the bunnies won’t believe me.” 

“Hmm?” 

“I promised them no humans at this house would ever hurt them, and I’ll bet they just won’t understand.”

Watch that Menu!

LeeAnnRubsam.com

My friend and avid fan, Ornesta Fruggenbotham, called the other day.  You remember Ornesta.  She’s the one who made guest appearances in this blog with her true-life stories about a dead brother who was really quite alive and a fond memory of a Christmas banquet served next to the bedroom clothes hamper.  Life is weird in Upper Michigan, as proved by the latest phone conversation.

“Well, hello, Ornesta!  How’s the weather in Iron Ore these days?  Has the Big Lake frozen over yet?”

“It’s cold enough to give a polar bear frostbite, I had to use a welding torch to thaw out the phone line before calling you, and an iceberg took out the Edmund Fitzgerald last Tuesday.”

“C’mon, Ornesta.  I’m smarter than that.  I’ve listened to a little Gordon Lightfoot myself, and I know how long ago that happened.  It wasn’t an iceberg, either.”

“I’m not really concerned about the temperature.  It’s a different kind of cold threat I’ve had on my mind of late.”

“Oh?”

“Yes.  I was at one of those “bottomless fries”  eateries a couple of weeks ago, and —“

“Pardon me, Ornesta.  You shouldn’t do that.  I just read about the house specialty burger — 93 whoppin’ grams of lardo and a full day’s calories — without the fries.”

“When you live this far north, you need that much grease to keep your joints oiled and moving.  But let me tell you what happened.”

“OK, shoot.”

“The guy at the next table had to sneeze, see?  And he wanted to be polite and not let fly at the woman across the table from him — which was good, ’cause it was one sloppy doozy of a sneeze!”

“Ewww.”

“No, just wait!  I’ll give you an ‘Ewww!’  He used his menu as a sneeze shield!  Germs and gook all over the picture of the chicken burger!”

“Double Ewww.”

“Now, you’ve got to THINK about this a little!  They didn’t send the menu home with him as a souvenir.  Somebody else had it in his frozen little fingers before —“

“Before the gook dried and the germs died.  I’m eating at home from now on.”

“Well, you don’t have to go to those extremes.  Just do what I did the next time I ate there.”

“Hmmm?  There’s more story coming, isn’t there.”

“I didn’t touch the menu the next time.  I asked the waitress to read it to me.”

“The whole menu?”

“Yeah, and she says, ‘Ohhh,’ in this I-am-so-sorry-for-you tone,  and then says, ‘We have Braille menus for the sight-impaired.’ 

“And I said, ‘No, there’s nothing wrong with my eyes.  It’s the germ factor, Miss.’

“And she gawks at me like I haven’t got my buttons all sewed on, so I explained about menus getting passed to innocent customers when the sneeze gook isn’t dried yet.”

“I’ll bet that impressed her.”

“Pretty much.  She scooted off to find a manager.  And pretty soon, she comes galloping back with one.   ‘Madam, I understand there is a problem with your menu,’ he says in this low, drawly voice.

“‘Not as long as I don’t have to touch it and she reads it to me,’ I replied.  ‘I don’t want to take the chance it has been sneezed on, coughed on, salivated on, or who-knows-what on.  You know, with that swine flu stuff going around, you can’t be too careful.'”

“Ornesta, didn’t you read my post about swine flu?  If you eat enough bratwurst and sauerkraut, there’s nothing to fear.”

“It might not work up here.  It’s probably just a Wisconsin cure.”

“Yeah, well, go on.”

“The guy didn’t say anything — just motions to the waitress to come with him and trots off.  I didn’t know if they were going to feed me or not.  Well, pretty soon the waitress comes back, and she’s got an accessory in her apron pocket — a quart-size can of Lysol.  And she plunks that menu down on the table, empties half a can onto it, flips it over with a slap, and empties most of the other half a can on the back side.  My eyes were fogging up, my nose was burning, and my taste buds felt like I’d swallowed a bottle of bleach.

“And then she says, ‘There!  How’s that?  Would you like me to do your water glass and your napkin for you too?’  And she lets fly with the rest of the can.  ‘Psssssst!'”

“Personally, I think I would have taken my chances with the menu-turned-sneeze-shield in all its contaminated glory.  Lysol decongesting my sinuses doesn’t sound like a good thing.”

“No, and I couldn’t really taste the burger and the bottomless fries very well that day, either.”

“Ornesta, you said I should try your method, rather than closeting myself at home to eat.  Why, after hearing what happened to you, would I want to take your advice?”

“Well, I thought it would give you something interesting to write about.”

(For more Ornesta-related adventures see Simply Ornesta! in the sidebar, under Archives.)

Writers’ Guide to Hominyims and Similar Situations

LeeAnnRubsam.com

Homonyms and similar-sounding words can be real buggers.  Spell Check won’t help, and although Word tries to do the thinking for you, when you really need its help, it lets you down every time.  What’s a body to do?  Relax!  You might not be using the wrong word after all!  It’s all in how you spin it.  This little article will lay many of your worst fears of embarrassment to rest, and down the road I’m bound to come up with a Part Too.

If you are squandering your time, you are usually wasting it, but if you are doing it by spending day after day eating at the local buffet, then it is A-OK to say you are waisting it.

Hanging out with your piers is OK if you are a dock repairman or a yachting enthusiast.  Hanging out with pears is appropriate if you own an orchard or are employed by a canning factory.

Going to collage is not acceptable, unless your institution of higher learning is an arts and crafts shop teaching classes on cutting and pasting.  If you are only into serious art, or don’t like art at all, do yourself a favor and just attend university.

Runway models exhibit wears, GPS gizmos display your wheres, (but not your weres), and flea market vendors sell wares. 

If you plan on altaring a business suit, first make sure the church accepts clothing donations.  And if they except clothing donations, that means they’d rather you gave it to the Salvation Army instead.  (Cash donations are not usually excepted.)

BUT, if you go to the alter to take care of sin business with the Lord, that is definitely OK.  He expects you to alter your ways when you repent.

If you are baring a child, you are getting your little one ready for his bath.  And by the way, beware of Greeks baring gifts!  (I’m told that their traditions do not include wrapping presents.  I like surprises, myself.)

Yes!  Your interest can be peaked!  Peaked interest refers to an extremely  high level of curiosity.  If yours reaches those altitudes, make sure you take your inhaler along.  The air gets thin in the mountains.  (But don’t allow your curiosity to lead you into peeking at things that are none of your business.)

“Balling all over the place”  is only OK if you are a roly poly bug or if it hurts so badly that you are curling into the fetal position.

Righting a term paper?  Go ahead, if you are a copy editor.  I hope you are getting paid well, as this can be a most frustrating assignment.

Hare dryer — I saw one of these handy-dandy appliances at the local farm store.  For best results, be careful to follow the included rabbit jerky recipe to the letter.

I’m sorry, it is not possible to horde money.  But, if you travel with Genghis Khan or Attila the Hun, you will probably come into plenty of loot to hoard, if that’s your fancy.  (It’s more fun to spend it, though.)

So much for today’s taste of homonym grits.

LeeAnnRubsam.com

Published in: on January 8, 2010 at 9:15 am  Comments (2)  
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Keeping Fit in Pitt (Part 2)

LeeAnnRubsam.com

I was wrong in yesterday’s post about Pittsburghians not knowing that it is good manners to say “hi” to strangers when passing.  It is not Pittsburghians who are ignorant on this point; it is just the ones on the part of the Montour Run Trail behind Susan’s house.

Today I took the trail where it continues on the other side of the highway, and almost all the folks walking and biking it said hello to me before I had a chance.  I will not have to try to elevate their culture after all.  They were a different group: not so focused on building their muscles and seeing how much wheezing they could handle before cardiac arrest set in.  They were the mom-and-dad type with little kids, or the I-am-just-out-for-a-stroll-to-enjoy-the-weather-and-I-don’t-care-if-I-elevate-my-heartbeat-to-its-maximum-potential-or-not type.

I simply cannot get used to all these houses built into the sides of the mountains.  We’ve got some of the same in Door County and the east side of Lake Winnebago in Wisconsin, but most of our state is mildly hilly or fairly flat.  I also cannot get used to how some houses’ front doors open almost directly onto the highway — or else have a goodly flight of stairs up to the door.  I would be a lean muscle machine if I lived here permanently.  If the up-and-down-hill walking did not do it for me, running from the copperheads in the summertime would.

I am developing a theory: even driving the hairpin turns and up-and-down slopes burns calories.  It would be possible to be quite athletically fit in Pittsburgh even without consciously exercising — if it weren’t for Chick-fil-A to ruin it all at the end of the day.

Susan has always been mystified by part of the local culture.  Although their home is only fifteen minutes from the heart of Pittsburgh, many people from their area — even very youngish people — have never been to the City.  Even more of them have not ever been to the other side of it.  They just live and die in their own small corner of the suburbs (suburghs?).

If Susan had wanted to know the answer, all she would have had to do is ask.  One of the natives explained it to me.  They all get lost if they travel outside of a certain small radius.  You see, because everything is in the mountains, there are no such things as square city blocks.  All the roads wind this way and that, without any organization, rhyme, or reason.  Finding your way around — especially around the city to the other side of it — is nigh-on to impossible.  So they all just stay in their township and the couple of townships nearby.  It is completely a safety issue.  There now.  That makes sense to me!

You might ask, “But what about one of those little GPS gizmos?  Wouldn’t that take care of the problem?”  We tried the GPS gadget to get us to Pittsburgh from Wisconsin.  It’s not all it’s cracked up to be.  It tried to tell us Susan’s address did not exist.  After awhile, it decided the existence was a distinct possibility, but the directions given were not sensible.  If we had listened, we would have ended up on the wrong side of the city, lost forever, never to find Susan or Wisconsin again.

So, I understand.  I would behave myself and stay in my suburgh too.

Keeping Fit in Pitt (Part 1)

LeeAnnRubsam.com

Keeping Fit in Pitt

LeeAnnRubsam.com

As I explained yesterday, we have been visiting in the rural outskirts of Pittsburgh. 

I have been doing quite a bit of walking, partly out of desire to see some scenery, partly to find temporary solitude.  There is a hiking path about one-half mile from Susan’s house.  Getting there is semi-dangerous, as there is only a narrow shoulder along a sharply curving highway to walk on, and traffic is clipping.  I take consolation in not seeing many wildlife corpses on the road, which probably means that if I keep my eyes open, I will not end up as roadkill either.  I instruct the family before leaving that if I am not back in two hours, it is time to mount up a posse and come looking for me.

The hiking trail is an old railroad line, with a long tunnel cut through a hillside for added interest.  Woods adorn both sides, and Susan’s house is up on a bluff overlooking a creek which cuts between the trail and the residential area.

It seems that Pittsburghians do not behave quite like Wisconsinites.  The folks out on the trail are mostly intense types.  They jog, they stride energetically with arms flailing wildly, they are pulled along by unruly pitbulls, but they do not acknowledge each other’s existence as they meet.  My mother taught me as a small child that when we pass someone on the street, we smile pleasantly and say “hi.”  Pittsburghians appear to be very serious about whatever they do, including conscientiously obeying their mothers’ instructions never to speak to strangers.  I perversely insist on accosting them with a “hi,”  although I quickly discovered this is not kosher. The typical response is a surprised stare, as if they have discovered an intriguing new species of insect and are not quite certain whether to squash it or let it entertain them.  I keep trying, in hopes of improving their standard of civilized behavior, and I sometimes even get a response, but it is difficult to change a culture in a mere week’s time.

The trail is not heavily traveled in November, so I feel a little nervous about encountering lone men when no one else is in sight, especially in the dimly lit tunnel.  I am alert to my surroundings at all times, and listen carefully to assess the danger factor.  If the guy is breathing heavily as he approaches, that is probably good.  Loud snorting, wheezing, asthmatic gasping, and pre-cardiac arrest noises are even better.  All of these mean I can run faster than them, and that predator tactics are the last thing on their mind.

One of Susan’s friends informed me that in the summertime, the men are not the main alarm factor on the trail.  When it is warm, the copperheads enjoy sunning themselves smack dab in the middle of the road.  When they get too warm, they cool off in the tunnel — and no doubt lie in wait for silly Wisconsin women who never once imagined that a ten-foot-wide gravelled road would be a snake resort. 

I passed a pleasant elderly couple along the trail one afternoon.  (They said “hi” back and smiled — probably natives of Wisconsin, not Pittsburgh.)  I suppose they were in their seventies.  She was round and he was very lean — like Jack Sprat and wife.

As I approached  the tunnel on my return leg of the hike, I encountered Mrs. Sprat peering intently around the edge of it.  Jack was on the other end, poking around in some weeds.  Shortly after I entered, what I thought was a teenager tore past me in the fastest sprint I’d ever seen outside of the Olympics.  But it wasn’t a teenager.  As he got nearer, I realized it was Jack.  Seventy … spry as a youngster … faster than a speeding bullet … no red cape  or other super hero props though.

“How’d I do?”  Jack asked, lightly puffing.

“Thirty-one seconds,”  Mrs. Sprat replied.

But the light puffing didn’t subside or even continue evenly.  “EEH-HUH! EEH-HUH! EEH-HUH! EEH-HUH!” Jack commenced gasping in high-pitched apparent distress.  I wished I had remembered to bring the cell phone.  Obviously Jack was going to need an ambulance, and no telling how long it would take one to get there and whether the driver would know that he could disregard the hiking trail rule, “no motorized vehicles allowed.”

I turned to gaze in horror.  Mrs Sprat giggled.  Jack didn’t giggle.  He just kept on with the “EEH-HUH! EEH-HUH! EEH-HUH! EEH-HUH!”  At that point I figured that either she was rather looking forward to an early widowhood, or else Jack and the Mrs. just hang out at the tunnel on a regular basis, waiting to show off their stuff for whatever unsuspecting Wisconsinite comes along, hoping to scare the daylights out of their victim.

I headed on down the trail, and I noticed when I got to the end that the Sprats, with no “EEH-HUH! EEH-HUH! EEH-HUH! EEH-HUHs” in earshot, were not far behind. 

Keeping Fit in Pitt (Part 2)

LeeAnnRubsam.com

Where the Wild Things Are

LeeAnnRubsam.com

We are visiting Susan and family in Pittsburgh for a few days.  They do not really live in Pittsburgh, just in one of the rural, wooded suburbs that surround the city.

I am in the midst of being a very cool grandma.  As everyone knows, cool grandmas come in a wide array of colors and shapes, but they are only really cool if they get artsy-craftsy with the little ones.  I have about three things in my artsy-craftsy arsenal, so it’s good that I am a long-distance grandma and can spread those three things out over my entire career.

Hence, I came prepared with a bucket of seashells and a huge jar of popsicle sticks.  We made treasure boxes by gluing the sticks together in dizzyingly-high layers until we reached the attention span limit.  The seashells became lid decorations.  The small fry will remember my visit fondly forever.  Now you know how to be a very cool grandma, if you didn’t possess that information before.   Isn’t the Internet wonderful?

Jason Upton sings, “Do you really want to know … where the wild things are?”  I know.  They live in suburban Pittsburgh — both inside and outside the house.  We arrived to find Susan and her husband in a massive battle with squatters — an army of mice.  These are brazen rodents: they do not wait until we are all snuggled in bed with the lights out to reconnoiter.   They watch us from corners, waiting for the very moment we leave the room, whereupon they scramble from their bunkers in search of plunder.  The killer beagle is not concerned.  He should face a long stint in the brig for dereliction of duty. 

Francis Scott Key described the battle he witnessed as “the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air.”  Here it is more like snap, crackle, and POP — sounds of mice rummaging through the cupboards and their eventual demise in the cleverly positioned booby traps.

I commented darkly that we should consider mouse croquettes for dinner some evening.  I’m not sure that  is any more of a gross idea than escargot or frog legs, but it was merely a conversation starter, not an idea to be seriously entertained.

The house has a history of wildlife intrusions.  Last summer Susan found a baby snake coiled among the children’s toys.  Her heroic husband strode to the rescue, scooped the viper up in a box, and hurled him down the hill to the creek.  I’m not sure it was a real viper.  Chris said you can tell whether they are poisonous or not by how slanted the eyes are — but he didn’t examine the eyeballs intently enough to find out.  He’s a very just-get-the-job-done kind of guy.

Incidents of this sort must be why Susan once announced that she would much prefer to live in an apartment with concrete all the way up to the foundations and not a blade of grass or a tree in sight. 

“Awake, O Sleeper”

LeeAnnRubsam.com

I grew up in a liturgical church. I’m not there now, but I have fond memories – one of which I’m sharing today.

Our congregation went through an abrupt transition from a perpetually smiling, always gentle shepherd to a vacancy pastor who had missed his Marine drill sergeant calling. I’ve noticed that people in nondenominational churches don’t put up with such things. They just leave if the pastor doesn’t suit them or if the preaching gets too hot. But in the church of my youth, we hung in there by our fingernails for the sake of denominational loyalty.

We couldn’t do without our pipe organ, and our elderly organist thought we couldn’t do without her, either. Mrs. Leidenfeist must have been installed along with the pipes seventy years before. Her possessiveness of her organist position had increased proportionately with the percentage of clinker notes we now endured each Sunday. She fussed if anybody else ever touched the keys, and she never took a vacation for fear of finding a permanent replacement on her bench when she returned. The elder board, not knowing how to turn her out to pasture without devastating her tender sensibilities, piously reminded complainers that forbearance was a virtue.

One summer Sunday, it all came to a head. Keeping the congregation alert in a sanctuary with no air conditioning was a challenge for the pastor, but he excelled at strategically punctuating his sermon points with thunderous emphasis, so most of us kept our eyelids up. Still, it must have been unbearably hot in the choir loft, where the organ and Mrs. Leidenfeist resided. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John would have had a hard time keeping awake up there.

The sermon finally ground to a conclusion, and ending the service required just a little more liturgical dialogue between congregation and pulpit.

“Let us pray,” intoned our pastor.

We all waited for our organ cue to respond in song. Deafening silence lingered for an eternal twenty seconds, while the pastor shifted impatiently from foot to foot. Every child, parent, and granny in the building was dying to turn around and check out what had gone haywire in the balcony, but the mamas of our denomination had drilled into their children for ten generations past that looking behind us or laughing in church would net us ten thousand years in purgatory – and we didn’t even subscribe to that doctrine!

“I SAID, ‘Let us pray!!!’” the pastor shouted, as he glared towards the choir loft.

The organ lady hit the keys with a full body slam, at the same time tromping down hard on the volume pedal. I know the Bible says the resurrection of the dead will be announced with a trumpet blast, but if it had said “organ,” this would have done the job. Mrs. Leidenfeist recovered quickly, and the traditional notes were duly sounded. Not a snicker was heard. How many prayers shot heavenward for divine aid in giggle suppression can only be guessed, but the liturgical response, done with the usual perfect decorum, prevailed over all temptation.

No doubt the pastor consulted his Excedrin and Maalox bottles for the rest of the day, while the laity enormously enjoyed chicken and Mrs. Leidenfeist’s embarrassment for dinner.

LeeAnnRubsam.com

Anniversary #31

LeeAnnRubsam.com

Today was our wedding anniversary — thirty-one wonderful, adventurous, romantic years together.  Paul provides the wonderful and I provide the adventurous.  The romantic just is.  I thought I’d give a report on our day, so that all of you who don’t have the first idea how to have a great anniversary together will get a few pointers.

Gifts — For weeks I pleaded with Paul to give me some ideas of what he wanted.  My eyes glazed over when he mentioned the technology items.  I don’t do technology.  It mortally confuses me. 

Finally he announced the need for a new set of dress trousers.  I had just about simultaneously gotten the same brilliant idea, having noticed a  huge white wear spot on the pocket of his navy blue slacks just that morning as he stood at the front of the church.  The entire church family saw the need at the same moment I did.  Humility is not something I have to strive over-hard for.  Opportunities abound.

So I thought the problem of an anniversary gift was solved.  Not.  Finding Paul trousers is a monumental challenge.  He is long and thin.  The trousers available have the dimensions switched around.   32 x 34 will work; 34 x 32 will not.  I was still looking today without success.  Fortunately, I had a book stashed away for his birthday, which had to do anniversary duty.

When he hauled out several presents for me, I felt like a heel — until I opened them.

Gift #1 — A homemade Fernando Ortega CD case — without the CD.  “Thank you, Paul.  I have always loved Fernando Ortega’s CD cases.  Usually they come with a CD inside.”

“Oh, did I forget the CD?  Duh.”  He ambled off to his man-den in the basement to retrieve the music portion of the Fernando gift.  He had downloaded the music (legally) from the Internet and made a lovely case and all — just forgot to put the CD in it.

Gift #2 — A Hershey Milk Chocolate-flavored lip balm — with instructions to smear it, but not to eat it.  I normally do not use lip balms.  Petroleum jelly out of a jar serves the same purpose quite effectively.  Beebee asked if I knew how to use lip balm, or if she needed to demonstrate for me.  She probably just wanted the first lick.

Gift #3 — A bag of Lemonheads.  Yes, exactly.  The same candy they sell at swimming pool concession stands.

I now understood why, whenever I had pleaded for gift ideas, Paul had consistently stated he only wanted a bag of circus peanuts and a tube of braunschweiger to fulfill his fondest dreams.  He had hoped to put our gifts on an equal plane.

(The man gave me roses and truffles, too, but Lemonheads and CD-less CD cases are more fun to talk about.)

Other festivities —  We spent a romantic afternoon together at ShopKo Optical.  I have needed new glasses for a while, not being able to see overmuch out of the old ones.  They had a huge 25% off sale, and Paul generously offered to buy me any $49.95 frame in the place.  (Actually, I was the one who opted for the $49.95 pair.  The $99.95 frames looked a little nicer, but the price tag hanging from them wasn’t near as elegant as the one on the $49.95 pair.  I know cool when I see it.)

We dined on petite sirloin at Applebee’s.  It was a weird experience having the cook bring our steaks to the table and stand over us, demanding that we cut it and make sure it was done to our taste.  He refused to leave until we had done so.  It must be a custom peculiar to Applebee’s.  A few minutes later, the waitress came by and asked in a whisper if we had “cut our steak for anyone yet.”  I’ll bet it has nothing to do with whether the steak is done to perfection.   They probably don’t trust the customers to handle knives without supervision until the management is sure they are mature enough to manipulate sharp objects alone.  We were being tested.  I got so nervous I tried to cut with the serrated edge up, but they let me keep my knife anyway.

While I demonstrated my knife-wielding prowess for the cook, precious seconds were lost, and the butter ran off my baked potato and into the zucchini.   I was disappointed.  If they had wrapped that potato in traditional foil, the butter would have stayed put.  Sigh!

We dressed up for our big occasion.  Paul wore a sweater and white jeans (because I could not find dress slacks for his anniversary present, no doubt).  I wore my beautiful hunter-green tunic with the Nehru collar.  I fell in love with it and its $3.00 tag at Goodwill three years ago.  I look ever so chic in it, but have not had the courage to wear it in public, since I don’t see other ladies flaunting football player-size padding in their jacket shoulders right now.  I keep hoping such fashion will come back into style eventually.  (Beebee tells me it is coming back, but only young ladies who have never yet had opportunity to do huge shoulder pads are allowed to wear such things.  Old ladies who had their chance back in the 80’s do not get a second shot at it.  I will never understand the rules of fashion.)  Anyway, I figured nobody at Applebee’s would know me or care, so I wore it and enjoyed myself.  I sashayed around Target after dinner in it, too — again looking for the elusive 32 x 34 trousers necessary to restore my man to respectability.

LeeAnnRubsam.com

Salad Eaters Beware!

LeeAnnRubsam.com

The following story illustrates why it is best to
a.) avoid salad bars completely, or
b.) pray hard before the first bite.

My daughter and I decided to do lunch at the local pizza parlor.  The place was nearly devoid of human life when we sat ourselves down with our personal pizzas.  Staring at the puddles of grease atop my lunch and remembering my upcoming cholesterol test, I was having second thoughts and wishing I had opted for the salad buffet.  Not for long.

A young woman and her two offspring made entrance.  The older child, about eight I’d say, immediately sauntered over to check out the salad bar.  While Mom was busy ordering at the counter, he decided to avoid the middle man and go directly for fast food. 

While we gawked in delicious horror, he grabbed the fully-loaded chocolate pudding scoop and  shlugged ‘er all down.  Mom spotted him just as the last few drops dribbled from his chin into the pudding pot. 

“Johnny!!! Put that down!!!” 

Startled by her blood-curdling yell, Johnny’s reflexes kicked in and he did as he was told – dropped that ladle like it was a hot horseshoe. It bounced across the carpet a couple of times before Mama bounded to the rescue.  She retrieved the scooper from the floor and shoved it back into the pot, grabbed Johnny’s arm, and marched him off to their table, hissing, “I told you to stay with me!” 

Keep in mind that all the plexiglass sneeze shields in the world could not have prevented this scene, unless they had completely covered the salad counter and been secured with a padlock. 

The mom did not inform the counter people that there was a kid-contaminated pudding pot in need of some attention.  If the staff saw the incident, they did not care.  They were probably so hardened to moms screaming at their kids that they were not even curious about the cause. 

Now, I still like salad bars immensely, so I do not choose option a. (avoiding salad bars completely).  Option b. (praying hard before the first bite) is more to my liking.  But I never eat salad at that pizza parlor anymore – or anything else on their menu, either.

LeeAnnRubsam.com

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