Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thanksgiving, Pilgrims and Exploding Turkeys...

This post is a reprint from 2007. I hope you enjoy it. Or find it useful. Or hopefully entertaining...

For the real story about the Pilgrims and Indians, read Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick. I have this book, which is excellent, but eye-opening to be sure. For an excellent review click the link:
For a shorter version about the real deal and history of Thanksgiving click the link:

Do you remember when you were in kindergarten and first heard the "story about the pilgrims? Maybe you had an Indian head band or a pilgrim hat. Some schools had roasted pumpkin seeds. Or that colored corn.

As an adult of course I knew that the reality wasn't anything like the story we were taught in school. A while back while researching our family history, I discovered that my husband has several Mayflower ancestors. As part of our research, we made a pilgrimage to Plimouth Plantation in Massachusetts. We did the complete tour and that particular day was re-enactment day. It was wonderful.

The interesting thing was that there was no black clothing. The Pilgrims were not Puritans. Their clothing was dull colors, but not black. The houses were tiny. The beds were tinier. I can't imagine when anyone found privacy or the time to have children. Yet one of my husband's ancestors had twenty. Hmmmm.

One of my favorite events happened in the Francis Cooke home. "Mrs. Cooke" was answering questions and one of the women in our group asked why Mrs. Cooke's clothing was wrinkled. What about ironing. "Mrs. Cooke" gave her a very direct look and replied, "But that would be vanity!" Until then I hadn't thought about how I was avoiding vanity by not ironing!

Certainly, it was a very educational experience. We'll go back again... hopefully for Thanksgiving some year. Every year they have a "real" re-enactment feast. That is something I would like to take part in.

Below is the story of our Exploding Turkey. Enjoy!

One year, I think it was 1984, we moved into a new house the day before Thanksgiving. This was after spending four weeks in a hotel with four kids, three of them teenagers. It was a move from Houston, Texas to upstate New York. The kids were out of school for that four weeks because we didn't have an "official" address.

So finally, we moved in on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving. That year it was also my birthday. The next morning when we woke up we had no water because the pipes were frozen. Nothing was unpacked, but we had the presence of mind pick up several aluminum roasting pans. For the turkey, we doubled two pans and plopped the turkey in the oven while we rousted out the necessities from the jumble of boxes that were piled high in the living room and dining room.

It wasn't the first time I had moved. Actually, it was move number forty. So the next morning chaos was not something new. There were the usual shouts of "Mom, where is...?" and the usual jockeying for space and attention. My husband was trying to figure out why we had hot water in the toilet. Just the little things in life.

When is was time to take the turkey out, the pan collapsed, burning my husband's hands. He tossed it on the top of the stove and it exploded. In a instant we had turkey, dressing, and broth everywhere...on the ceiling, on the walls and counters, down in the innards of the brand new stove...on the floor. Everywhere.

The househunk took the stove apart and carried it outside to wash the worst of it off with the hose in the yard. The boys got in an argument and my younger son "ran away". I remember kneeling on the floor trying to mop up that greasy mess and crying, "I want to go home!"

And my husband leaned down and calmly said, "We are home."

Heh. Well, the runaway came home. My daughters helped set the table and my sons helped wash walls and counters. Amazingly, we sat down to dinner, thankful to be in a home instead of that hotel. And every year, we retell the story of the exploding turkey dinner.

After all, it was way better than the fire in the furnace on Christmas Day. Trust me on this.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Out of here...

In the last few weeks I've reached the inescapable conclusion that I must be the most boring blogger in the world. Nothing exciting happens to me--at least nothing I'm willing to share with the zillions of people on the internet.

I'm not terribly funny. Or perhaps my sense of humor doesn't march along with the rest of the population. I march to such a different drummer we're not even in the same parade. We may not be in the same town or state.

I don't think I have anything profound or touching to say. But then again, the few times I've written what I thought was a particularly profound post, the resulting commenters silence was deafening.

I don't read or watch or listen to the same books, movies, TV shows, or music as the rest of the "world". And I confess I'm not interested in doing so. I'm not sure whether that means I'm an extremely shallow person--or the rest of the internet world is.

Marching to a different drummer is very isolating. So I wonder this. Am I the only one in the parade? Am I the only one marching along straining to hear the music, yet I inevitably know there really isn't any music? Or is that why writers and readers at blogs instantly jump on the bandwagon when they read a blog about shopping or sleeping or the latest celebrity scandal.

Perhaps all the social networks in the world have simply reduced us to the lowest common denominator. Rather than sharing new ideas and intriguing concepts and profound thoughts it seems to me all we're really doing is rehashing the same old tired ideas.

For the next two weeks I'll be gone to visit my family. Normally, I schedule a bunch of posts ahead of time to cover the days I'm gone. But this time I think I'll just take a break. After blogging for four years, perhaps it's time for a vacation.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Map? What's that?

Once upon a time maps were considered indispensable. If you wanted to go somewhere--across the street or across the country--you checked a map to determine the best route. Now they have these new-fangled things called GPS's. Enter the destination address and you're in business...except when the GPS leads you down a dead end road in the middle of the mountains.

I'm one of those annoying individuals who has a built in GPS for the most part. When the house hunk and I were married about six months we decided to drive to Arizona to see my grandparents. Since we lived in Chicago at the time, it was no short jaunt. We were about two hours out of Chicago when the hunk asked me to check the map for our next route change.

"What map?"

"The atlas we used to plan the trip."

"We didn't bring it."

"What do you mean we didn't bring it? How are we supposed to know how to get there without our maps?" (At this point, he was getting a tad irritated.)

"I know how to get there. I'll tell you when to change."

"You'll probably get us lost!"

"No, I won't!" (Conversation then degenerated to various uncomplimentary epithets.)

Three days later--without the aid of a map or unplanned detours--we pulled into my grandparents driveway. I don't believe he's forgiven me yet and we've been married over forty years now. Apparently, some things are unforgivable. Driving across country without a map must be one of them...


Monday, November 15, 2010


The day before I was scheduled to leave for Florida, I received a call from my doctor about my recent blood work. They needed new tests as some of the numbers were waaaaay off.

So I went down to the office where it was decided I would just go on a stronger dose of my meds and in six weeks I would go back for more tests to see how the new dosage was working out.

Finding a pharmacy open that time of night that could fill the new scrip was interesting, but eventually, I was all set. We went back home and finally crawled into bed only two hours later than I planned.

For quite a while now I'm been unaccountably cold. While everyone else in the house was uncomfortably hot, I was literally shaking with chills. I'm not a small woman so I couldn't account for the discomfort--and it was very uncomfortable. I couldn't get warm until very late at night. My feet were cold. My hands were icy. Heck, even my nose was cold.

Not once did I connect the chill with the low blood levels. Then an article on the internet caught my eye. It was about various signs that women in particular need to pay attention to and talk to their doctor about. One of those signs was a continual chill...a sign that your thyroid levels need to be checked.

Well, now. My blood levels had doubled in the last six months. Do you supposed that had something to do with my chillin"? Thyroid meds are peculiar. They can only be increased in tiny increments every six-eight weeks. So while the big chill is not as bad as it was, it hasn't quite gone away.

At least now I know I'm not crazy.


Friday, November 12, 2010

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Sing it!

Back in my day there were songs. Songs with real lyrics and real melodies. Last night I watched the Country Music Awards and was somewhat dismayed at the way this last bastion to music is changing.


I'm not against innovation and new ideas. But in today's popular music, it's difficult to tell what the new ideas are all about when you can't understand the words and there is no tune. When the song consists of one phrase repeated over and over to a heavy pounding drum beat, it seems we've regressed back to the caveman days. That isn't innovation. That's stagnation.

A true song tells a story. And evokes emotion--not chemistry. And I'll freely admit I don't want to listen to a song that depends on obscenity or vulgarity to get its point across. That's my personal choice. No screaming. No mumbling. And no vulgarity.

A true song will stand the test of time. The melody will grab the soul and enfold it. The words will touch the depths of the heart. Everyone has at least one song like that. It might be a hymn. It might be a love song. It might be a lament.

For me, its the hymn, "Abide With Me." That hymn was sung over fifty years ago at my mother's funeral. It still speaks to me.

What song speaks to you?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Unemployment Blues

Way back when I was a very young woman--in high school--the government had a bunch of new programs to fight unemployment. It was the Johnson era (for those of you too young to remember, he came after Kennedy). If you were at least sixteen years old and your family was below the poverty level then you qualified to participate in the Neighborhood Youth Corp program.

Until a teacher approached me about this program, I didn't realize my family was below the poverty level. We had a warm place to live and plenty of food--thanks to my step-mother's careful planning. I talked to my parents about the program. And since it was all handled through the school, they gave their permission.

I recently found one of my check stubs from back then. The federal government paid me $75 a month to be a gopher for my teacher. For one class period per day, five days a week. Actually, when I look back on that, seventy-five dollars was pretty good money.

When I graduated from high school at seventeen, I had a new problem. In Chicago I couldn't work in any factory or warehouse until I was eighteen. And that was six months off. I finally landed a job at a school, Moody Bible Institute, as an accounts payable clerk.

I worked there a year before moving on to Bell and Howell (company that made Polaroid cameras). And then there were a series of jobs, mostly part-time until we moved to Houston. We had three small kids under four. The house hunk worked days, I worked nights.

Applying for jobs was very different back then. You met someone face to face. Your appearance was important. First impressions were important. Now, its all done electronically. I'm not sure I would ever get a job based on the "new" application system.

The year I was forty, I suddenly found myself unemployed because the warehouse where I worked closed down and moved to Tennessee. Just like that I was one of seven hundred newly unemployed workers in a small county with few employment opportunities.

Most of us took advantage of the retraining offered by the federal government under their displaced worker program. As I neared the end of the training, I grew more nervous. My husband was on disability for a work injury. I was on unemployment. And we were trying to feed six people--four of them teenagers.

THEN a pipe broke underneath our double-wide mobile home. In February. The hunk and I spent the morning under the house repairing the pipe. When we remembered I had class that afternoon, it was too late to do more than brush the mud off. Failure to show up for class meant a short check. So I rushed off to class in what I was wearing--muddy sweat pants and a tee-shirt with a tear at the shoulder.

Once class was settled in, my instructor came to me and urged me to go downstairs to apply for a job that had just opened up. I went down, asked for an application and filled it out. And then, really wanting to be professional, I inquired about a job interview appointment.

The secretary who took my application gave me a long slow look and went into the Director's office. After a minute she came back and said, "She'll see you now."

I was horrified. "But I'm not dressed for an interview!" I protested.

"She knows."

My heart sunk. Clearly I wasn't going to get this job. Deciding that I would use the interview as practice, I followed the secretary into the Director's office. We had a nice chat. She shook my hand and informed me she had a couple more people to interview and she would get back to me by the end of the week. That was Wednesday.

I started work the following Monday. And worked there for thirteen years.

What happened? I once asked her why she hired me. And she smiled and said, "I figured if you could handle an interview under those conditions, you could handle anything that came through our doors. And I was right."

I sometimes wonder how differently things would have gone if the initial contact was all electronic. Would it have made a difference? I don't know. I understand the reasons for the electronic application process. But there's something to be said for human contact, isn't there?


Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Dawn on the road. There's a special feeling to dawn when you're traveling, regardless of the season. It heralds the promise of a bright shiny day with new possibilities.

When you're at home you don't feel the same anticipation you do on the road. You believe there's nothing new to look forward to. And you're busy, busy, busy rushing off to work or all the other obligations that fill your life.

We usually started our journey for the day in the dark. Somehow, there's nothing blacker than the hour right before dawn. It seems to take forever for the sky to lighten even a tiny bit. Then the gray half-light fills the air, tricking us into believing we can discern our surroundings with clarity when it actually adds yet another layer of murkiness to the landscape. We stare out the window straining to make out the shadows on the side of the road.

Abruptly, with startling speed, the sun tips over the horizon shattering the darkness.

The dark times in life are like that. Dark, dark, dark, bare lightening of the darkness around us, then brilliant light--so bright we squint our eyes against it in wondering disbelief. Is it really over? Is the night behind us? It takes us a moment to accept the brilliant light all around us.

Oh, there will be another time of darkness. That is inevitable because that's just life. But when we're inundated with darkness I suspect we forget the most important thing...dawn is on its way.


Just a reminder! Tonight is my monthly chat at Love Romances Cafe. For information, check the box in the upper right hand corner! See you then...

Monday, November 8, 2010

Where are we?

Traveling can be adventurous. I suppose it can even be fun. Mostly it's confusing. There's the urge to scratch your head and ask, "Where are we now?"

Hotels take on a sameness after the second night, regardless of state or brand. Two beds, not enough towels, a giant TV and an unplugged mini-fridge. Iffy wi-fi, iffier AC/heat, and hard-to-find electrical outlets. The househunk uses a C-PAP machine at night. It's always an adventure to locate the outlet so he can plug it in.

If hotels take on a sameness, then their continental breakfast are...carbon copies. Every single one has jumped on the messy waffle bandwagon. The name of the game is self-service. Put batter in cup. Pour on waffle iron and close. Flip over and wait for the buzzer. PRY out of waffle iron. Eat. High calorie, high carbohydrate, high sugar breakfast guaranteed to put a diabetic in a coma.

We ended up providing out own fruit and cheese sticks, adding a toasted English muffin and coffee and calling it good. At least I didn't fall asleep at the wheel twenty minutes after starting out.

At one hotel we were given the handicapped accessible room after we requested a room on the first floor. I must have looked like I was in truly pitiful shape. Just let me say, anyone stuck in that room has my complete sympathies. The outer room was lovely--huge with a recliner and rolling desk chair and plenty of room to move around. The bathroom...well words fail me.

When we first arrived, I peeked in, nodded, and worked on unpacking the car. Later when I had need of that particular room, I discovered my error. The grab bar was so close to the toilet I had to sit sideways on the seat. And since the seat was one of those "split" seats, my leg rested in the missing section. And pinched. Also, the bar was exactly at the height so I had to sit with my arm up in the air. Since I was naked at the time (getting ready to shower), the ice cold bar rested against my ribs and...boob.

I was already irritated and then I looked around for the toilet paper. It was about two feet away on the back wall on the other side of the friggin' bar! What lunatic installed the holder in such an inaccessible location?

I summoned the househunk. He removed the tp from the holder and for the duration of our stay, it sat on the vanity right next to the toilet where it should have been installed in the first place.

Little did I know my adventures were only beginning. Next I stepped into the shower. After setting the water temperature, I pulled the lever to move it to "shower". Snort. Big mistake. There was a jury-rigged hand held shower thingy. Some water came out there. Most of the water shot out at face lever through an open uncapped pipe. The water pressure was so minimal from both options, it was difficult to rinse the soap from my quivering goose bumped flesh.

Did I mention the water that was hot whilst pouring into the bathtub suddenly went down about twenty degrees when I moved it to shower? We crossed that hotel from our "visit here again" list. Oh, yeah. The telephone didn't work, either.

Our next hotel was not bad. Since we were staying four days, they put us in the back with the other transient population. You know, people there on temporary transfers for work and corporate clients (which only means their company is footing the bill). These folk were hard-drinkin', loud, argumentative fellows who loved to barbecue on the illicit grill they had in the parking lot. They were friendly--but loud. And since we were there over Halloween weekend...well, it was interesting.

Then we headed home. By then we were too tired to care about much except how soft the beds were. I fell face first on the bed and crashed. When the hunk woke me to discuss dinner, we decided we weren't hungry. At that point, it was all I could do to undress and crawl beneath the covers.

And the next night? We were home, sweet home. In a couple weeks we'll be on the road again on our way to new adventures via Texas and Arkansas. No telling what we'll encounter. But it ought to provide plenty of fodder for writing. Good thing, eh?


Friday, November 5, 2010

Last Words

Few things are harder than deciding when to finally let an animal companion go. While a sudden death is shocking, at least the human part of the equation doesn't have to make that dread decision. But some pets live a long time. And then when they reach their last days, time seems to pick up with breathtaking speed.

Suddenly, with heartbreaking abruptness, they go from frisky to sad readiness for that final rest. Yesterday, I had to make that decision for my cat companion, Sammie. It was a good day for mourning and saying goodbye. Rainy, gray, cold.

I called the vet and made the arrangements. And said my final goodbyes. After seventeen years, it's hard. But she gave me such a look of pained puzzlement as I held her. She was hurting. She was tired. And she was ready.

Goodbye, girl. Rest easy.


Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Have you ever done something with what seems to you to be perfectly logical reasons and had someone totally blow up because they don't see things the same way? Over the last few days, I've had a startling epiphany.

No one else, no matter how well they know us, will ever truly understand the motivations behind our actions and decisions. They might think they do. They might try to understand. But unless they've lived our life, they can't possibly completely understand. The same, of course, is true in reverse.

I'm convinced that is why some of our spouse's actions are so baffling. Not only have we not lived their life...they're also of the opposite sex which adds confusion to the mix.

Our motivations are personal, often private, and possibly even secret. When we make a decision, it may be based on experiences or expectations we won't ever feel comfortable discussing. It's even likely we will never openly acknowledge the real reasons for our actions.

So. If my actions, decisions, motivations are incomprehensible to someone else, how much more baffling is their reaction? I'm a very non-confrontational individual. I have a difficult time understanding the constant confrontational culture we live in. What happened to walking away from conflict? What happened to politely ignoring things that might embarrass our friends and loved ones rather than insisting on pointing them out?

Or am I merely walking to my own drummer, naive and unaware, because I think that the world would be a better place if we practiced polite ignorance? Perhaps so. But that's my choice.