Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Hospital Tale

(I ask your pardon if I've been slack in visiting your blog. I spent most of last week in the hospital, hosted by my ruptured appendix. All is on the mend now, and I'm working as fast as all my little meds will allow me to get caught up. There's no place like home.)

The small taps on the door stirred me from the quasi slumber of the surgically repaired.

Even as my eyes worked to focus in the early morning hours, the door pushed open carefully.

"Good morning, hon, my name is Wanda and I'm with the hospital volunteers," an elderly woman with a lacquered beehive introduced herself as she moved towards my bedside. She consulted her clipboard and flipped a few pages, tapping an area at the bottom of a sheet.

"And you are George, " she proclaimed with a sweet smile.

I was drug addled, hooked to more lines and tubes than I knew what to do with and unsure of the day and year, but I was pretty sure I wasn't George.

"Um, no, I'm Shelly. But it's nice to meet you."

She frowned and underlined several things furiously on her clipboard. She pulled cat eye glasses up from the chain on her neck, fixed them on her nose, and carefully studied what was written there, tapping again in finality.

Slowly, with the enunciation of an elementary teacher, she said with a determined smile, "You...are...George...Morris."

I'd seen myself accidentally in the mirror the night before. I had hobbit hair, an odd swipe of Betadine on my neck, no earrings, no mascara, no lipstick, but...but...George?

"No ma'am, I am Shelly. Shelly."

She leaned in a closer. "You are in room 439?"

I exhaled and smiled. "Well, this is actually room 438."

She shook her head in small swipes side to side and made soft, disapproving tsks with her mouth.

"Hon, you'll need to call the office here and straighten things out. They have you under the wrong name and in the wrong room!"

Monday, August 18, 2014


My stomach spun like a top at my first glance. I inhaled deeply, all the way to my toes, and forced my eyes open again. There. There it was, in all its immutable, ageless, and very deep glory, the Grand Canyon.

My husband, equally enthralled but not a bit bothered by the height, was already moving quickly from rock to rock, taking a frenzy of pictures.

I remembered back to two days ago when we'd stopped in the Davis Mountains in West Texas for the first leg of our vacation. The sense of accomplishment I felt at having scaled two peaks was still throbbing in me; not for the physical feat of it, but for quashing my raging and robust dislike of being anywhere high. I took courage in that as we set off on the trail at the South Rim of the canyon.

The crisp, rich air made even breathing feel luxuriously decadent. Although we moved quickly on a trail without a guardrail, with only a couple of feet of dirt and sometimes trees separating us from the steepest drop off I've ever seen, I kept my mind off the height by focusing on the dazzling views as well as the melange of people we passed on the trail. English was sparsely scattered in the languages we heard. French, Japanese, German, Portuguese, and others were delectable listening treats.

We stopped at picturesque points on the trail, both for photos and appreciation.

"Be careful," I called to my husband, forcing my voice to stay nonchalant as he ventured out much too close to the edge of one of these rocky outlooks for my comfort.

"It's OK, Hon, I'm fine," he called back. "This is beyond words- just amazing!"

I took photos of him and of the undulating cliffs and of the tiny Colorado River visible from the safety of my vantage point just beyond the trail. Something small to my left bobbed in my peripheral vision as it moved past me to an area where there was an immediate drop off just past the trail. I turned to look and saw a small boy, no more than three, with a new scooter he was trying to push with one foot and steer with both hands while wobbling dangerously close to the drop off.

My breath caught in my throat as I moved quickly off the trail in his durection and worked to stay calm. No other adults seemed to be near and I didn't want to leave him to try and find who he belonged to.

"Hi there! That's a really neat scooter you have there, " I told him brightly as I crouched to get closer without startling him. He stopped for a moment in his jagged journey off the path.

"Mine. It's mine. I big boy!" He puffed himself taller.

I held out my hand to him, as there was no more than six inches now between him and the edge.

"Can you help me get up? I would love to see that scooter, " I encouraged, as I stretched my hand closer and wiggled my toes to get a better angle if I needed to lunge for him.

"I strong. I got big muscles," he said as he stretched out his chubby hand to me. I quit breathing as I clasped his small hand in mind. "Come back here on the trail and let's take a look at the scooter of yours," I said, my voice suddenly high pitched and having to suppress an urge to sob in relief.

Just then, a woman with two girls under ten following her came around the bend in the trail ahead of us.

"Jeremiah! Jeremiah! What have I told you?" She covered the yards between us quickly and grabbed his hand from mine. "Stranger danger! You NEVER go with a stranger, " she angrily enunciated as she glared at me.

Although I was still emotionally wrought by how close we'd come to tragedy, I straightened up and said, "Ma'am, he was past the trail there, trying to steer his scooter and he was just inches from the edge when I got him to give me his hand." And proving stronger than my will power, tears started to stream down my face. "He almost...he was this close..."

She looked at me carefully, her eyes squinting. She looked down at him, grabbed the scooter with one hand and in one motion pulled his arm to match her long strides away from me.

She took one last look at me and snorted. "Humph!" They moved quickly back down the trail the way she had come.

Um. You're welcome.


Friday, August 1, 2014

Knock Knock....Who's There?

Hey...psst...over here. I'm putting my toes back into the luxurious waters of blogland once again. Is it cold? Has anything interesting washed ashore while I've been gone?

And I did a terrible job of keeping up with all the blogs I love. It would make me happy if you could leave me a link or two for your favorite posts from the last two months. That way I can read and enjoy your part of the world once again.

And I'm going to try restructuring my blog a bit. Although I am a storyteller through and through, I know stories can get a little old for the reader. My life is as sedate and boring as a half used tube of toothpaste, so I'm not good at giving a recounting of my day, either.

But I will try to mix in short question pieces, like this one, with a few stories now and then, since stories are what make my soul tick.

I have some new projects in the works, and my time reading blogs is going to be a bit more limited, but I do plan to read yours at least a couple of times a week.

OK. Now for your question. What is the best meal you've eaten in the last two months? Don't be spare in your descriptions. I'm on a diet and this will be the only way I can enjoy really tasty food.

Teenaged Daughter taught me what chunkin' up the deuces is. (I think/ hope it means see you later.) I don't know why the picture is backwards, but I was driving here while she was posing.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Of Richard Nixon, Hurricanes, and Old Time Fans

I dropped my bag and purse on the kitchen counter and dragged myself into the family room. The morning’s bootcamp had delivered the rigorous workout it promised, but left me looking a mess. Coated in a thin layer of dirt, shirt heavy with sweat, and blood still seeping from a few scrapes on palms and a knee, I didn’t want to mar the furniture with myself, but still wanted to gather myself before falling into the shower.

I spread my towel on the carpet, dropped to the floor, rolled onto my back, and pushed the button on the remote control switching on the oscillating high velocity fan that, coupled with the energetic ceiling fan and central air conditioning, delivered cooling comfort on this 95 degree day. I closed my eyes and let the waves of refreshing wash over me.

The only sound was the whir of the fan as it swept back and forth. My mind drifted. Fans, hurricanes, Richard Nixon…they all fit together in one particular July and August of my youth. That summer we had been driven out of our home by extensive damage and flooding from a hurricane. My grandparents welcomed us to their home, which stood on higher ground.

Back in the days of only three television channels, the Watergate hearings consumed all of day time TV. Although I wasn’t particularly interested in politics, Richard Nixon became as reluctantly familiar to me as Mike and Carol Brady. The floodwaters still lapped up to the front porch, so our activities were confined indoors.  

The only oasis of refuge from the steamy South Texas heat was the air conditioned front room, and that was tempered by my frugal grandfather’s desire to keep the electric bill down. Even through the warmth, I systematically devoured the books from my grandma’s large library, and when only a few of those remained, I set into my grandfather’s Southwest Cattle Breeder and Dallas Cowboy Today magazines.

While the days were filled with Nixon, reading, and trying to stay cool, the nights became a treat to me.

My sister and I shared a large back bedroom there. The house had been built many decades before with the heat in mind, and so the large banks of windows that could be cranked open stretched forth wide into the night air. Screens kept the mosquitoes out but lured in the intoxicating late evening aromas of the gardenias my grandma cultivated under them. And if I turned my head just right, I could see vast reaches of stars through the treetops.

In our own modern house tightly sealed for central air conditioning, I never heard any of the night sounds, but here they were a symphony beginning at sundown each evening. The cattle lowed nearby as they settled in for the evening and then the coyotes picked up the call with their drawling howls. The frogs croaked their contentment while the crickets chirred in harmony.

The two old fashioned oscillating fans we turned on each night before jumping into bed whirred with gentlest tranquility. My grandma told me she’d bought them new, back in the late 1930’s, even before they had electricity in the house, because she so looked forward to feeling the soft breeze from them. And now, laying there in the dark, lulled by the finest of outdoor concerts, the sweet anticipation of the coming drafts of cool air from those fans was enough to make my sister fall asleep almost immediately.

I, though, loved to stay awake longer, just to enjoy the swaths of exquisite, unflappable breeze from them. And sometimes, sometimes, when those fans were on just the right course, set at just the correct angles, the air streams converged at exactly the same time on me. Magic, pure and unrivaled.

I don’t remember much about political scandals and weather disasters. But ask me about two little oscillating fans and I can tell you much.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Queen of the Small Things

If I were Queen of the Small Things, I would:

1. Equip cars to deliver a small electrical shock to drivers’ bums when they fail to use the turn signal.

2. Incorporate self service kiosks in all clothing stores that scan a customer’s lower half and instantly print the perfect fitting pair of pants/ jeans with a 3- D printer in the customer’s choice of fabric, color, and style.

      3. Have unknown folks who do uncommon good as headliners on the news and in entertainment magazines. The Kardashians, Miley Ray, and the Beibs would be sent to live and work on Amish farms for a year.

      4, Gift every dwelling with a fruit, vegetable, or flower producing plant.

      5.Install a steadily moving conveyor in airport security lines. Each passenger sits in a chair on the conveyor. A foot masseuse removes the shoes and gives a swift but effective foot massage whilst the passenger moves steadily towards the scanners. On the plane, passengers who kick the seat back in front of them more than once will also receive a small electrical shock to the bum.

      6. Give every child a week in the summertime with my grandparents.

 Now you. If you were King/ Queen of the Small Things, what is something you would do?

And I am commenting on your blogs, but I find the email notifications are coming back to me and not to your inbox, for some strange reason. I do see them on your blogs, so please don't think I'm neglecting you. Blogger has a case of the hiccups again.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

A Dead Sea Chronicle and the Winner of the Giveaway

The chatter that overflowed from the changing room faded as gravity drew us down the sloping wooden ramps to the water. The beach, not quite sand and not quite dirt, yielded beneath our water shoes with small crunches.

I inhaled the salty Dead Sea air deeply, pushing it down into my toes while my daughter arranged her towel near mine under the tent shelter. The sun, exquisitely restrained, still pressed ancient light under every ledge of the soul, warming from the inside out on this crisp day.

We waded in and the kinship with the countless others throughout past millennia who had done the same thing we were doing beckoned me farther. My daughter laughed with her friends as they settled onto their backs, buoyed confidently by the unfailing water.

I knelt in knee deep shallows, pulling up handfuls of the black Dead Sea mud and coating every inch of exposed skin with it. It worked gently with the sun, hardening while softening.

Still clutching the solid salt crystals I had dredged from the bottom with the mud, I sat back and let my feet be pulled upwards until I, too, floated effortlessly on my back, rocked and soothed by the gentle lapping of the water.

Perfection is anywhere you choose to find it.

And the winner of the giveaway from my last post is Amy from Funny is Family. Amy, if you’ll get me the address where you’d like me to send your book, I’ll get it on its way to you. Congratulations!

And here's the dirty aftermath, while trying to get the mud off~

Friday, May 2, 2014

The Cucumber Baby was Both Practical and Delicious, and a Giveaway

Mother's Day is coming up. Yep,and pretty soon. My blogging friend, Pearl Vork-Zambory, has a doozy of a piece published in a new anthology on moms. Not you as a mom, but on our moms, those who birthed us and raised us. Called Moms Are Nuts, this is one of the funniest books I've read in a while. And in about a week, I will be giving away a copy of this book to one person who comments on this post. In the meantime, ordering information for the book as well as information on the hilarious Pearl is below. She's graciously agreed to give us a taste of her delicious writing in this piece, which has me craving cucumbers at an incredibly early hour. (And a little side note- I'll be out of town a few days, but I'll get back to commenting and responding when I return.) Enjoy!

“Mumma, why don’t you take Pearl here out to the garden, see if you can’t load her up?” 

I have gone to my parents’ place for the afternoon. My father, having discovered that the inside of my windshield has the transparency of an executive board’s decision-making policy, potters off in search of Windex

My mother grabs a knife. 

The garden, a gated affair that succeeds in keeping the deer out and the veggies in, teems with ripe and ripening flora. It is mid-September in Minnesota; and while Minneapolis itself remains green, two hours’ north the change of the seasons is in the air, the maple tree on their property beginning to turn. 

Snow is not far in front of us. 

We wander amid the rows, pulling up beets and onions. The green beans hang in chandeliers, slim and tolerably fuzzy. The tomatoes wink, in varied shades of green and red, from within their cages.

 My mother is bent in half, her hands at work. “How many cukes?” she calls.

 “As many as you can spare,” I say.

 “Oh, for cryin’ out loud,” she says, her voice muffled by the vegetation. “I was just out here yesterday, and would you take a look at this one?”

She hoists a particularly ambitious cuke aloft, a green dirigible against the bright blue sky. 

There is a hollyhock off to the side of the garden. “You know,” I say, “it seems to me that I remember Grandma making me a little doll out of hollyhocks. Does that seem right to you?” 

My mother straightens up, smiles. “Yes,” she says. Her dark brown eyes shine. “A little blossom skirt, a bit of green, and a little blossom bonnet.”

 “I think that’s why I love hollyhocks.”

She looks down at the extra large cucumber in her hand. “We used to make dolls of these, you know.”

I cock my head toward her, a quizzical gesture I know to be one of hers.

 “We drew little faces on them,” she says, wistfully. “And wrapped them in little receiving blankets.”

I laugh. “You played with cucumber babies?” 

She nods. “Me and Sis and Patti and Janice, we all had our little cucumber babies.”

She grins. “And then for supper, we peeled them and ate them with a little salt and pepper.” 

She tosses me the cuke. “Let’s go see what your father is up to, shall we?”

Now about the book:

Emmy winners, magazine editors, comedians, TV personalities, bestselling authors and social media superstars team up to bring you a laugh-out-loud book not about being a mom, but about having a mom, grandmom or mom-figure. And while it's not OK for someone else to make yo-momma jokes about your momma, it is perfectly healthy — even downright hilarious — to find the humor in your own upbringing. In fact, these writers highly recommend it. So if you think your mom is nuts, pull up a chair. You're in good company.

You can order the book here:

Moms Are Nuts