pickle on vineThursday, July 24, 2014

Today I am grateful for pickles.  I like pickles, especially dill and bread & butter, but with different things.  I think the person who decided to slice pickles the long way for sandwiches was a genius!  Still. . . I had to pick them, too, as a kid on my grandparent’s farm.


Did you ever see, or better yet, touch a pickle before the factory got ahold of them?

Ah, I thought not!  They are prickly.  Very prickly.  If you don’t wear gloves your fingers will bleed.  Seriously.  And they grow on a vine that takes over the world so just when you think you’ve picked them all, if you follow the twisty vine, you’ll find more.  Better bring the wagon to the garden because those puppies get heavy!  It was not unusual to get between five and ten bushels of pickles in one picking.  That farm wasn’t called Vlasic or Del Monte, but it could have been.


Pickles come ripe at the end of summer, when all of the mosquitos have had a full season to grow fat and ravenous.  Each time you bend over to pick a pickle, the mosquitos will zero in the soft, meaty flesh behind your knee.  They’ll drill for blood until you practically need a transfusion and then they’ll send their friends in for more.  If you try to swat at them all you’ll accomplish is piercing yourself with the pickle you forgot to put down first.


If it’s a very dry season, the pickles, when they become big boys are called cucumbers, and will be bitter.  To this day I taste each cucumber before adding it to the salad I’m making.  One bad-bitter cuke will spoil the whole batch of cucumber salad.  My grandma taught me that.  If they get too big or are bitter, throw them over the fence to the pigs.  Pigs’ll eat anything and they don’t even need salt.


So today I’m grateful for pickles. . .and very glad I can buy them in the store!

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??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Today I am grateful for fresh tomatoes.  Yes, I’m the person in the produce department smelling tomatoes.  If it doesn’t smell like a tomato I don’t buy it.  This time of year, it’s strictly the farmer’s stands for me.  Now those are tomatoes!


Tomatoes on my grandparent’s farm were abundant.  I didn’t mind picking them as much as other things because they were bigger, you could clearly see if they were ripe and popped off the vine easily.  They also filled up a bucket faster, which meant the end was near.  Not the literal end, the harvesting end. . .and on the farm that “end” was hard to come by.


My mother canned tomatoes, filling quart jars and boiling the jars on the stove on “the hottest damned day of the year!”  Her words.  She recently reminded me that once she had canned forty quarts at one time.  We hauled the jars up from the basement, she washed them by hand (no dishwasher back then), boiled the water necessary to skin the tomatoes, put them in jars, added canning salt, ran the knife to get the bubbles to the surface, wiped the rim, put on the Kerr soaked lid and ring, then put them in the huge canner to boil and seal.


This was not a short process.  It took all day and the complaints and general bitching got worse the hotter the kitchen got.  From all of us, me, my sister and especially my mom.  “If I never see another tomato it will be too soon!. . .Blasted tomatoes. . .hottest damned day of the year!. . .good harvest my ass!”  It got worse, but you get the picture.  The old oscillating fan with a “protective” screen wide enough to slice off an arm if you got close, was nearly useless in the steamy heat of the kitchen.  Steam blowing around is still steam.


Done boiling, mom would carefully remove the quart jars, wipe them with a towel and stand them on newspaper to “seal”.  Each pop of a sealing lid brought joy because they could then be shelved in the fruit cellar.  If the dimple in the lid didn’t cave, they had to be refrigerated and used fast.


The infamous day of the forty quarts, she had just finished, apron hung on the back of a kitchen chair to dry out, last batch cooling on the rack in the boiling pot because there was no more room on the counter.  A huge glass of iced tea and a cigarette had her full attention when my dad, as happy as a cat delivering a mouse onto a stoop, appeared.  . .with another bushel of tomatoes!  “Lookit what I got!” he said, way too cheery.


They stayed married.  It was a close call.  Today I’m grateful for real tomatoes, the ones that smell like my grandma’s farm and my mom’s kitchen; the ones that ooze blood-red juice down your arm when you bite into them like an apple, straight from the vine.  Yummmmmy.

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Homegrown Strawberries

Homegrown StrawberriesTuesday, July 22, 2014

Today I am grateful for homegrown strawberries.  And I hope I never have to pick another one for the rest of my life, although they do taste the best.


Yesterday I talked about the tractor on my grandma and grandpa’s farm.   Today I’m bemoaning the chores that came along with that farm.  Picking strawberries was one of my least favorite jobs.  The field was huge.  It was at least 35 football fields laid end to end.  Okay, not really, but when you’re ten it seems like it.


My grandpa was responsible for the big fields of hay, alfalfa and corn, but my grandma was queen of her garden. . .and the dreaded strawberries.  She sold them, one quart at a time.  She’d buy sheets of some kind of balsa wood that had to be bent and stapled into quart boxes.  Sixteen quarts made a case.  Do you know how many damned strawberries you have to pick to make a whole case?  We worked like share-croppers.  For nothing. . .oh, not quite true. . .for our supper.  “You work, you eat!  You don’ work?  You don’ eat!”  I liked to eat.  So I squatted along row after row of the viney bastards, elbows on knees until I thought I might die in that position, legs scratched to death by thistles and the sun frying me like a sausage on a grill.  Sunscreen?  Hah!  Not back then.  I wore one of my grandma’s big straw hats sometimes, but otherwise I just sizzled.  Bottles of water or gatorade?   Double HAH!  “Get a drink from the hose!”


“Don’t pick ‘em with any white on cuz they won’t ripen!  Leave ‘em on the vine!  I’m not sellin’ unripe strawberries.”  She always made sure that she threw a few more berries on top of a quart.  “Na, ya!  They settle!  Gotta be full.  I don’t cheat my customers!”  My cousins ate as they picked but I didn’t much care for strawberries back then.  Besides, if you ate some then your bloody box never got full!  The fuller it got, the faster you could quit.  “If they’re some that look too ripe, don’ throw ‘em to the birds.  Set ‘em aside and I’ll make jam.”  Nothing was wasted.  Except me.  But that was good jam!


People came from everywhere to buy her strawberries.  They were so grateful to have homegrown.  Me, too, but especially when grandma made pie!  Sunburned backs, aching legs, sore feet and thistle scratches heal so much better when there is pie!

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case tractorMonday, July 21, 2014

Today I am grateful for tractors.  I recently took one of those silly quizzes on Facebook that determined I’m 100% Midwestern.  No, duh?  Some of my friends who have never even been to the Midwest scored 95%.  Are those tests ridiculous?  Really?


But then I got to thinking about one of the questions.  Did you drive a tractor before you drove a car?  Yes, as a matter of fact I did.  I was about ten and my grandpa had a farm.  Every Saturday I’d go with my dad out to the farm.  If it was planting season I’d sit on the big orange Case tractor toolbox, next to the seat and my dad would drive it around the field, planting.


If it was harvest time, then I’d stand on the back rail or ride to the field on the wagon with the pitch forks and other guys who would move the loose hay onto a pile, filling up the wagon to overflowing until it looked like a mutant Chia pet.


I loved being on the farm.  I loved being on the tractor.  I loved being with my dad.  No helmet.  No seat belt.  No safety harness.  I lived.  When I sat on that tool box, holding onto the fender with the huge wheel turning underneath it, my dad said. . .only once, “Don’t get your fingers caught or your mudder will kill me.”  I never did.  If I jumped off the wagon before he had stopped and twisted an ankle, he’d say, “Don’t come crying to me if you’re gonna be stupid.”  Harsh?  Maybe by today’s standards, but not back then.  We were expected to have common sense and so we did.


I’m glad we have seatbelts and helmets and all manner of safety devices, but I miss those innocent days when my dad, jumped down from that big orange Case tractor, it sputtering and spitting in protest and said, “You drive!  Keep it straight on the furrows.  You’re grandpa won’t stand for crooked rows. . .and not too fast.  Fast is NOT better!”


I moved into the driver’s seat with the loose cushion, leaned way forward so my toes could reach the pedals, grabbed the small door-knob on the steering wheel, flipped it into gear and I was off. . . like a herd of turtles, plowing my first field.  My dad, in overalls, hopped back on board, “just-in-case” and sat on the tool box, laughing like a lunatic.  “We ain’t never gonna get done if you don’t giver ‘er some gas!”  I did, almost pitching my dad to the ground.  Good thing I had showed him where to hang on to the fender.


So today I’m grateful for big old orange tractors and the silly Facebook quiz that gave me back a memory from long ago.

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?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Sunday, July 20, 2014

Today I am grateful for anniversaries.  One year ago from today, I wrote my first gratitude.  I did not post the very first ones because I had no clue how to navigate Facebook, but I have written, “Today I am grateful for. . .” every day, 365 days, for one year.  Every single day.  Did you get that, yet?  I’m blown away by it.  I wish I could find that big of a commitment with food every day!  Except writing is more fun than counting points, calories, fat, carbohydrates and fiber!  A lot more fun!


This is what I wrote on July 20, 2013:

“Today I am very grateful for friendships.  Some of them are old, some new.  Some are intense, others more casual, but each has an important place in my life.”


I’m still grateful for friends old and new, only now I’m more verbal about it!  Ha-Ha, which is older people talk for LOL!  Now, with the help of my niece, Molly Adrianson, I’m on Facebook; my blog http://heartprintsdotcom.wordpress.com/ is accessible through my local newspaper, The Reporter; I post to two on-line newspapers, Patch and The Alternative Press.  For me, that kind of commitment is huge.


People ask what I do with myself now that I’m retired.  I still don’t have enough time!  How can that be?  So many books to read.  So many paintings to paint.  So many stories to write.  So many places to go.  Notice I’m not listing cleaning toilets, cleaning closets, or doing floors!  Time is wonderful.  Time is cruel.  Time is constant.  I never get any more hours in a day and some days I just want more.  I suppose it’s like money. . .if you have little, you want more.  If you have a lot, you want more.  Human nature.  The saying goes “I have more time than money.”  I don’t have more of anything except hips!  But it’s all good.


Paper is the traditional gift for the first anniversary.  Hmmmmm.  My goal was to do this for a year. . .to not censor myself. . .to shoot from the hip. . . be real.  I knew some people would follow for a while, then drop away.  I knew others would hang with me for the duration.  It’s okay, either way, but now I have decisions to make. I was told by literary agents that no one would even discuss representing me unless I built a platform.  So I did.  Is it enough?  Now what? An agent?  A book?  Would anyone buy it?  Would anyone read it?  Do I have enough to say?  Are you sick of being in my twisted head, yet?  Sometimes I am!  I’m struggling with my direction from here.  Can you tell?


I am grateful for this anniversary and every single moment, every experience and every single person who has ever read my posts.  Thank you.  You feed me!

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Dancing Kids

kids dancingSaturday, July 19, 2014

Today I am grateful for dancing kids.  The swim team meets for practice at the neighborhood pool before we do water aerobics in summer.  Yesterday a bunch of them stayed in the pool parking lot for a while, waiting for their moms.


Our instructor put the music on and started her moves.  We followed, like lemmings.  So did a couple of the girls standing behind the galvanized fence.  We usually have a few kids mocking or playing with us, but it’s hard to figure out which.  Not yesterday.  Playing.


None were above eight years old.  It started out with just a couple, then four, six, eight and two little toddler girls and three guys, arms flying, legs kicking, jumping, turning, spinning, waving their bodies in perfect synchronization with the music and instructor.  We were our own flash mob!  Some wet, some dry, everyone having a blast.


A couple of the moms got out their phones and took video from the side, but I wish they could have seen what we saw from the pool.  All of those kids in different colored summer outfits, on a slight hill, behind the chain-link fence, on the grass in front of cars, bucking and weaving like they were in a choreographed Busbey Berkeley production.  After about four musical numbers, their moms decided it was time for them to leave.  They were disappointed.  So was I.


“Thanks for dancing with us,” I shouted after them as they piled into various vans.  “We loved it!” they hollered.  “See you Monday.”  I am grateful for the exuberance and innocent joy these dancing kids brought into my day.  BING!  Heartprint!

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Natural Texture

mushroom, rock, tree, best exposureFriday, July 18, 2014

Today I am grateful for natural texture.  There are many forms of texture.  There is texture in personalities, in houses, in foods and in hair.  I like all of them.  To me, life without texture would be boring.  Except for the news.  I could stand less texture in the news.


So today, instead of commenting on horrific news in various parts of this insane world which seems to be falling apart more every minute, I’m going to focus on the simple textures I see every day.  Like the sheen on a child’s wet hair in the sunny pool; or the way the light shines through my patio umbrella, making it look like wheat-thins; or the way an ant carrying a load twice its size maneuvers the stucco; or the slippery seeds in the tomato I cut for my breakfast.


Simple textures abound in nature, so today I am grateful for a simple, lone mushroom, hiding behind a tree in a friend’s garden.  Watch whatever news you must, then disconnect.  Please.  Find something to look at, or listen to, or read, or eat that gives you a sense of peace.   Your day will be better for it.

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