Big Diggers

diggers-orange and yello
Friday, August 28, 2015
Today I am grateful for big diggers. I guess I must have a lot of the “Willie” gene in me. My dad loved anything with wheels and an engine, but he was crazy nuts about construction vehicles. I would have never learned to drive without them.

When I was 16 there was a new highway being built in my hometown of Sheboygan, Wisconsin. My dad was the self-appointed sidewalk supervisor. But he hated to admit to my mom how much he loved hanging around the construction site. She would have found something “useful” for him to do for sure. So he’d say, “June, I’m gonna take the kid driving.”

I’m the kid. I’d get behind the wheel, start ‘er up and head down the street in the opposite direction of the construction site. He’d fidget and give some advice and occasionally hit the non-existent passenger-side brake. Then he’d start giving directions. “Turn left at the next corner.” I would. “Go up there, over by that light and then turn right.” I would. “Okay, keep going straight until I tell you to turn.” We’d dead end on the barricaded dirt mess that was construction for the new highway. And that’s where we spent the remainder of our “driving” time. Watching the big diggers. For hours.

I’ve driven a billion different kinds of vehicles, including the car in Jakarta with the stick shift on the left (wrong) side; a bunch of moving trucks (not vans-trucks) all across the US and Mexico; mopeds and little motorcycles; go-carts and bumper cars; more riding lawnmowers (usually over a hammer someone left in the lawn) than I care to remember; speed boats and pontoons; every type of car; and a bunch of tractors.

But I can’t go past a little bobcat, a steam roller, a backhoe, or an earth mover without dreaming of one day operating one. They are at the top of my bucket list. . .for me and my dad.

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Gorgeous Sky

Stony Creek Park, Lansdale, PA

Stony Creek Park, Lansdale, PA

sky horizontal with small land

sky only

sky with sun
Thursday, August 27, 2015
Today I am grateful for a gorgeous sky. I love the song that goes. . .“All about that bass, ‘bout that bass, ‘bout that bass. . .no treble” a lot. Probably because I’m sure it was written for me. But today it’s not about “that bass”, it’s about. . .that sky!

The weather is so perfect that I threw open the windows to bring it inside. My husband is off golfing and the house is quiet with no perpetual baseball game playing season 994 on the upstairs computer and no WWII being fought on the TV in the living room. I hear the neighbor’s air conditioner kick in sometimes, but otherwise it’s just birds and cicadas. A perfect day for a walk. Yes, me! Again.

I felt cocoony and woodsy, so I went to a park where I know the path runs narrowly through the trees. As soon as I got out of the car I was blown away by the sky. If you’ve been paying attention you will know that I don’t take anything for granted. . . including the sky. Especially today. Brilliant!

When we lived in Jakarta the pollution was so horrendous that we rarely saw a blue sky because it was mostly yellow, with bright red sunsets when the poor elusive orb passed down below the smog. Yuk. So today when I got out of the car and was surrounded by brilliant blue, with ever-changing popcorn clouds I was blown away.

I couldn’t help thinking of those poor people out west who are battling miles and miles of burning forests. Many haven’t seen the sky in weeks because of the unrelenting smoke. So this one is for them. Today it’s. . . “all about that sky, ‘bout that sky, ‘bout that sky. . .no troubles. . .”

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Peaches ‘n Cream

659-03533891 © Masterfile Royalty-Free Model Release: No Property Release: No Quark cake with tinned peaches, a piece cut

659-03533891
© Masterfile Royalty-Free
Model Release: No
Property Release: No
Quark cake with tinned peaches, a piece cut

Wednesday, August 26, 2015
Today I am grateful for peaches ‘n cream. Oh boy, another food to be grateful for. That explains so much! But man oh man I haven’t been able to get the stuff out of my head all day long and since I hadn’t blogged yet today, it gets top billing.

We had agreed last week to celebrate the end of the outdoor season by staying after class and sharing lunch together at the pool. You could bring it, or buy it from the canteen at the pool. Easy peasy. No pressure.

Ironically, I don’t care much for peaches. They’re okay. I might eat one a year in season, but I don’t go nuts, buy a bunch and make everything I can think of with them. That’s rhubarb. So when one of my friends from water aerobics said that she brought peaches ‘n cream to share after our last outdoor class I was ambivalent. Easy to resist.

We hadn’t planned on bringing stuff to share, but our instructor brought two types of homemade salsa and chips, someone else brought fresh tomatoes from her garden, I brought one of the newly frozen zucchini breads so that I could leave the leftovers with the pool staff, and another woman brought the peaches ‘n cream thing. On ice and in its own zipper case to keep it cool. She also brought plums in case someone didn’t want the concoction. One person had a plum instead. One. Not me. Ha-ha.

I had my Caesar salad with chicken wrap and a half of a piece of zucchini bread and more salsa and chips than I care to admit. My diet coke didn’t do it as well as a margarita would have, but it was liquid, just no salty rim. I know, diet coke? Shut up! I get the irony. I figured I was satisfied and done. Aren’t I strong? Brain in gear will power.

Then, with a flourish, she unveiled the peaches ‘n cream. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t that beautiful piece of heaven. I didn’t have my camera and was sorry. She started sectioning the gorgeous goo and my jaw landed smack on the picnic table! BAM! Yellow cake. . .peaches. . .the fluffiest. . .most delicious combination of cream and vanilla pudding, then more peaches. But I’m ambivalent about peaches, I kept telling myself over and over. Remember?

Each time she handed a piece to someone I said to myself, say, “I’ll pass.” Yeah right. Turns out you gotta actually say it out loud. I didn’t. Who in the hell am I kidding? I didn’t have a huge piece. . .but with the first bite I heard angels singing the Halleluiah Chorus. I swear. I didn’t ask for seconds, but I had to leave the table as soon as I was done or I would have embarrassed myself. . .groveling for more.

I hope I never, ever come face to face with one of those peaches ‘n cream demons again. It won’t be pretty. . .even if angels are singing its praises!

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Zucchini

Zucchini bread & muffins-best
Tuesday, August 25, 2015
Today I am grateful for zucchini. . .again. Well, folks, we’re almost to that point. You know the one. . .when the zucchini comes in so fast that even the ovens at the White House couldn’t keep up!

I have never made zucchini bread or muffins. Horrors! I think they’ll take my Pennsylvania card away with that statement. We don’t have a garden because I did that in the past and I’m done now. The farmer’s market is my new BFF. And the kindness of strangers. . .and friends. . .who would actually pay me to take some zucchini off of their hands.

So after getting two nice sized beauties from a friend, I decided to go on line and find some recipes for bread and muffins. The bread is a five star recipe from Allrecipes.com, one of my go-to spots. But those silly folks assume I can read. Not their recipe, but my tools for making the recipe.

Last Christmas John got me really great measuring spoons that snap together. Don’t bash him. . .I wanted them! They were on my list. The rascal who made these spoons has never baked in my kitchen or even read a recipe. There is a ½ tablespoon. A half-tablespoon? Never heard of it. Never saw a recipe that called for a half-table-spoon. Don’t even know how to write it. “T” is for tablespoon. “tsp” is for teaspoon. How do you write half tablespoon “HT”? I thought that was for Hat Trick. (Hockey playing kids.)

So when I was mixing up a double vat of the aforementioned zucchini bread, I grabbed the second spoon. . . the one after the tablespoon. . . which is supposed to be the teaspoon. . .and used it to measure the 1 ½ tsp’s of baking powder and baking soda. I mixed it into the six cups of flour to wait until I had the liquids mixed. It was at that point I realized my mistake. Ooooops! Then I put my glasses on. Ha-ha!

To toss out all of that flour. . .or take a chance? It was my biggest dilemma of the day. Aren’t I lucky? Well, I’m a real renaissance gal so I went for it. That’s why each loaf has a strategically placed caved-in-old-man-butt-crack. That half tablespoon gizmo didn’t make the cut. It’s now relegated to an obscure drawer because I guess I’ll never know when I’ll need it otherwise why would they have made it?

The bread will probably taste okay, but the whole works is in the freezer so I won’t know for a little while anyway. Then I’ll blame the freezer. Don’t you just love zucchini? If you have extra you know how to reach me!

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Indian Valley YMCA

Brochure-
Monday, August 24, 2015
Today I am grateful for the Indian Valley YMCA. I have to confess that when I was young and thought about aging, I thought I would feel exactly the same way I did then, only I’d be older. Ha-Ha! While my brain still feels that way, my physical body reminds me I’m not that age anymore. Double ha-ha-ha-ha.

It seems every morning I wake up to a new creak and accompanying groan. When I get together with friends we have to complete the physical “organ recital” before we can get on to important topics like who gives a good haircut, which book wasn’t worth the read, and that movie we all loved but no one can remember the name, except we know the actor who was in that other movie, with the plane that blew up, was in it but we can’t remember that movie’s name, either, but it was really good, too. You know the one. Okay, so maybe the brain is aging a bit, too.

When I was a hairdresser I had elderly (my age now) customers who bitched to high heaven about being lonely and not having any friends and their kids never visit and they don’t have anything to do with themselves but sit in front of the TV all day (and bitch in my chair) because nobody cares about them or loves them and blah, blah, blah. They’d gripe about aches and pains and all of the things they “can’t” do anymore. Yuk! Boring! Boring is worse than dead! I dreaded getting like that. So I refused.

Now hear this. You don’t have to be alone. I won’t pretend to know everyone’s circumstances, because last time I looked someone with way more power than me has that covered. . .but I can say with certainty. . .you don’t have to be alone. There is always someplace where you will be accepted. Just like when you were a teenager and your mom would say, “If you want to make friends, or find a job, you have to get out of the house and look for them! No one is gonna come knocking at your door.”

So get out there. Check out your YMCA, or your Senior Center, or sit at the McDonald’s and read your paper every day at the same time. You will find friends! They’re out there. If you can’t drive, take a taxi, or bus, or call someone and beg them to take you. Offer to buy them a cuppa. Adjust your attitude, throw the grumpies and kvetching over your woeful life in the trash, dig out that sense of humor you once had because that’s still there, too, but you gotta get involved to find it again!

When I retired suddenly I felt as though I didn’t have a friend in the world. That’s not true, of course. I felt more alone than ever before in my entire life, including the first months living in Jakarta, Indonesia. I hated exercise, but I needed people. The Indian Valley YMCA had people. So I endured the exercise to be with the people. Now I embrace both. . .and I am very grateful!

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Re-Run – Support

Dragon-bali-wood-on gong (2)
Sunday, August 23, 2015 (Originally from Friday, August 23, 2013)
Today I am grateful for support. Does anything in this world feel better than knowing people have your back, will listen to your darkest thoughts, and will accept and support any decisions you make? Not to me it doesn’t. Thanks to my tribe! You know who you are._________________________________________________________________________________

The above paragraph is a re-run from this date in 2013. Wow! It still floats today and I believe it more than ever. When I made the commitment (to myself) over two years ago to write something that I am grateful for every day for a year, I knew it would be a challenge. I also knew I would embrace it 100%. And I did. After meeting and surpassing that goal, not missing a day for two years, I lightened up and gave myself permission to miss a day here or there because I was busy with other things.

But now I have more “peeps” so when I’m not present one day. . .they let me know. If I’m not present two days in a row, which is very, very rare, I get emails wondering if I’m okay. I’ve never tried three days because I’m sure the cops would be called to look for my corpse, or drag me back from the brink of an even worse disaster. . .like an eating binge at the Chinese Buffet.

One of my peeps suggested that when I had too much going on, I should do a re-run from a past columns. Great idea. This is my disclaimer that I will fully expose myself when I re-run something, lest you think I’m going Groundhog Day on you all. The dragon makes no sense at all and is just for fun!

Off to the theater and dinner with my sister-in-law and our sig others! Enjoy yours.

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Encouragement

encourage
Saturday, August 22, 2015
Today I am grateful for encouragement. What a fantastic word. What an even better action. Every living being does better with a little encouragement. Even plants. Or animals and especially humans thrive better with encouraged. I wish employers would catch on to this. The really, really good ones do. . .and their staff never want to leave them and would do whatever they can to please them.

A billion years ago (ever notice how much still affects me from a billion years ago?). . .anyway. . .a billion years ago I was the side-kick of a friend who was writing lyrics for a musical, along with another friend who was helping to score the piece. The lyricist was stuck for the correct word. It was below freezing outside and well past midnight when he said, “I can’t concentrate and I’ll never find the right word sitting here. Get your boots and coat on. Both of you!” The next thing I knew we were across the street from his house, sailing down an icy hill on a toboggan! In the frozen tundra. Laughing like the idiots were are. Nuts! Alive!

Just as quickly as he instigated the event, he called it quits. “Okay! That’s enough! I’ve got it! I have to go write.” And we were back in the warmth of the house. The word that had escaped him was “encourage” and it came to him with the frosty wind in his face and the ice crunching under the sled. True story. I can still sing the song. But I won’t. The line is “. . .encourage with your words. . .”

I thought of that story today on my way home from breakfast with a good friend who has experienced her own share of trauma in the past six months. I replayed my words of encouragement as I was driving home. Funny thing is, although the words were meant for her, they resonated with me, too. That’s how powerful encouragement is. You give a little. You get back a lot more.

I caught the stop light at the main street where I turn right to go home. While sitting there, I noticed a mailman walking his beat across the way, in the neighborhood where a lot of my Friday lunch friends live. Their mailman had been the topic of discussion the other day. Some are not very pleased. They liked the old guy. One thinks he is showing signs of good character and communication. Ask five people, you’ll get five different opinions. On anything. Is that him, I wondered? No one had given a physical description so I wasn’t sure. The light was fixing to change. There was a car behind me, so I had to turn the corner soon.

I went straight. I hadn’t planned it. I didn’t exactly know if it was a good idea or if I was just pumped full of encouragement-adrenalin from my good conversation at breakfast. I wondered if I was crossing over from “kind” to pushy. The tapes ran on rapid-fire! But I know me. . .and I have learned to trust my guts. . .so I went straight.

“Excuse me, young man,” I yelled out the window. Walking up the steps to deliver mail, he didn’t hear me. “Excuse me. Please!” He turned and slumped towards the car, resigned and unhappy. Was he preparing himself for another complaint? “Yes, ma-am.” He looked defeated. He was polite. I asked his name, knowing I’d recognize it when I heard it. “You’re the one!” I said. He was confused. “I have friends who live in this neighborhood and I am starting to hear really good things about you! You were one of the topics at lunch yesterday. There are people in this neighborhood who are very, very happy with you.”

His physical demeanor changed right before my eyes. He smiled like a kid getting just what he asked for at Christmas. “Really?” he said. His relief was physical! “I’m trying so hard! But you know that (I won’t use the name of the former mailman). . .he was great and everybody in this neighborhood LOVED him. He’s still helping me out. . .he really IS a great guy. . .but those are some tough shoes to fill! I’m trying, though. I am really trying!” He shook his head. “Tough shoes!” Laughing now, his gloom gone, replaced with hope.

I made a U-turn. . .he went on to complete his route. . .each of us a little taller. . .and happier. . .because of a tiny bit of encouragement.

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