The Walmart Mystique

16 Jul

I’m convinced that Walmart hires a baby to be on the premises squalling every time I’m in the store … & I’m in there frequently. I’m a “Repeat Attender.” Maybe our Walmart Super Center has constant traffic because it’s located in the county where the entertainment level is low & Walmart just has so much to see. It’s definitely responsible for a dip on the boredom meter.

So every time I’m in Walmart that same baby is screaming its lungs out & possibly shattering the glasses in the Housewares section. I’m not sure how it can BE the same baby because that bone-chilling, blood-curdling squall obviously comes directly from the throat & lungs of a newborn; so new that it was certainly & violently spit into this world on Aisle 6 while its mama was riding a Hover-round & NOT watching her other 3 kids.

The baby notwithstanding, Walmart has a “fan following;” myself included. Maybe it’s the genius design of the stores. You go in to pick up a prescription at the convenient Walmart Pharmacy & you also need a loaf of bread & a jar of Cherry Jelly (Smuckers). The two areas are visible – one from the other – but they are separated by the Toys Department, Housewares (pillows, picture frames & candles) & Women’s Clothing. What SHOULD be a 30 minute trip ends up being a Gilligan’s Island Experience – a 3 Hour Tour. And by the time the “Greeter” sends you on your way with a smile & a, “Have a nice day ….” you have your prescription, that Smuckers Jelly, a Miracle Foam pillow for the guest room, a shower gift for a friend & 2 shirts & a pair of cropped jeans that were on CLEARANCE in Women’s Clothing. It’s a wonderful boost to the endorphins – getting so many fantastic bargains.

As you’re leaving the store, 3 people pushing a shopping cart loaded with a 75” flat screen TV dash past you. You absent-mindedly smooth your hair in case you’ve just been witness to one of those popular Walmart “wide-screen TV heists” &, through the miracle of surveillance cameras, somehow end up on the local News at 6.

Like sliding down the sharp edge of a knife, that baby squalling in the background as you’re ejected through the swinging doors into the parking lot, sends a slicing chill down your spine.

Yet I & millions of people can’t stay away from what … in our area … is affectionately referred to as Wally World. Some of it may be because so many of us are “repeat attenders” that it becomes a “social experience.” We run into our friends on the cat food aisle & spend 20 minutes blocking that space while playing “catch-up” with a friend.

If we are following the latest fashion trends, a trip to Walmart will help catch us up on the latest in sleepwear. You don’t need to go to “Nightwear” in the Women’s Clothing area to find out what’s IN in pajamas. You simply sit on that little bench at the exit designated for men who are waiting for the wives to complete their shopping & social experience, & watch as the Pajama Parade passes. My mama taught me better than to wear my night clothes shopping but I somehow always forget that she also taught me not to stare. Sigh ….

To be honest, Walmart has some great bargains & food prices in the Grocery Section that almost ALWAYS beat the competition.

My husband recently had knee replacement surgery. A friend asked how he was doing at the end of his first post-op week & he responded, “I’ve been suffering from Walmart withdrawal.” The feeling is obviously universal. Later we went on an excursion to “pick up a few things” & he got on one of the store-provided Hover-rounds & drifted back into society. I’m convinced that trip & Physical Therapy launched him into full recovery.

So the popularity of Walmart is due to a number of things; good prices, psychological design & layout of the store, variety, variety, variety, a place to be social while meeting friends, CLEARANCE signs that are easily seen, discount prices on cool jeans made from recycled plastic bottles, a chance to be witness to the criminal activity in the immediate area & maybe show up on News at 6, & an opportunity to interact with some really cool Greeters. I can’t believe you have less fun because you aren’t wearing pajamas.

The place would be damn near perfect except for the ear-splitting sounds of that screaming infant that rip into the very fabric of the brain.

Does anyone else hear that screaming baby or … OMG … is it just ME????



5 On the Floor

26 Jun

My stepfather & I didn’t see eye to eye on much. In the 35 years before his death that he was married to my mom I would be hard put to think of 10 things we DID see eye to eye on.  It was a strange & strained relationship but my stepbrother & I were close & that made it all worth whatever he & I endured from his father; my stepfather.

Having signed up to take Driver’s Education in high school, my stepfather offered these words of wisdom, “When you’re buying your own cars you can drive whatever you want. While you’re living here you’re going to learn to drive a straight shift.” It really didn’t matter to me … there was no shining, rebuilt older model car waiting to be gifted to me on my 16th. birthday & no way to purchase one. I just wanted to know HOW to drive.  In case a car DID drop into my life, I wanted to be ready.

My stepfather had a red & white Ford Fairlane that he was particularly fond of & none of us were about to be given the opportunity to learn to drive on that old classic. Instead, the boy next door … several years older, with a job & a car of his own … offered to teach me. According to my stepfather’s decree, his car was a straight transmission.

I learned, I drove, I parallel parked.

I took Driver’s Ed where I also learned, drove, & much to my instructor’s dismay, hit a skunk my first day driving on the highway in that “owned by & donated to the school system” automatic transmission vehicle.

By the end of my junior year I was a licensed driver fully versed in driving both an automatic & straight transmission vehicle, which was just cool even though I owned neither.

Throughout my many years as a driver I have owned 7 cars; 6 bought new & 6 of them have been straight transmissions. It’s what I learned to drive, what I became comfortable with & along the way I’ve felt a lot of pride in being able to drive most anything on the road with the exception of an 18-wheeler & that due to size more than transmission. I remember accepting a date with someone once & as the evening went on, finding out he couldn’t drive a straight shift. As strange as it may seem, that was a deal breaker for me.  I suddenly saw him as a wimp & never went out with him again.

So something my stepfather attempted to share with me, regardless of the manner, sunk in & made me … if not a better person … at least a better driver.

All this flashed through my mind last week when I took my husband to the hospital for knee replacement surgery.

The hospital is a lovely facility & ahead of its time in many ways; a plus for our community. Because there are many parking lots … some close to the building & some long distances from it, Valet Parking is an offered free service. After getting us to the hospital on time I decided to use the Valet Parking service so I could accompany my husband through check-in.

We got out of the car & I gave the valet my keys. Perhaps I should mention here that I LOVE my car. It’s a 1994 Toyota Celica, bought new & just one year away from being an antique. Among its many attributes is the fact that it’s a straight transmission … a 5-speed with the gear shift in the floor. It’s been a wonderful car & a delight to drive.

So I gave my keys to the valet & my husband & I entered the hospital. After checking in we took a seat in the lobby.

Looking up I saw the valet come in, walk towards me holding my car key in the air & she said to me, “Your car won’t start!” My first response to her was, “Did you push in the clutch?” “No,” she said & headed back towards the door & my pretty little, almost antique sports car.

I watched from the window.

She turned the key & the car hummed to life. She gave me a ‘Thumbs Up.’ I gave her a ‘Thumbs Up’ just as she choked the car to a jerking stop.

She tried again as I walked out the door to watch … & to pray. She released the clutch … several times … & hopped the car through the parking lot & out of sight. A man standing on the sidewalk talking on his cell phone shook his head & said to me, “I’m glad that’s not MY car.” Also shaking MY head & wringing my hands a bit, I responded, “I’m sorry it’s mine. I’d hoped to drive it another year …”

My husband’s surgery went well & at the end of the day I went to retrieve my car from the Valet Service. After quite a wait, a valet came & told me it would be just a little while. They were trying to find someone with the service who knew how to drive a 5-speed.

Sigh …

40 minutes later the valet who seamlessly brought me my car (could he possibly have been more than 14-years-old????) commented that it was “A smooth little car that just … purred.”

End of story, really. My car was unharmed & my husband’s knee is in better shape than it has been in years. EVERYONE at the hospital did a spectacular job … even the early morning valet who gets extra points for learning to drive a straight shift, 5 on the floor, in a matter of minutes as the sun was just starting to come up on a Monday morning. I give her bunches of kudos. It took me quite a bit longer than that.

I do offer a suggestion to any facility that offers Valet Parking, however. If the service is going to be made available, valets should ALSO be available who are equipped with the experience to drive cars with ANY type of transmission rather than making it an ‘ON THE JOB’ learning experience. That’s just good business.

Somewhere in the recesses of my mind I grudgingly thank my stepfather for making sure I was equipped with the experience to drive most any vehicle available to me, regardless of his manner or intent.

If we’re offered the opportunity to LEARN, we should pretty much take advantage of it. You never know when that experience will help you out or come in handy in some way. Everything except learning trigonometry, that is. I can’t imagine how trigonometry will EVER come in handy.

But thanks to my stepfather anyway for his advice. Oh … & he taught me to change a tire, too, even though I’ve never been strong enough to loosen those lug nuts so expertly tightened by a machine.



29 May

Most of us have hair … or at least we start off fresh in this world with it … & mostly take it for granted. Maybe we give it a little extra thought when it’s time for a cut or trim or a new style, & as we get older we may think about it again when trying to decide whether or not to add color. Except at those special times I’m guessing we don’t sit around thinking about our hair on an hourly basis.

I guess, though, that I’m one of those people whose hair has been at the forefront of my mind on a number of occasions. Way back when I was a preschooler .. maybe even a toddler … my mom use to dress me up, add a matching bow in my hair, stand me in front of a mirror, clap her hands & ask, “What will they say when they see you?” That made me so rotten that after a while & before she had a chance to say it, I’d look in the mirror, then look at my mom & ask, “What will they say???”

I remember a very bad time in dancing school when my mom took me to a beauty shop & she & I got matching haircuts. Before I could even think to ask, “What will they say?” my dance teacher hit the roof & demanded that my mom tell her what she was thinking when she cut my hair. At the time I was the “star pupil” in a sea of little 5-year-olds who wore their hair long because my dance teacher thought all little ballerinas should have long hair. Until my hair grew & gained a little of the lost length, things were strained in the school of dance. My hair was the cause of the issue.

I’ve always had good hair. In the days when we’re most critical of ourselves I knew I didn’t have the greatest figure or the most beautiful face but I was aware that I had good hair. So in 7th. grade when my girlfriends & I were attempting to put together the “perfect girl,” she always had Becky’s hands, Pat’s eyes, Carolyn’s figure & my hair. It was good to be a part of something.

You may wonder why, if I had such good hair, I chose a profession as an Operating Room RN for 38 years where I kept that good hair covered 8-plus hours a day, 40-plus hours a week. I can only offer that with intellectual maturity came a desire to be part of a helping profession without a minute’s consideration of my hair.

Over the years my “good hair” has taken a direct hit from illness. I’ve lost a considerable amount of it 3 times to fluctuating thyroid hormones, which has been a disease that has caused an on-going battle for more than 30 years. In 2008 I lost most of it & resorted to wearing wigs for almost a year following chemotherapy for breast cancer. But we do what we have to do & just keep moving forward, thankful for the chance to have a longer life.

My generation was on the cusp of being “establishment” (because we were raised that way) & of being hippies, flower children & free spirits because the Age of Aquarius was dawning. While we dodged school hall monitors carrying tape measures threatening to measure the length of our skirts above our knees & attempting to comply, we secretly went home, closed the doors to our rooms & played the music of our time on our record players.

My ‘break-out’ album was HAIR; a vinyl record that came in an exciting cover & played at 33.3 RPMs on my record player.

I was fascinated with the often forbidden lyrics, the movement it screamed of & the off-Broadway play of the same name that drew daily comment & criticism because of the NUDE SCENE at the end of Act II. I was too much of a weanie to actually BE a flower child but listening to that album took me there simply by turning off the lights, turning ON a black light & increasing the volume to arc weld on that little blue portable player. It was my music & MY TIME. I must have played that album until the grooves from one side blended into the grooves on the other. I knew every word of every song; even the controversial ones. And eventually I let my hair grow … long & beautiful, flaxen waxen … my HAIR.

A number of years later I had an opportunity to see the play presented by a traveling troupe in Roanoke. We had far away balcony seats but we were close enough to be aware that at the end of Act II the actors DID INDEED appear, very briefly, totally nude on stage. It happened so quickly that before you realized what was happening, it was over … & sort of anti-climactic … but I’d finally seen HAIR in its fully advertised & uncut glory. It was the experience of a lifetime.

Here on the 50th anniversary of the birth of the tribal rock musical HAIR, our local Renaissance Theater had a 2 week run of the play. Local actors filled the roles of Claude, Berger, Crissy & the Tribe. Because I’m on the email list of the theater I immediately called a couple who are our age & very close friends & asked them if they’d like to see the play. Without hesitation they said yes & I proceeded to purchase 4 front row center seats without regard to cost.

With eager anticipation we looked forward to the night of the play.

We got there early.

The Renaissance Theater is small; several rows of bleacher-type seating to the left & right of the stage & a larger section of similar seating directly in front of the stage-area. It isn’t really a stage but is a large area where the entire play happens with a few minor set changes. A huge peace sign surrounded by flowers was painted on the floor & enhanced by a rotating black light. The atmosphere was electric as we took our seats in the front row.

As the play began one of the actors sat on my husband’s lap & another took off his jeans & handed them to our friend, Beth. Dutifully, & as a reminder of the years between us & HAIR, she folded them & held them on her lap until he came back to retrieve them.

The opening song was Aquarius.  My arms danced with chills & my mind flung me back to that place where memory suddenly takes us sometimes where we hear echoes of the people we use to be & songs that were a part of making us who we are today. I felt a huge lump in my throat that threatened to produce tears all throughout the play. I was catapulted back through time. It was surreal & wonderful & an experience I was glad I hadn’t missed … made so much better on front row, center seats.

The cast was amazing, talented & superb. It was impossible to make myself understand that probably NONE of them were even born when HAIR was an off-Broadway production causing such a stir.

You could look around the theater & KNOW instantly which members of that ‘sold out’ crowd knew exactly what HAIR was all about & which ones had season tickets, came to the play because they had those tickets & didn’t have a clue what HAIR was. There was a bald man (which may be significant) in the first row of the left section who looked thoroughly disgusted the entire duration of the play, 2 older women in the right section with gray hair wearing flowing skirts, shawls, sandals & a few strings of beads each who were exactly where they wanted to be, & an elderly woman to my right who sang along with all the songs. Mostly it was a crowd of like-minded people who somewhere in their past shared many of the same things, including dreams, the love of music & flowers in their hair.

After it was all over I wanted very much to go back another night & see it again but someone told me, “It wouldn’t be the same. We really can’t go home again.”

We didn’t go back but I disagree. For 2 hours on an April evening I was transported back to my youth in the presence of music I love, to a part of my life that was memorable. That never changes & as long as hearing a special song or having a flash of a special memory is possible, you CAN go home again.

HAIR remains a significant part of my life.

In the lobby as we were leaving the theater my husband looked at me in awe & said, “I heard you singing. You knew EVERY word of EVERY song!” I smiled & said softly, “Of course I did …”

Did this version of HAIR have a nude scene at the end of Act II? No it didn’t & I realized it actually added nothing to the play originally & was simply the hook that got people into the theater in those first tentative performance months in the late 1960s. Nudity on stage had not been done before & was what fed the public curiosity. And you know what? In the midst of the music & the nostalgia, I didn’t miss it at all.



When the Tornado Hits Home …

17 Apr

I just watched a tearful interview with the Emergency Services Coordinator of Amherst County. There were accompanying aerial photos from an area just 2 miles from our home; sharply bringing to viewers a drone’s eye view of familiar homes & landscapes now totally unrecognizable.

I wept. I wept with the Coordinator as he asked people to stay out of the area; as he told of organizations, fire departments & state facilitators who had come to the area within the past 17 hours to assist, assess & coordinate the recovery effort. This took place in the aftermath of a small tornado that touched down here & 16 miles away in Lynchburg last evening.

As far as I know, the tornado didn’t have a name but it was thought to be an EF1 category at the high end of the range. It didn’t need a name. It will be remembered without one.

Here in central Virginia … in the foothills of the majesty of mountains … we have long thought we were protected from the ravages of tornadoes by those same mountains. We’ve endured fairly violent summer storms & the occasional tail end of a hurricane. We’ve even been exposed to downed trees & hail the size of golf balls but seldom have we had tornadoes … until recently. We didn’t realize what beautiful things normal storms were until they were replaced by something more sinister & devastating.

Somewhere & for some reason the climate has changed. It has hiccupped & belched forth a not so subtle change that has resulted in the violence of storms, the frequency of powerful snow storms & spawned tornadoes. In the past several years our area has suffered the aftermath of derechos – a word I’d never heard until 2013 after we had one – & now the more frequent emergence of tornadoes.  We are suddenly targets, although not the targets that those living in Kansas are, but targets nonetheless. It is a change we mostly could have done without & that has surprised us.

This morning I sent out an email to our club members suggesting we donate to tornado disaster relief in our area … because it isn’t just our area … it is HOME … it is US … it is OUR community. Even though “our” storm was small in comparison to others of greater magnitude & though the damage is minimal in comparison to many storms, this tornado was different. Even with the damage, this tornado has brought us closer together & defines us now as a “community family” sharing a disaster.

And so I’ve cried. I cried last night when the list of local schools & businesses crawled across the bottom of the TV screen alerting the public to closings & delays more familiar during winter snow storms than warm April evenings. It was surreal. I cried when I saw the damage on the local news & I’ve wept with the county Emergency Services Coordinator when he struggled to hold back his tears while giving an interview about the damage & how the caring public might help.

I feel helpless & sad & personally invaded & attacked because this is my home. Yet our physical home was not damaged at all & I am grateful & thankful & feeling blessed. That gratefulness is shrouded in some sort of unfamiliar guilt because my heart is so sad for those of my “neighbors” who have lost everything.

My overwhelmed emotions surprised me by popping up at almost any time today & making me cry. This tornado was personal &, although we in the area & especially those who have lost so much will bounce back, rebuild & life will go on as before, it will never be quite the same. We will always remember this storm; the sadness associated with it whether we had property damage or not & the respect we feel for the resilience we all possess but seldom become aware of until we have to be.

It’s so different when the tornado hits home.


Out of the Mouths of Babes …

23 Mar

Disclaimer: Please, before reading this, understand that the opinions shared in this blog entry are mine alone. They are NOT an invitation for debate or argument. They are not about politics or guns or amendments. They are my views & this is my forum for stating & sharing them. If you do not agree, please be polite enough not to reply with a rant. This entry is NOT a rant & does not call for a rant in rebuttal. If you are offended by my opinions, please DO write a blog entry of your own. That way everyone has a voice & none of us is attacked. It’s the civilized thing to do & allows friendships to stay intact & feelings to go unwounded. Thank you ahead of time …

Even before I’ve been able to gather my thoughts & find time to comment on the school shooting in Parkland, FL on Valentine’s Day, yet another one has happened. Granted, the most recent in Maryland resulted in the loss of only one young life but it still happened … an exclamation point following Parkland. And isn’t even ONE violently lost life enough to say, “Enough???”

School shootings, night club massacres, attacks on open air events, vehicles plowing into innocent people, numbers of first & second grade “post-toddlers” wiped out with rapid fire assault weapons ………. there have been so many, so often that it’s simply difficult to keep up with which one happened last & to whom. I should be ashamed that I cannot remember but I am constantly overwhelmed … again & again … with the enormity & hideousness of it all & it all begins to blur.

What has happened in our country???

After each of the many horrific attack episodes we’ve endured, there has been talk & more talk … discussion & more discussion … about how to FIX what is wrong. Causes are discussed. Solutions are offered & debated & as the nightly news moves on to another disaster or, God forbid, another senseless attack, the discussion fades into the background once again & no solutions are found; everyone just stops looking & the world moves on … until the next time.

The Valentine’s Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School resulted in the loss of 17 lives; students & teachers. Reporters from all the major media channels were on the scene immediately & brought us scenes that were unbelievable, yet too familiar because we’d seen it all before. Our hearts wept for those lost; for the parents & friends & loved ones & neighbors & neighboring schools. We felt the anguish.

What made the Valentine’s Day event so much more memorable were the survivor students that were interviewed on the scene. They were interviewed by media personnel attempting to make some sense of the event by talking to students & teachers who had been there … & survived.  And more & more of those survivor students who had hidden under desks, hidden in closets, seen their friends, classmates & teachers gunned down & had personally stared down the barrel of the killing machine, responded to the interviewer by saying, “This cannot happen again.” It was said with such determination & emotion. At that moment I believe something changed.

I sent an email to a friend & said, “If anything can be done TO stop the madness, these bright young people, forced to grow up without immunity to the events of this awful day, will be the ones to make the necessary changes happen.”

And those young people, forced to grow up on a warm February morning when their high school turned into a living hell, have not disappointed any of us who genuinely care.

They have spoken out, gathered, planned, confronted, debated, appeared on talk shows & magazine covers & marched to let the powers that be KNOW beyond doubt that “This cannot happen again.”  They have been joined by people of all ages, all political leanings & all races to accomplish their goal because theirs in NOT a racial or political issue. It is a HUMAN issue.

This simply cannot happen again.

Because of the dedication of these traumatized students … students who have turned their trauma into a movement … the world (not just this country) has taken up the cry & the cause because NOT joining the cause is simply not acceptable.

Issues that have been looked at slowly for decades are now taking their place among the most current issues of the day because the students of Stoneman Douglas High School are attempting to see to it that they are no longer ignored. And finally, although it may only be a start, solutions are being discussed & actually put into place. Eventually … perhaps not today, but eventually … students in the schools in our country may no longer be afraid to go to school.

This blog entry isn’t about gun control, mental health or any of the Constitutional Amendments, although those things certainly are at the forefront for discussion. Instead, it is about a group of traumatized students, aged out far before their time, witnesses to horrors none should have witnessed, who have turned their personal tragedy into a force to be reckoned with … into the force that, I believe, will finally make significant changes in the violence in our country today.

I applaud & support them … their determination & tenacity … their understanding at the most base level of understanding that things MUST change. And I applaud all who support them … students, parents, families, celebrities & politicians … & their efforts as they take on huge issues & attempt to defend humanity, one student at a time.

Out of the mouths of babes their mantra & challenge comes to us – “This cannot happen again.”


I Never Really Liked Camping So Much ….

7 Mar

A long time ago in a campsite not too far, far away …

… I was a Girl Scout. My greatest desire at 12-years-old was to spend a week at Girl Scout Camp. The brochure pictured girls singing around a campfire, a beautiful old lodge & glimpses of the James River through trees & foliage on the banks that surrounded Camp Sacajawea. My mom made the arrangements & sent off the fee & on a Sunday afternoon in early June she & my stepdad deposited me, my suitcase, my pillow & my blanket at that exciting destination.

There were 2 camping experiences at Camp Sacajawea that week; one for young girls who were Brownies & my camp for girls 12 & over who were Girl Scouts. The Brownies were housed in the Lodge where they were assigned bunk beds in cozy rooms, had breakfast & other meals prepared for them in the kitchen, & were warmed on cold, early June nights by a roaring fire in the Lodge fireplace. It looked like a little slice of Scout Heaven.

The older girls, 12 years & up, had an entirely different camping experience laid out for them (us). Our accommodations were  a brisk little hike into the woods & consisted of tents that had wooden floors; each housing 4 young campers (key word being “campers”). The bathroom facilities were alarming. It was a small building unlit by electricity & was what one camper described as “a four-holer.” It was a fairly long clip away from the tents; seeming even longer in the dead of night when making that dreaded trip into the wilderness alone. It was soon apparent why the brochure stressed bringing “your Girl Scout flashlight & Girl Scout, multi-function knife.”  After realizing the necessity for the flashlight for making the trip & assuring oneself that nothing unexpected was lurking in the bottom of one of those four holes, I was in immediate dread of what could be the need for that multi-function Girl Scout knife.

I’m stressing here for absolute clarity that I’d never slept in the woods & that week was my first experience EVER with a “four-holer.”

While the Brownies were acclimating to getting up in a warm room & going to a prepared breakfast in the Lodge, bright & WAY TOO EARLY the next morning & for the following 5, breakfast for the older Girl Scouts consisted of something called, “Jungle.”

We dressed warmly because early mornings in June by the river could be very raw & we trudged out into those woods that smelled of dirt & vegetation, & scrounged for our breakfast. The counselors had hidden small individual boxes of cereal, half pints of milk, Honey Buns, fruit & even a watermelon in the actual woods underneath plants & weeds & behind tall trees. You ate what you were able to find &, thankfully, if you found nothing a counselor would assist you in locating a soggy box of cereal & a half pint of milk in a tiny carton. I received a Girl Scout SURVIVAL Badge for managing to avoid starvation for 6 days in that retreat by the rushing water of the James searching the woods for a banana.

I also received a Tree Badge for identification of trees & plants (mostly the ones I ran into while searching for “Jungle” & the “four-holer.”); small portions of which I retrieved with my Girl Scout multi-function knife.  I placed them into a scrap book titled Collection for Tree Badge.

Dinner was always a feast of hot dogs & stuff we could cook at a campfire.  I learned to cook hot dogs on a stick & to really appreciate the wonderful woodsy taste of  S’Mores & tried NOT think about what those Brownies must be eating back at the Lodge.

That first … & mostly last camping experience wasn’t totally unpleasant. I met some really cool girls & made several special friends with whom I traveled through the woods in the dark of night to that “four-holer.” At the very least, it was an experience, the friendships were important, I learned what a “four-holer” was & also filed away some important stuff in that compartment in my head that is subconsciously labeled Important for Future Reference.  The main item in that compartment that is alive & functional today is that if I had a choice of diving head first & naked into a pool of ice water or camping for 5 days, I would choose the “polar plunge” nine times out of nine.

Jump forward in time to this past weekend …

… when the entire east coast was slammed by a storm that presented with winds of monumental proportions. In our section of Virginia, protected as we are by mountains, we still felt the impact of those awful winds, the damage they left in their wake & the days & days many of us spent without power.

My husband works for the power company but was off on Friday when the winds hit in the early hours of the morning, zapped our power & that of thousands across our state. He was called to work later in the day but didn’t have to go, thankfully, & said how fortunate he was to have dodged that bullet, even temporarily. Saturday, however, he was called in early in the morning & worked a 14 hour day attempting to restore power for those affected in our immediate area & those surrounding us.

I would be remiss if I didn’t stop long enough to thank Willy & his power company co-workers who give so much of their time to getting power back for those without it during these terrible, crippling storms. They work long hours, sleep only a few & go back to work. At the end … & mostly all during a power outage of any significant length of time, they are exhausted. They are HEROES who seldom receive recognition for the tireless & wonderful job they do … so I’m recognizing them here. They ROCK & we owe them as much gratitude as we are able to heap upon them.

So since Willy was off, I decided to make the best of our situation & maybe make it into an adventure of some sort & called us “Camping Out.”. (Certainly it would be better than my week-long experience at Camp Sacajawea). We dug out 3 Coleman Camp Lanterns for light, Willy hooked the fridge & freezer up to the generator & I cooked pancakes & eggs on the wood stove in the family room. It was kind of fun & REAL fun compared  to those ‘50 years ago memories’ of “Jungle by the James.”

 While Willy & I were attempting to make the best of our powerless situation, our cat was confused but stuck right with us when we moved into the family room with the warmth of the wood stove. While we called it “camping out,” which conjured up memories of dark woods, wet leaves, the smell of damp earth & my fear of that “four holer,” I attempted to keep it firmly lodged in the context of  “today.” Mainly, this camping experience 50 years later was far easier because all I had to do when I got “nature’s call” was pick up a Coleman lantern & walk through the laundry room into our “one-holer.”  It was a much more pleasant experience than the previous one.

On Sunday … Day 3 – No Power … Willy followed the power line outside our subdivision, found 3 smaller trees over on a string of power lines & took pictures. Returning home, he called his boss & another person from the power company & sent them his “trees-on-power-lines” photos.  Within several hours the power in our subdivision was restored.

After 3 full days without power, with only a “bird bath” with cold water & not being able to wash my hair, I was getting Cabin Fever to the extreme. By Sunday, cooking on the wood stove & camping out were no longer the adventure they originally were, had gotten VERY old & we went out to dinner.

What I learned from those 3 days in the dark is that we did have fun “camping out” at first until Willy got called to work. Until then we kind of enjoyed it & the cat seemed to enjoy spending time by the wood stove & with us non-stop in the family room. I learned that I CAN keep us alive by cooking on the wood stove & I’m not too bad at it … but then, a while ago I survived 6 days of “Jungle” & received a BADGE for it.  My Girl Scout training stayed with me & brought us through … kinda.  I have deep respect for the power company personnel who finally got us out of the dark after 3 long days.

We all learned that Willy is not only MY hero but is the Hero of the Subdivision.

My experience  back at Camp Sacajawea all that time ago apparently stayed with me & some of it sustained us during an emergency. And Willy is fun to spend time with in the middle of a crisis. He took good care of me & the cat.

The MAIN things that hit me like a ton of multi-function Girl Scout knives is that I STILL don’t like camping & probably NEVER will. Mainly I remembered that I do NOT like a “four-holer” … never did … never will & was grateful for my Coleman Camp Lantern & our “one-holer” down the hall.






The Squirrel in the Toilet

11 Feb

Next week on Valentine’s Day my husband, Willy & I will have been married for 21 years. In 2017 we’d known each other for 30. I can’t imagine where those years have gone. I can remember almost every day individually but putting them all together in a string to add up to 30 years seems impossible. The one thing I’m very certain of is that it has been quite a ride!

It’s really hard to sum up a relationship & a marriage. We’ve had our moments but compared to other people, it seems we’ve had fewer than most. Perhaps that’s because we were friends before we were anything else to each other & that friendship remains today. It’s the one piece of groundwork I’d recommend establishing before marriage; you really HAVE to like each other if it’s going to endure.

Willy is unique in the universe. He is calm & logical & is my “balance” when I don’t seem to be either of those things. He’s helpful, resourceful, creative & he loves cats. All that somehow makes us a good match, especially the cat thing.

Way back a long time ago I knew I could never marry a man that didn’t have a sense of humor. It was probably the major prerequisite right up there running neck & neck with love & friendship.

Whether we’re married or not married – however we’re attempting to struggle through this life & especially getting around the bumps in the road, doing it with a sense of humor greases the road a bit & makes the slide through life a little easier.

One of Willy’s best attributes is that he has a talent for greasing the road.

He was able to show me the humor in being “on call” in the OR on our very first wedding anniversary. He helped me laugh while we both cleaned up the terrible mess in my new oven caused by a cake that exploded during baking & we’ve just laughed together over the years at stuff one of us has said because it felt good to be silly together.

Willy’s sense of humor has gotten us through some major difficulties. He was my strength & my teammate when I was going through chemotherapy for breast cancer. I can’t remember exactly what he said that was so funny but I remember how much it helped when I leaned over to get French fries out of a very hot oven & melted my synthetic wig while it was on my head. There were so many moments that I am grateful to him for during that difficult time but perhaps the most memorable was when I began losing my hair after my first chemo treatment.  I tearfully asked him to cut it for me to a manageable length for someone going bald. With scissors in hand on that very difficult occasion he told me he thought he’d found a second career as a stylist, he went through some silly gestures & we both laughed … & then we both cried. It’s that part of his humor that I will be forever grateful for.

Willy really isn’t a practical joker. He’s something close to that but I simply can’t come up with the proper description.  The best way to describe it is that he enjoys “visual” & “auditory” humor.

We went through several years when Willy stumbled across some high-squealing, motion activated small toys that he kept putting in our kitchen cabinets. When I opened a cabinet door, whichever toy was in there would scream / squall / wail & scare me silly. Willy thought it added “interest” to the “cooking experience.” I finally reminded him of my high blood pressure & the possibility of him causing me to have an actual stroke & the “cooking experience” became routine again. While I never got use to expecting those screaming toys to be in my cabinets, once he removed them it took months NOT to expect them when I opened a cabinet door.

There have been other things but I don’t really have a lot of time or space for all of them & I really want to talk about what happened this morning before church.

We have a powder room on the main level of our home & I stopped there before we left. There in the toilet was a squirrel getting ready to climb out of the water & literally scared the, well …. bejesus out of me. On second glance I realized it wasn’t a REAL squirrel but a “squirrel facsimile” attached to the lid of the toilet.  Willy was close behind waiting for my reaction. He’d ordered the vinyl, decorative “Squirrel Toilet Lid Cover” from some goofy magazine, put it on the commode lid in the early hours of Sunday morning & waited patiently for me to see it.

I can’t imagine what reaction our cat would have had if she’d seen that toilet squirrel before I did …

In the end (almost literally), it was funny as hell. Willy took a bunch of pictures of the “me finding the squirrel in the toilet” event. Because it really WAS funny,  I’ve just left it on the toilet all day. We’ll probably leave it there for a while. We have a few friends who will enjoy Willy’s humor after they recover from the fright of thinking their nether regions are about to be attacked by a rabid, toilet-swimming squirrel.

As we get ready to celebrate our 21st. year of marriage I can’t help wonder what the next 21 years will hold & how many other furry creatures I will find crawling out of one of our toilets. If nothing else, life is never dull here.

I’m still forever grateful for a husband with a sense of humor; for his love & for his friendship. I’m only hoping he hasn’t subscribed to catalog completely devoted to toilet ornaments.