Friday, December 21, 2012

A Classless Classic

Thought for the day: Classic, you say? Oh, yeah, baby. Play it again, Sam!

 Instead of trying to come up with something new today, I'm gonna give myself an early Christmas gift, and do a re-run of a post some of you called classic when I ran it last year. Good enough for me. Sounds like a reasonable enough excuse to turn it into a tradition, dontcha think?  So, here it is, a classic tale, although not exactly in the same category as Dickens, about (ahem)  inflated dreams... 



Thought for the day: We don't stop laughing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop laughing.

No telling how many years this wreath has graced our front door.
We never made a huge production out of outdoor decorations, but every year, our kids made the same grand proclamation after we cruised our decorated-out-the-wazoo neighborhood on the way home from the candlelight service on Christmas Eve.

"The best one of all!" they'd lie as we pulled into our driveway.

Okay, so maybe they weren't really lying through their braces. Maybe anticipation of the hidden presents awaiting inside added a certain luster to their perception of our decorations.

Anyhow, I'd say decorating styles can pretty much be divvied into three categories: traditional, enlightening, and inflated. Us? We're traditionalThat means, except for an occasional new acquisition, I've pretty much used the same decorations every year. For a LOT of years. Like the ornaments that hung on my parents' tree when they were first married, some of which are now paper thin, and considerably faded with age. And a slew of decades-old goodies fashioned by our children with copious quantities of felt, glue and glitter, construction paper, walnut shells, clothespins, eyeglass lenses, and even a Mason jar lid. A black spider in a golden web and a huge decorated crab shell, both made my by sister-in-law. Boxes of tinsel painstakingly applied, strand by strand, and then painstakingly removed to store in a box for yet another year. Like I said, traditional. Well, to be more accurate, I suppose we've become more traditional cum lazy, because each year, I use less and less decorations, and some of them don't even make it down out of our attic anymore. For sure, our formerly traditional tree is considerably NOT traditional these days. (I'll give you a peek at it next week.)

These singers once belonged to my grandmother.

Everybody knows the enlightening type of decorator. They're the ones with so many lights blazing in their front yards, they risk causing a blackout across three states every time they turn 'em on. Very flashy. Sometimes, they even incorporate animation and music, too, and carloads of people stop by every night to ooh and aah over their winter wonderland. It isn't at all unusual for a competition of sorts to begin when multiple enlighteners live in close proximity. (Those neighborhoods can be seen from the space station.)

And then, there's the inflatedThis is a fairly recent category. I sure don't remember seeing this sort of display when I was a kid. Nowadays, you can purchase just about any character you can think of ... inflate it ... and stick it on your front lawn. And if you can't find a particular character, for the right price, you can probably have someone make one for you. Then, all those characters can weave and bob all over your yard.

Now then, to the point of today's post. Time for a tale about a Christmas inflatable of an entirely different ilk. This story originated in 1999, and was alleged to be the winning entry to a Louisville Sentinel contest about the wildest Christmas dinner. Turns out, no such newspaper ever existed, and the writer remains unknown, but the story lives on, thanks to the good ol' Internet. (WARNING: Better put your drink down before you read it.) Now here, after a bit of minor editing on my part, is that story:

As a joke, my brother Jay used to hang a pair of pantyhose over his fireplace every Christmas Eve. He said the only thing he wanted was for Santa to fill them, but what they say about Santa checking his list twice must be true, because every Christmas morning,  the other stockings would all be bulging with treats, but Jay's poor pitiful pantyhose were still dangling empty.

So one year, I decided to make his dream come true. I put on sunglasses, a fake nose, and a ski cap, and went in search of an inflatable love doll.

Know what? They don't sell those things at Wal-Mart. I had to go to an adult bookstore. By the way, if you've never been in an X-rated store before, two words: don't go. You'll only confuse yourself. I was there for an hour saying things like, "What does this do?" "You're kidding me!" and  "Who would buy that?" 

So anyway, I finally made it to the inflatable doll section. I wanted to buy a standard, uncomplicated doll that could also substitute as a passenger in my truck so I could use the car pool lane, but finding what I wanted was difficult. Love dolls come in many different models. The top of the line, according to the side of the box, could do things I'd only seen in a book on animal husbandry, but I settled for the bottom of the price scale: Lovable Louise. To call her a doll took a huge leap of imagination.

On Christmas Eve, with the help of an old bicycle pump, Louise came to life. My sister-in-law was in on the plan, and let me in during the wee morning hours. Long after Santa had come and gone, I filled Jay's pantyhose with Louise's pliant legs and bottom. I also ate some cookies and drank what remained of a glass of milk on a nearby tray. Then I went home, and giggled for a couple of hours.

The next morning my brother called to say that Santa had been to his house and left a present that had made him VERY happy but had left the dog confused. She would bark, start to walk away, then come back and bark some more. We agreed that Louise should remain in her pantyhose so the rest of the family could admire her when they came over for the traditional Christmas dinner.

My grandmother noticed Louise the moment she walked in the door. "What the hell is that?" she asked.

My brother quickly explained, "It's a doll."

"Who would play with something like that?" she snapped.

 I had several candidates in mind, but kept my mouth shut.

"Where are her clothes?" she continued.

"Boy, that turkey sure smells nice, Gran," Jay said, trying to steer her into the dining room.

 But Granny was relentless. "Why doesn't she have any teeth?"

Again, I could have answered, but why risk it? It was Christmas, and nobody wanted to spend it in the back of an ambulance saying, "Hang on, Granny, hang on!"

My grandfather, a delightful old man with poor eyesight, sidled up to me, waggled his eyebrows, and said, "Hey, who's the naked gal by the fireplace?"

I told him she was Jay's friend, and a few minutes later, noticed Grandpa standing by the mantel, talking to Louise. And not just talking. He was actually flirting. It was then we realized this might be Grandpa's last Christmas at home.

The dinner went well. We made the usual small talk about who had died, who was dying, and who should be killed, when suddenly Louise made a noise that sounded a lot like my father in the bathroom in the morning. Then she lurched from the pantyhose, flew around the room twice, and fell in a heap in front of the sofa. The cat screamed. I passed cranberry sauce through my nose, and Grandpa ran across the room, fell to his knees, and began administering mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. My brother fell back over his chair and wet his pants, and Granny threw down her napkin, and stomped outside to sit in the car.

It was indeed a Christmas to treasure and remember. Later in my brother's garage, we conducted a thorough examination to decide the cause of Louise's collapse. We discovered that Louise had suffered from a hot ember to the back of her right thigh. Fortunately, thanks to a wonder drug called duct tape, we restored her to perfect health.

After that, Louise went on to star in several bachelor party movies, and I'm pretty sure Grandpa still calls her whenever he can get out of the house.


This is gonna be my last post this year. Time to declare family time. But before I go, let me share a picture of our non-traditional Christmas tree I mentioned above.

Not too bad, right?

It's made of cardboard, cut in the shape of a tree,  painted green, and decorated with bubble lights and twinkle lights. Easy up, easy down, and we don't have to worry about our cats climbing it, or breaking our antique tree decorations, and I don't have to follow them around to pull tinsel out of their butts. PLUS, they can still look out the front window. Win-win all the way around.

         Merry Christmas.  May all your dreams... no matter how inflated...  come true.

                                Until next year, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Fishy Wish

Thought for the day:  My friend told me to blow all the candles out in one breath. What kind of a blowhard does he think I AM, anyway?

I forgot to warn my neighbors, so it's only natural they called 9-1-1 last week when they saw that fiery glow blazing inside our house. Actually, it was rather sweet of them, y'know? Caring. I mean, how were THEY supposed to know it was just my birthday cake?

Oh well, no real harm done. We ended up with a new front door, (The fireman's ax really shredded the old one.) and the carpets aren't nearly as soggy as they were a few days ago. And they needed to be cleaned, anyway.

Yep, last Thursday was my birthday. (yippee)  I'm past the age of getting excited about birthdays, although I've really been enjoying the cakes. (Got TWO of 'em. Hmmm, you think Smarticus had doubts about fitting all those candles onto one...?) By the way, I hope ya know I was just kidding about the firemen coming to the house. After coming the past two years, they knew better...

Anyhow, what I WAS excited about was the article I'd seen in the newspaper a couple months back saying that the Georgia Aquarium gives FREE entrance and dolphin show tickets to people on their birthdays. I mean, woo-HOO, right? You already know what I think about senior discounts so you can just imagine how I feel about FREEBIES. Especially if it involves something as neat as the Aquarium. Our first visit to the Aquarium was in May of 2011, so I was more than ready to go again. Before going, we checked online to see if there was anything we needed to know, like what we could and couldn't bring. No guns, knives, or lighters. Makes perfect sense. But my personal favorite? No fishing rods! That still cracks me up.

Okay, wanta see some pictures?

This is one of the touch tanks, showing a couple of horseshoe crabs, and a bonnethead shark. Last time we went, I touched every critter in every touch tank. This time, I restrained myself. More (ahem) mature, I guess. Nah. I was wearing long sleeves this time.

Isn't this guy too cute? Kinda looks like he needs to pay a visit to the orthodontist. Or not. Obviously, he isn't too self-conscious about his teeth. He smiled for me.

This guy has a lot of personality, too, doesn't he? Looks a tad frantic, like he's late, he's late for a very important date.

Now I ask you... does the fish in front... or does he not... look like Donald Trump? (I had no idea a fish could have a bad toupee, did you?)

This is a garden... of eels. In the wild, some areas are supposedly so densely populated with them, the seabed looks like a wheat field. Um, with stripes.

The seahorses were fascinating to watch...

but not quite as fascinating as the sea dragons. (Sorry about the flash reflection.) These critters are absolutely amazing. And reeeeally fun to watch.

The electric eel is pretty neat, but I've gotta admit, the National Aquarium's display in Baltimore is much better. They have a meter and speaker on their electric eel's tank, so you can actually see the measurements of... and hear... the discharges of electricity.

How about this octopus? Colorful character, isn't he?

In the deep sea portion of the aquarium, you walk through a tunnel, with all kinds of creatures on either side of the path... and above it. I believe this picture shows the underbellies of a couple of guitarfish. Maybe their names are Fender and Gibson? (That's what I'd call 'em, anyway.)

Here's some of the belugas. Really playful critters. So were the otters, both river and sea. But the most amazing animals were the dolphins performing in the Dolphin Tales show.   WOW! The divers working with them have some job! Can you imagine riding on a dolphin's back... or being pushed through the water at high speed by one... or "surfing" on one's back? One guy even stood on two of them... and rode 'em like a pair of skis.

Oh yeah, a group of Weeki Wachee mermaids put on a show right before the Dolphin Tales, too. That was okay, but a little bit of that went a long way for me. What I would have liked more of, though, is the animated 3-D movie... complete with special effects. The movie only lasted about fifteen minutes or so, but I was grinning like an idiot the entire time. I LOVED it! (The first time I felt a little splat of water, I thought it was my overactive imagination...)

Four whale sharks are cruising around in the deep sea exhibit. In spite of their massive size, their tracheas are only about the diameter of a dime, so they don't pose much danger to the other fish in the tank. At feeding time, divers get into the tank in four rafts, and each raft has a different color feeding bucket... a specific color assigned to each shark. The whale sharks have been trained such that each seeks food only from the properly colored bucket. So no feeding frenzy. Quite civilized.

Bottom line? We enjoyed our visit to the Aquarium just as much this time as we did before. Even more.

And look what I found! Sorry y'all couldn't be with us last week, but how'd you like to take a virtual tour? I found quite a few videos on YouTube, but this one was my favorite. There's even a great shot of a sea dragon in it. Check it out:

Pretty neat, huh? And lucky YOU, I even found some videos taken of the Dolphin Tales show. Not sure how those folks got away with it, because no one was supposed to take any pictures or videos in there. But like I said, lucky YOU...

(sigh) It was a wonderful way to spend a birthday... to spend ANY day. I can hardly wait to go back.

                                        Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

          You know you're getting old when the candles cost more than the cake.

Monday, December 17, 2012

But Can He Catch a Frisbee?

Thought for the day:  No matter how little money and how few possessions you own, having a dog makes you rich.  [Louis Sabin]

We may not have had the smartest dogs in the world, or the prettiest, but we always managed to share our home with the sweetest and most loving. And yes, being welcomed home by an excited dog can make you feel rich. And important.

Nothing against our cats... we love 'em to pieces... but they aren't exactly over-the-top "Welcome home; I've missed you soooo much!" kinda critters like dogs are. Their attitudes are more like, (yawn) "What? You were gone...?"

It isn't that our dogs didn't know ANY tricks. Not at all. They did. Our Springer spaniel could catch Frisbees. Really well, too. Most of our dogs were pretty good about conducting their, um,  business outside, too. (Most of the time.) And my grandmother had a beautiful boxer whose awe-inspiring farts spurred people to set personal best speed records in their mad dashes to the exit.
I yam what I yam

But our dogs were always gentle. Wouldn't hurt a fly. Or a burglar. Or a butterfly.

Last year, I wrote a post about military working dogs. It is positively amazing what these dogs can do. Like jump out of airplanes. (More than one time, too!)

Today, I'm gonna show you what another kind of service dog can do. You won't believe it until you see it with your own eyes:

That settles it! Clearly, we've been giving our dogs the wrong name. We have to get a Jesse. How about you? Think you could use a dog like him? Or do you already have a dog that astounds? Does he only chew up the shoes that hurt your feet? Does he only bark at people from the other political party? Do tell.

                                    Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

CREDIT Senior ArkI Can Has Cheezburger, and Manuel J. Martinez, USAF, for the nifty images.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Deja Vu All Over Again

Thought for the day: Some things are too much fun to only do once.

Pick a single post from 2012 to rerun, huh? Not as easy peasy as I thought it would be. I mean, we've only got one shot at making a first impression, and the question is, what kind of impression do I want to make? Should I go with something educational? Inspirational? Silly? Something about writing? About amateur radio? Long? Short?  (Dare I risk offense by blasting y'all with the Blowing in the Wind one about flatulence...?) 

Okay, here we go. Decision made. The following post premiered on January 18 with the title Enjoying the Trip Back Down. To all you wonderful people who stop by on a regular basis, I hope you don't mind reading it again. To any blogfest blog-hoppers stopping by for the first time, welcome aboard. I hope you enjoy it.


Thought for the day:  A good attitude is contagious, but for Heaven's sake, don't wait to catch it from somebody. Be a carrier.  

still smiling after all these years
Tell me please, dear friends, how can I possibly be over the hill when I don't remember ever making it to the top?

But I own a doll proclaiming it, so it must be true, right? Worse, I've already had that darned doll for decades. Got it from one of my friends when I turned forty. To tell the truth, I didn't feel old then, and I don't feel particularly old now. So what if I'm at an age where the pain under a woman's breast may very well turn out to be a bum knee? Who cares if men my age have long since abandoned wild oats in favor of prunes and high fiber cereal, and consider Happy Hour to be a nice long nap?

Tell ya what. If I really AM over the hill, I plan on enjoying the trip back down. Squeeze as much good stuff out of it as I can. After all, like that famous dude said, I may not pass this way again.

 But you know, there's a lot of good things to say about getting older. Like we generally have the confidence to stand for more convictions, and the moxie to fall for less malarkey. We may still be competitive, but we also realize that being kind is much more important than being right. We've learned it isn't very smart to test the depth of the water with both feet, and we understand that the true art of conversation isn't just about saying the right thing at the right time. Sometimes, it means keeping our mouths shut when it's oh-so-tempting to deliver a verbal shot.

And hey, hey, hey! Looky here! Our Social Security checks are a little higher this year. 

Even though politicians are pontificating about cutting spending, about making changes to social security and medicare, we the people actually got a raise in Social Security benefits this year. See? Congress really DOES love us!  Forget all that nonsense about "death panels." There's absolutely NO TRUTH in the following clip, either. None at all.

Now, I'm not ready to take up sky diving or run off a cliff, but hey! I'm as adventurous as I've always been, doggone it. I believe I'll have me a bowl of full-fat strawberry ice cream for dessert tonight. Heck, I might even eat it FIRST. (What a rebel.)

                           Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it.   Mark Twain


Sincere thanks to D.L. Hammons for hosting this blogfest.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Ride Through the Countryside

Thought for the day:  I stayed up all night to see where the sun went. Then it dawned on me.

Need a short break from the hustle and bustle of Christmas preparations? Seems to me it's time to take another little road trip, dontcha think? Chopsticks won't be joining us, because we're not going to be looking at translated Oriental signs this time. Nope, gonna go cruising for more of those funny billboards you only wish someone would erect. Remember them? Been a while, huh? As always, sincere thanks to the fine folks at  Dribble Glass for so graciously granting me permission to share their stuff.

So, ya ready? Here we go...

                                There ya go. I hope you got a big KICK out of some of these.

                                     Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Monday, December 10, 2012

This 'n' That

Thought for the day:  If you have a drawer filled with odds and ends, and get rid of all but one thing... which is it?
Yep, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. There's even more red splashed around our house than usual, and even though it's so warm I wore shorts and a tee shirt to go shopping the other day, Dash still felt the need to curl up inside a flannel shirt she found lying on the bed. (Her head is peeking out the sleeve!) (And, um, yes, that IS a lava lamp in the background.)

Okay, this is gonna be an eclectic post today. A little bit of this, a little bit of that. Like what do YOU want for Christmas? I have a pretty good idea  what my hubby would like...

                                                      (I'll have to see what I can do...)

How's about this for an early Christmas present? How's about a break from wracking your brain to come up with an idea for a post this Friday? D.L. Hammons is hosting a blogfest where all you have to do is pick out your favorite post from 2012, and run it again. Um, one YOU wrote, that is. You know, maybe one that didn't get the love you think it deserved? Whatever floats your boat. If you'd like to participate, just hit that Deja Vu button in the side bar, and sign on up. Should be fun!

Kittie Howard's new book launched last Thursday, and I think this is one you might want to order right away. Really! Not only is it a really good book, but this month's sales proceeds are being funneled to the Wounded Warrior project. So, while you're giving yourself the gift of this book, your money will also be supporting a very worthy cause.

What's it about? I'm glad you asked. David, a decorated Marine who survived the horrors of Iwo Jima, doesn't expect to have to fight more battles when he returns to Louisiana after the war. But he does. You see, the local members of the KKK don't care about his war record.

Intrigued? You should be. Kittie does an excellent job of taking a part of history some of us would rather forget, those horrific days of lynchings and cross-burnings... and makes it come alive. And she breathes life into the sharecroppers and their families, too, both black and white, who were terrorized by the Klan, and demonstrates the enduring got-your-back brotherhood of the Marines. As a special added bonus, she also offers some background history and a Cajun glossary at the beginning of the book that I'm sure other history nerds will enjoy as much as I did.

And like I said, the $2.99 it'll cost you to get the e-book on Amazon or Smashwords can help make a difference for our returning soldiers. Ginormous kudos to Kittie for supporting Wounded Warriors again. (She did the same thing with her first book.)

Think I can get away with serving Smarticus THESE crabs....?

Nah, me neither.

You guys like custard? Me, I wouldn't mind finding myself in a swimming pool filled with the stuff and eating my way out. Okay, so maybe that's a slight exaggeration, but it's definitely one of my favorite old-fashioned comfort foods. Much to my surprise, I discovered recently that none of my friends ever make it. They LIKE it... they just don't know how to MAKE it. And it is sooooo easy! This recipe comes from a circa 1945 or so cookbook, and tell ya what... I'm gonna share it with you.

Preheat your oven to 350, because you'll have the custard ready to pop in there in no time at all. Mix 3/4 c of sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated... sweetened condensed) with 2 1/4 c HOT water. (not boiling, but HOT) While stirring continuously, gradually pour the milk mixture over 3 slightly beaten eggs. Add 1/4 tsp salt. (optional) That's IT. I sometimes add a splash of vanilla or rum flavoring or grated coconut, but none of those things are needed. It's super good just as is. Pour the mixture into a baking dish or individual custard cups, sprinkle with nutmeg, and set in a pan of hot water. Then bake for 40-45 minutes, or until a knife blade can be inserted and comes out clean. See? Easy! And oh, so good.

Okay, has this post been eclectic enough for ya? I believe I'm gonna go make some custard now... for some reason, I've suddenly developed a craving for it. And then? And then I believe I'm gonna go out and get some crabs. Who says we have to wait for Christmas? It's December. Close enough.
                                      Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Friday, December 7, 2012

One Candle

Thought for the day:  It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.  [Chinese proverb]

Can the light from a single candle make a difference? Can one person radiate enough light to hold the powers of darkness at bay?

Yes, a thousand times yes. Or to be more accurate, 2500 times.

Hanukkah, an eight-day festival that celebrates the triumph of light over darkness, of purity over adulteration, and spirituality over materialism, begins at sunset tomorrow. To all who are Jewish, I wish you a very happy Hanukkah. For the rest of us, I believe we, too, should embrace the ideals of light over darkness. 

Here's a story of a very special woman who did just that.

Her name? Irena Sendler. This is what she looked like in 1942, when the young Polish Catholic woman lived in German-occupied Warsaw. As a social worker and nurse, she was allowed to enter the Jewish ghetto. She saw their suffering first-hand, and knew that people of all ages were being  forcibly removed from their homes, never to return. And she also knew what the penalty was for trying to help them.

She knew what the penalty was, because signs like this were posted all over Warsaw. 

These signs issued a clear warning that helping anyone leave the Jewish settlement without authorization was punishable by death.

And yet...
[credit: German Federal Archive]
And yet, the dark plight of the children tore at her heartstrings, and she had to DO something. As a member of the Zegota resistance movement, she smuggled 2500 children out of the Warsaw ghetto, provided them with false identities, and got them to a safe location... to private homes, to orphanages, to convents. She took the children out in ambulances, under the pretext that they were infected with typhus; she carried them out in tool boxes; she transported them in coffins. Whatever it took, she did it. One after another, desperate parents turned their beloved children over to her, a virtual stranger, in the hopes that their children would be spared from the horrors of living... and dying... in a concentration camp. Each child's name, Sendler recorded on paper, along with their new identities and locations. Then she tucked those papers into jars, which she buried under an apple tree in her yard. Following the war, the information in those jars was used to reunite some of the families. Unfortunately, most of the parents were already gone, but thanks to Sendler and other members of the resistance, their children survived.

In 1965, Israel recognized Sendler as Righteous Among the Nations, a designation honoring non-Jews who risked their lives during the Holocaust to save Jews. And risk her life, she did: Sendler was captured, tortured, and sentenced to death... and spared from execution by virtue of a bribe. The Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations is part of the Yad Vashem complex on the Mount of Remembrance in Jerusalem.

At the entrance to the Garden stands the Tree of Irena Sendler. I don't know what kind of tree is it, but an apple tree would be perfect, wouldn't it?

[credit: Mariesz Kubik]

This picture, taken in 2005, shows Sendler with the grown-up versions of some of the children she smuggled out of that Warsaw ghetto during the war.

[credit: Mariesz Kubik]

In 2007, Sendler was presented with the Order of the Smile, an international award given by children to adults distinguished in their love, care, and aid for children. A year later, she passed away.

In 2009, Poland issued a commemorative coin in honor of three women. One was Irena Sendler, a woman who proved that one person... one candle burning brightly in the darkness... can indeed, make a difference.

In a world full of darkness, in a world full of pain,
All it takes is a sparkle, all it takes is a flame,
To make joy out of sadness, to bring hope to a life,
Like the promise of the dawn
On a long winter's night.
[from the song Light One Candle, by Ronnie Spector]

                                       Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Let it shine!

P.S. For those of you who will be lighting menorah candles, I'll betcha you won't be doing it in such an unusual way as THIS...