The Rebel in Me

What have I got to lose??? What do a few pounds more or less matter at my age??? God has given me the gift of time in these latter years, time to indulge my cravings without guilt; I have ignored the bathroom scale for over a year.  It belongs in a garage sale with my yoga mat and exercise bike.  Why fight it…nobody is thin any more…so today I went to a place I have never been before.  This morning, after dropping Pippa off at the Pet Hospital for her semi annual exam, I went to Rebel Donut.

I braced myself and entered a leather and chains little shop. The scents of fried dough, exotic spices, cinnamon and pinion coffee calmed my anxiety.  The products on display behind a glass case lured me to leer at them. A sign said one dozen donuts $7.49.  A nice deal for these beauties.  What would I do with a dozen fancy donuts? I will find a use.

Being a newbie to the exotic donut culture I decided against the “spirited” ones on the top shelf, out of reach of children.  I started with the entry level on the bottom, and gradually worked my way up to the hard core stuff.  Tough decisions.  I went with a maple bacon, pancake and bacon, cinnamon crumb, blue corn pinion, apple green chili fritter, 2 decorated skull shaped concoctions, one plain, several with fruit in the center, one coated with rice crispy treats and marshmallow, and one big cream filled frosted extra long “John.”

The clerk had placed my selections in a box with the store logo on the lid.  He opened the top and  presented them to me at the register, a watercolor painting. He rung me up. $19.41!

“I thought these were $7.49 cents, like the sign says.”

“That price was only for the basic ones.  You chose some specials,” he looked me in the eye.

I didn’t know there was a hierarchy among donuts, oh well, live and learn.  I paid the price. Was it worth it?

“I’ll take a small pinion coffee, to go.”

In the car I opened the box and selected my first choice, the maple bacon. First bite, a cake style, maple flavored extremely sweet icing, strips of bacon on top.  Definitely satisfied my sugar cravings and then some. The coffee was excellent!

At home with eleven exotic donuts I called my friend.

“I’m bringing you some breakfast.”  I carried the box across the street and met her in the driveway.  I slowly opened the lid and she laughed.  “Pick one…oh, go ahead, two!” The french toast with a cream dollop, and the decorated skull, “Good choice!”

Still nine left.  I called my next-door neighbor who once mentioned she liked donuts.

“Bev, I need some help getting rid of $20.00 worth of donuts.”

“Well, come right over,” she said.

When I opened the lid she laughed. “well, let’s see…I always like these filled ones,” pointing to the long john.

“Go right ahead, enjoy, and thanks for helping me get rid of these things.”

Eight more to go…I made myself  a cup of coffee, not near as good as the pinion, sat down to check my E mail, and ate a cinnamon crumb cake donut….delish!

Seven left.  Into the freezer in plastic bags…I’ll find a use!

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Dorothy’s House

Mildly depressed and very guilty I return to my neglected blog.  The stats indicate that a few readers have visited,  and I am grateful. The summer has flashed by again, and I look out at trees discarding their green skirts, gradually shifting to gold, orange, and brown, a wardrobe change. Nature is getting ready for the next scene.  Me too.

A good summer is about to be gone, but leaves one big memory and thousands of pleasant smaller ones, some recorded in photos and a journal, others remain in my head only.  I traveled 2000 miles alone…well, not quite.  My Toyota Rav 4, Heidi Hybrid, carried chihuahua Pippa, riding shotgun, and me from New Mexico to Kansas City and back.  Maiden voyage for Heidi, but unlike the Titanic she was steadfast, no icebergs.  Only one encounter with the law outside of a Texas Panhandle town had my heart palpitating and my hand reaching for the mace dispenser in a cubby under the dashboard.

Rt. 54  is two lanes. with some intervals of four on its long route through the southwest.  I can easily do 80 much of the way, sometimes being the only car in sight,  sometimes slowing behind a big rig or riding in its wake for awhile.  I had just left the town limits, on the open road, listening to a Tim McGraw CD.  Not another vehicle in sight, but then…the blinking red and blue lights in my rear view mirror coming closer until they were on Heidi’s tail. Those stories of women being pulled over by fake police, robbed of money and car, and dog, not to mention computer and personal data, and of course, the unthinkable!!!!!

I figured it best not to engage in a high speed chase.  I pulled over on the gravel shoulder, and braced myself.  Pippa came forward from the back and stood firmly on the armrest between the front bucket seats, in body guard mode. We waited.  Finally, a hulking dark figure emerged from the car behind us.  I watched from the rear view window as the torso came toward us…his head was obscured by the clouds; he bent down several miles to my open window. I reached for the mace, hoping it would work, that it would spray toward the window and not in my face.

“Driver’s license and registration, Ma’am.” I fumbled in my glove compartment and wallet.  “You drove through town at 40 mph…the signs say 35. ”

“So sorry,” I mumbled.  I looked at him, huge, big pot belly, too big for such a young man. I thought of some of the students I knew as a fifth grade teacher…another time and place…he could be one…Teachers always wonder what becomes of those kids when they leave our classrooms.  This kid probably never left his hometown, or his mom’s cooking.  But he did well, a nice kid…he called me ‘ma’am.”

After a while he returned with my documents.  “I won’t give you a ticket this time, ma’am, but observe the speed limits and stay safe.”  Pippa returned to her nest in the back, and I took off with Tim McGraw serenading me.

The picture of Dorothy’s house.  Dorothy, the heroine of the Wizard of Oz, lived in Liberal, Kansas, on the Oklahoma border. NOT!  But so what.  Anyone who has called Kansas home for a while knows that when you tell someone you’re from Kansas most people comment…”So how’s Dorothy?”  “Did you follow the Yellow Brick Road?”  “Is Toto still alive?”  or the like. Yes, the FICTIONAL Dorothy was from Kansas…she could have been from Liberal,  the novel doesn’t say.  L. Frank Baum, the author, would be amazed at what his work has spawned, the liberties others have taken with his words…several movies, broadway musical, and the fact that almost everyone knows Dorothy and identifies with at least one of the characters…me, with the scarecrow…”If I only had a brain.”

Many times I have passed the billboard on Rt 54 going or coming from a visit to my dad in New Mexico.  But this time I was alone…no one to tell me “we don’t have time,” or “that’s stupid…she didn’t really live here,” or “Just a money making scheme for a town whose only other attraction is a yearly pancake race.”  I hit the gift shop first, always do.  Found a T shirt on the sale rack depicting the four characters on a green fabric.  Found a mug with the face of Toto and the oft quoted words, “We’re not in Kansas anymore.” Spoke to a docent in the main museum and decided not to forgo $7.00 senior rate for a tour by a drama student from a local college wearing a pinafore and braids.  So I walked the grounds and took pictures of the outside of the house, an actual house which was moved to the property in 1978 because someone who read the book said it fit Baum’s description.  I am so glad I stopped.  It is a bucket list thing!

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Breaking Bad By Doing Good

image_551070822234814Albuquerque still capitalizes on the series that made it famous or infamous.  One can take guided tours of the places where filming took place. One can purchase T shirts with clever sayings, chemical formulas, and faces of Walter White, Saul, and other savory or unsavory characters who once walked the sandy sun drenched streets. One can suck on rock candy that resembles the blue crystal meth Walter created in a high school lab to provide for his family after his death.  As if we need more drug culture memorabalia to inspire our youth.

I only saw three or four episodes of this long running series, enough to get the gist, to appreciate the talent and creativity, to recognize some of the scenery and venues.  One of my favorite scenes was shot at the Mule Barn, a tacky little diner on 2nd Street, popular with people who dressed for the kind of success  that came with hard labor and driving big rigs across the country.  One of the few places near us where you could get a whole fried catfish, not just the fillets, but the whole uncensored fish spread out wide open in front of you on a humongous plate with a loaded baked potato, fried okra, slaw, or whatever on the side.  Ken and I used to go there…hog’s heaven!  He loved fried catfish, and this was the real deal.  I enjoyed watching him savor every bite as I munched on a salad and anticipated sharing dessert, carrot cake. It didn’t matter that the formica tables had a few nicks, or that polyester escaped from cracks on the chairs, or that the toilets in the restrooms were clean but rusty.  What did matter to me was that  cigarette smoke drifted into the non smoking section on a busy day.  But that too was ambiance.

I hadn’t been by the Mule Barn in three years.  A few weeks ago I was driving off my beaten path and went past it.  The parking lot was deserted, the building closed.  The sign was still there; the scene reminded me of a lost puppy along the side of the road.  The empty mule barn was  small and helpless.  And I felt as empty inside as the building.

I have drifted off from my title.  “Breaking Bad by Doing Good.”  Walter White got into   bad to do good for his family.  He was terminally ill and like a good father he wanted to provide for their future without him.  At the end of the series he dies, as expected.  I don’t know if he was able to accomplish his goal of financial security for his family.  I know that the series as a whole was too violent for my taste, funny and bloody and sad, but I believe it was mostly bad guys whose guts were ripped out.  So that makes it ok, I guess.

 

 

Dead Fish

image_552847353745037A man wearing a surgical mask was holding a rake on the shore of north park. A large empty bucket stood beside him.  I didn’t recognize him, so many new folks on the Islands lately.  I approached him.  “You’re scooping up the dead fish, by yourself?”  I looked down at the murky water of the pond where 25 to 30 swollen corpses of carp floated on the surface.  It stunk to high heaven.

He lifted the mask.  “Yeah.  I put some camphor oil inside this so it’s not so bad.  I’d pet your dog, but I don’t think you’d appreciate that.”  Pippa wouldn’t mind…the stinkier the better. He’s right…I had just given her a bath.

I felt guilt.  I live here too.  People, me included, have been complaining about this situation for days now, since the heavy rain last week. This man is doing not whining.

“I’d like to help…do you need some plastic bags to haul them away?”  Really that was the least I could do. “No thanks.  I just load em in the bucket and take em  and bury em in a hole I dug outside the gate.”  More guilt.  “Well thank you for doing this.  God Bless you.” I felt so lame.  His name is Jim and he has become my hero.

 

 

 

 

Muddled

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

image_552582232258747Muddled.  My dear friend’s daughter is in coma. My neighbor’s husband of 60 plus years died two weeks ago.  Her daughter is on a clinical trial which has reduced the size of  the tumor that has been eating her.  My best friend can barely walk for the pain.  And me, I am ok…can’t complain…missing Ken, but that is a chronic condition with intense flare ups triggered by almost everything…but I am ok…emerging from a robotic state to a stranger never never land.

Thursday with Lani.  We completed a Bible study on the Holy Spirit last week, and she had not yet prepared a follow up.  It is like…what do we want to study next?  I am thinking…psalms…I have a study guide which I purchased at the Christian book store.  Lani does not favor those scripted plans, but then, I don’t like to stick to a formula either. A little bit of structure, though can keep us on track.

I am thinking of forming a Bible study group. Uh oh!  I am not sure I want to share my Lani time.  But then…there are other widows around me, lonely and in pain…and with added people come more insights and perhaps more comfort.

I tuned in to Dr. Oz last week.  Usually his show, and other talk shows are back ground noise to whatever I am doing around the house.  But this day his guests were two doctors, a neurosurgeon and a orthopedic surgeon, unconnected to each other, from different parts of the country, who died and came back to tell about it.  I had heard of them before.  I stopped dusting the furniture and listened to their stories, different, yet the same.  I had watched my husband die in a darkened hospital room.  I watched the meter run down over his head.  I prayed that loving angels were surrounding him, and that he was happy to be freed of a body that gave him such pain.  Ken was a spiritual man with deep faith who deserved this comfort. I suppose we all do.

Ha…is this the Holy Spirit at work?  Providence?  That I should turn on the TV just as Dr. Oz comes on with two guests and a subject of profound interest to me?  I usually watch morning TV 2 or 3 times during the week if I am at home.  I was moved and comforted by  their stories which I believed.  So death is scary and sad beyond words; but apparently there is the other side, a place so peaceful and sweet that neither of the doctors, both young vital people, were anxious to leave.  The woman, an orthopedic surgeon, smiled and said she couldn’t wait to go back.  But she’ll have to…God definitely has a plan for her  on earth.

 

What’s wrong with me, anyhow?

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Old Town Square on Monday

It is Sunday morning,  comfortable after an early rain which was gentle enough for me to walk Pippa without an umbrella or hoodie.  We woke up late enough to miss the 10:00 service at Church, the only service at our small congregation. Since Ken passed two years ago I have distanced myself some.  It was our church, but it doesn’t feel anymore like my church.  It has changed much, as many institutions do after two years.  New minister, same elders, minus a few who have moved on. Several hopeful new families have placed membership, then suddenly opted out, maybe for the same reasons I feel like leaving, but then I don’t know.  People have all kinds of excuses for bailing on a church, not the least of which is social.  Ours is not a glitzy country club congregation; it is plain and humble, conservative, a tad too conservative for me.

There in lies my concern.  Attitude.  During the presidential campaign I endured blatantly unchristian comments and Facebook postings aimed at our former President.  I kept my mouth shut until I couldn’t anymore.  At one occasion I gently reminded a small group of my fellow believers that the tongue is a lethal weapon, and should be guarded, and yes, I may be the only member of the church who voted for Obama, but I doubt it.  There was silence after my disclosure.  I was fairly certain the group would accept my comment and continue to include Ken and me.  They did.  I was encouraged that we could recognize differences of opinion and go on with our purpose of studying the Bible and seeking ways to be of service to others.  There is a good reason why our forefathers created a division between church and state in our constitution.

This group of about 10 people supported us through our trials with his health and helped me after his passing.  I could not have made it through those tough times as easily without their support and compassion. They called to check on me, asked me to lunch, and kept me busy doing work I loved, teaching Bible Hour.

The elders voted to disband the small groups which met Sunday evenings in our homes.  They wanted a larger group to meet in the Church building.  No one asked for our opinions;  it was a done deal. Big let down.  Oh well, can’t expect a church to be perfect and meet everyone’s needs.  I’ll just continue to contribute, to teach, to help out. Ken would like that, and when I am doing those things I often feel he is still with me.

Being in church without him is difficult. I walk in alone and sit in the same pew next to two other single women whom I have come to know.  I am comfortable there.  But I am missing my man, who was a song leader before alzheimers , who was friendly and kind to everyone, who underlined in his Bible during the sermon, who never failed to drop a check into the collection basket, who reached out and held my hand during the service.

Instead of going to Church today, I took Pippa on her first ride in our new car.  We drove along Rio Grande Boulevard, my favorite stretch of road;  stucco mansions on either side of the the pavement had acres of green land surrounding them. Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, a town of horse farms and lavender fields was built on fertile ground along the Rio Grande called the Bosque.  The radio was tuned to the classical station.  Electronic signs every other mile along the road reminded me to keep my speed at 25mph. With no cars behind me I kept the pace, enjoyed the landscape and the music which blended like hues in a watercolor painting. No particular destination.

I increased my speed as we entered Albuquerque, and the signs disappeared.  The landscape turned New Mexico urban: small ranch houses circa 1970’s and strip malls. We reached the intersection of I 40 and just beyond, the entrance to Old Town. This charming section dates back to the founding of Albuquerque in 1706.  Cars lined the narrow streets, tourists flooded them, a carnival occupied the town square.  I wanted to park and walk about, blend into the ambiance of a Sunday afternoon.  Pippa.  I drove twice around the parking lot debating.  Pippa would have to stay in the car.  It was in the 80’s, not too hot;  I would crack a window, and she had water but… I drove out after the second round turned right, past the Hacienda restaurant where dad and I sat once on the patio eating chips and salsa and enjoying our moments together.  The old church was  across the street, the first in Albuquerque, still holding mass and hosting festivals in the square. Today sun drenched tourists roamed the grounds and entered the small chapel for shade and curiosity, and perhaps to light a candle. At the intersection to Mountain Road stood the Candy Lady, a landmark sweet shop.  The owner is famous for concocting the blue crystal meth out of sugar for the series Breaking Bad.  You can purchase bags of it, along with other candy oddities like sculpted private parts made of chocolate.

We turned left and then right on to Rio Grande Boulevard and headed out of town.  I decreased the speed of the Rav 4 when I passed the first sign telling me I was doing 35.  I was hungry. I turned into a small strip mall in Los Ranchos.  The Flying Star restaurant on the north side has a leafy patio for outside dining.  Dogs are welcome.  I can order healthy here, a chinese chicken salad.  And I can also indulge in homemade pastries that tempt me from the glass display case as I stand on line to order. And I don’t feel awkward sitting alone at a table. I opted to leave Pippa in the car with the window open an inch.

I found a table with some shade in the corner of the patio, sipped my iced tea, and behind my sunglasses watched the couples and families at other tables.  Being single and alone I am curious about the relationships of others.  A woman seated at a table with a younger woman and two men (perhaps parents dining with grown children) was holding court.  She talked without ceasing, all I could catch was “baby boom generation,’ and “millenials.”  By her appearance I’d say she was between the two.  The young man sitting opposite her seemed enthralled, smiling and nodding his head often.  A young couple dressed in athletic wear had their bikes parked near their table. They were into their conversation, smiling and mutually contributing, attentive to each other, and their salads.

A man carrying a glass filled with red liquid sat at the table next to me.  We looked at each other quickly.  I wondered, was he alone, too?  I did not stare, but he looked to be a few years younger than me, well trimmed gray beard, professorial?  Just guessing.  My chinese chicken salad came and occupied my attention,  and a while later the same waiter delivered his.  It looked like we ordered the same thing.  My mind almost drifted into fantasy when two women, one older one younger approached his table with similar red drinks.  Mother, daughter, wife.  Oh well.   I am not looking for a man.  I had two, more than I deserve.  One especially wonderful man for a brief shining moment.  I can’t dilute that moment.

So I finished a pleasant lunch alone again, and walked back to the car.  Pippa was very glad to see me.  We enjoyed the ride home listening to a symphony by someone whose name I’ve forgotten and couldn’t spell, anyway.

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San Felipe de Neri Church, Old Town.  Can you find the Saint in the tree?