Brothers · Death · Halloween · Musings · Parenting · Pranks

The Ghost of Meadowview Road

Image result for royalty free ghosts

We had waited restlessly from dim dawn to drizzly dark.

It was a brumal October day in Oregon that boded well for a spooky evening of trick or treating. Misty rain and heavy, grey clouds palled over the day like a heavy, wet, grey blanket. It was dismal really. A long crooked line of raked leaves lined Meadowview Road on both sides like two parallel giant snakes that had gorged themselves and couldn’t move. They lay there, trying to slither away but helpless, awaiting the monster that would ramble down the road and suck them up into its bowels.

Four year old Paul wore his ill-fitting Power Rangers costume he’d worn the year before – and all year long. He had found that the new Ninja costume he got this year did not confer the same powers, so he fell back on Old Faithful, which permanently showed off his bright red Lego socks and kept riding up his crotch, the taut row of stitches now stretched menacingly like the teeth of a snarling dog. Oh well, super-heroes have these problems too and he was not to be talked out of it. His large eyes teared up  at the thought of replacing it and big tears fell onto his chubby cheeks and dribbled onto his quaking lips.

“Fine,” Mum had said, “you can wear the darned thing.”

The air was alive with excitement. Not only did he get to wear his costume all day along with other kids, but there were bags of candy to be handed out to fellow goblins and super-heroes at dark. Paramount, was that uncle Matt was coming to the party that night. Paul loved Uncle Matt. He loved to call him Bath Matt at which point Uncle Matt would growl fiercely, attack Paul and rub his pokey stubble on Paul’s little face making him squeal with convulsive delight and wriggle to get free.

As Paul and I were unpacking our costume tote, Paul’s stubby fingers held up a white plastic gadget. It was a half-dome about 4 inches high that had a string attached to it. Draped over the plastic was a white piece of  nylon fabric with a ghost face painted over it. When activated by motion, the battery-operated Cosper would jiggle and dance enthusiastically, produce flashes of bright light, and make a horrific howl. After a fine initial scare, Paul enjoyed turning it on and off and watching it dance. It rattled against the floor which further reverberated and added to the din.

“Let’s use it to scare Uncle Matt,” said a very exhilarated Paul. We skulked around the house looking for a perfect spot. The bright windows were an impediment so we needed to find a dark place to accentuate the flashing lights. We settled for the bathroom which would be dark and enclosed – the perfect set-up. He giggled uncontrollably as he turned it on and off several times with the bathroom lights off and watched the little devil dance.

“Oh man, he’s gonna cry like a little girl!” laughed Paul till his sides ached.

I asked him to come get the table set for dinner. He set the ghost so it was ready to activate,  jumped lithely off the counter, and shut the door gently.

He hopped onto the kitchen counter to get plates then carried them carefully to the table. Dad would be home any time and Paul couldn’t wait to show him the booby trap. He grabbed the silverware and napkins.

“Mum, you’re the oldest, so you sit at number one,” he said to engineer-minded self, hopping onto my dining chair, clumsily placing a plate at my spot, and hopping off. “Dad is next, so he sits at number 2,” and he hopped onto dad’s chair, set dad’s place, then hopped off. “Then me,” he hopped onto his chair, set his place, and hopped off. He scooted brother’s high chair noisily next to my seat. “When brother is older he will sit at number 4.”

“I love it when we have masanya for dinner. Do I have to eat my salad?” he queried hopefully.

“Yes, son.” I answered absently, backing off the opened oven door as the heat rushed out. I took off the bulky silicone oven mitts after I set the lasagna on the stove to cool.

“Go get your brother please.” He tore off to their bedroom to wake his brother up. After a few minutes I heard them chattering away then galloping down the hallway headed my way.

“Wash your hands,” I hollered, and hit send on a text to Justin to get his ETA.

Suddenly, a single ear-splitting scream pierced the house to it’s foundation. My heart stopped and froze in horror. “Oh God,” I thought, aghast, and bolted in their direction in dread. They stood transfixed, screaming at the top of their lungs. Blabbering and bawling they broke out in a crazy dance around each other punctuated by more screaming.

As soon as I got there, they both leaped into my arms in a single choreographed bound and buried their curly heads in my neck, tears and snot mingling freely, little chests heaving in terror. A shaky little finger pointed to the dark bathroom. Over the din and confusion, I heard the tell-tale sound of old Cosper jiggling and bumping the bathroom door ominously his lights flashing like lightning. It must have seemed that the cavernous earth had opened it’s hungry giant bowels to snatch up my boys. They were inconsolable and I couldn’t put them down the rest of the night.

Uncle Matt has never stopped laughing at this and relishes bringing up the ghost of Meadowview Road.

chickens · Farming · Goats · horror · Humor · Musings · Neighbors

“Dear My Neighbor,…”

(Donald Trump having visitation with one of his offspring)

 

The text didn’t take him long to compose.

“Dear my neighbor JD. Your goat is being on my property again and mutilating our agreement to be keeping the animals separate due to I am very particular about their safety and breeding issues. We must resume serious discussion again at earliest convenience. Sincerely, me.”

Ranjit was sick and tired of his Mexican neighbor’s animals constantly being on his property.

JD on the other hand,  was flabbergasted. He had walked his entire perimeter ten times and saw neither hide nor hair of a clue as to how the large hairy goat, Fabio, got there. Not only was he mutilating the agreement, he was mutilating  Ranjit’s she-goats. Fabio was an impressive specimen: he had a massive brown head with white racing stripes across the eyes and just below his fearsome horns. He was always pawing at the ground, just like in the cartoons and had a particular affinity for butting the poplar tree that had never done anyone any harm, right in the navel.

We call it the navel because it looked like someone planted the tree upside down and when a stiff branch broke off right where a navel would have been, it left a perfect inny. The trunk then splayed shamelessly into two massive branches a foot above the navel, seducing neighborhood kids to climb it, then jump off, and break their necks.

JD is easy-going and is always ready to tell, or make, a great story, complete with theatrics. He has a million animals on his property because he can never say no to anyone that offers him animals they can’t keep. He has thousands of cows, horses,  yakalos, bears, and tigers. And goats. He has tens of thousands of chickens, ducks, turkeys, and mean geese. You must be careful walking around his property, for at any given time, you are liable to step on an egg or four, and there’s no telling if it’s a chicken- or a kimodo dragon-egg. With this uncertainty in mind, you must also be careful when he blesses you with a tray of delicious farm-fresh eggs, stegosaurus-like plates sticking out of some of them.

Neighbor Ranjit, on the other hand, likes things just so. He had 8 Rhode Island White chickens and 4 Toggenburg goats.

“Females only,” he says sticking an authoritative fore-finger in the air and greatly enlarging his already huge East-Indian eyes. “Males are notorious for the filth and mess that is incongruously unacceptable.” He blinked forcefully whereupon his eyes returned to their normal size. My head jerked back an inch at this transition. His raised finger remained at attention much longer than I deemed necessary. He finally lowered his hand, slowly, like a car window being retracted by a power button, his finger still sticking straight up.

I cocked my head, somewhat stupefied, and expected his finger to disappear into the joint like an antenna. His gaze followed mine to the finger, as though wondering why I was staring at it. I looked back at his face, a little abashed.

He HAD 8 Rhode Island Whites. He now has 13. This was no plan of his for that is “amounting to gross negligence,  over-breeding, and utmost irresponse-bility of cross-breeding. There are enough phasianids running around,” he noted passionately, said finger in the air, like a microphone.

See, JD has a hilarious looking orange naked-neck we call Donald Trump.  As he was leaving for work early one morning, he was utterly dismayed – and relieved – to see Trump flying over the fence from Ranjit’s property back to his own. His work crew was already running late for work so JD had to leave immediately but  upon his return,was sure to trim it’s wing feathers to prevent future incidents of flying the coop. He was glad Ranjit hadn’t noticed and promptly forgot the matter until 4 weeks later when he received a text  demanding his “prompt and immediate audience for a matter of urgent attention.”

JD, sure that Ranjit needed a favor, rushed over there ready to lend his neighborly assistance. He was met by a mortifying sight. Ranjit marched up to him at the gate – microphone in position, eyes at full beam, and fuming like a bull. He pointed east beyond the chicken coop, temporarily lacking for words.

“This is vhat I have been talking about!!” he finally spat out, fighting to control his rage.

There, in front of God and everybody, was the cutest clutch of orange baby naked-necks, following proud mama Rhode Island White around and pecking  at the ground. There was no denying who the proud papa was.

That was 4 months ago.

And here he was now, needing to answer the summons that Fabio had been nabbed red-handed “mutilating” the she-goats. His hands were sweating as he headed to Ranjit’s to retrieve Fabio and explain himself. One of his employees, laughing his head off, said, “JD, tell him, “you know those Mexicans, they know how to dig.””

Growing up in the Third World · Musings · Natural Resources · Water

Clear Gold

Water insecurity is 'a drag on the global economy'I felt physically ill and fought to keep my composure.

She went on and on not realizing that, in the torrent of words, she had lost me at, “My favorite is to just stand in the shower for like 30 minutes.” I felt dizzy.

That was A LOT of water.

Funny how that memory replayed in my  mind as I stood in the shower today, ten years later. I grabbed my soap-loaded brush and scrubbed the  wall and floor of the shower. I love the convenience of cleaning while I’m already in there and wet. Secretly, I also justify spending extra time after I’ve done what I went in there to do in the first place, which takes me all of 3 minutes at a languid pace.

As I rinsed the walls off, I thought to myself, “Bet you can’t get anyone that grew up in the third world to just stand in the shower for 30 minutes. At least not guilt-free.”

Interestingly, about 2 hours later I was visiting with my employee Jan and she said, “Did you have water shortages growing up?”

“I sure did. We had to be so mindful of every drop we had and used.” Later I asked her why she had asked me that.

“You are very conscious of water use.”

“The worst,” I quipped, “is when someone is doing a small stack of dishes, water on at full blast, loading the dishwasher one leisurely dish at a time, telling a story, pausing to make gestures, water gushing the whole time.” They think I’m listening but I’m watching clear liquid gold literally and figuratively go down the drain: my pulse is mounting, my heart is racing, my breath is waning, and I  barely gasp, “turn… off… the… water!” before the life trickles out of me.

I understand that it’s hard to relate when you’ve never had just a gallon of water to use as bath water – I understand you can’t even call it a bath at that level! May I invite you to pause and cherish the very lavish convenience of your faucet. Treasure the thought that you have one in several rooms of your house. Gush at the fact that you have one for hot and another for cold water. Your ancestors would have marveled at that! Let out a stream of praise that you that you’ve probably never turned it on and had it sputter and cough and produce nothing.

At any point in time, billions of people are languishing, praying for rain. May gratitude flow from you, in place of complaint, that it rains so hard and so much where you live that you get sick of it!

People around the world walk miles to collect a small jug of putrid water to be used by a whole family for personal and household use. For that reason alone, some can’t go to school and get an education because it takes so much time to fetch water. Water-borne diseases from unsanitary water causes untold deaths and suffering. Would you consider sponsoring an organization or cause that supports clean water access?

Chug that with your food for thought…

Water/key image used from https://phys.org/news/2015-04-insecurity-global-economy.html

Health · High Cholesterol · Musings · Pre-diabetes · Wake-up Call

A Kick in the Teeth

It has been reported that Walt Disney once said, “It may not feel like it at the time but a kick in the teeth might be the best thing that happens to you.”

Really, Walt? A dirty, well-aimed booted foot to the dentition?

“Ouch,” is what I say, spitting out a handful of teeth and gravel. “Brutal,” and “uncalled for,” also come to mind. Well, last week I got just that – in the form of medical lab results!

Screenshot 2018-10-05 10.48.51.png

Screenshot 2018-10-05 10.48.07(2).png

Like a drug addict, I have mastered many whys and wherefores to justify moderately sloppy lifestyle habits: “I’m quite active,” (people in my life call me a hummingbird and say I should sit a minute.) “I’m of slight build,”  “I eat way better than most people,” “I cook from scratch,” and up till a few years ago, “I have excellent genetics.”

The sloppy habits were aided and abetted by a rabid love of cooking – especially carbohydrates. I adore them. Each one is AMAZING. And so beautiful. And gratifying. And coffee with creamer is of the gods. I know my relationship with sugar is not a good one. It’s like the bad boyfriend my friend keeps going back to. “Do not be misled: bad company corrupts good morals,” the good book warns in 1 Cor 15:33. I need to seriously limit our interactions. I need to unfriend it. Unfortunately bad company tends to be fun, but as my new favorite bumper sticker says, the trouble with trouble is it starts off as fun!

What about drinking water? One should drink 1/2 – 1 oz. of water for each pound of body weight, so my body weight divided by a million times some crazy number… Surely a max of 16 oz. a day should do me. When I was pregnant, my midwife, Dr. Brenda would shake her head in dismay and say, “You need to drink more water to sustain this pregnancy.”

“It makes me nauseous,” I explained.

“I don’t know how you don’t just pee a little puff or pellet of pee-powder…”

Powder-Puff-Prego proved her wrong and got away with it, again!

Till last week.

Today a 1 liter pitcher of water sits on my counter and I aim to drink 2 of those a day, so help me God. If I ‘must’ have my carbs then I’ll return half or two thirds of it. I have revisited my list of good cholesterol (HDL) foods to increase and bad cholesterol (LDL) to decrease.  I’m educating my boys even more on all this. I’ve downloaded a fitness app and I aim to make it beg me to stop!!

I bare my soul and my medical records here for all to see. AARP reports that the average 45 year old American takes at least 4 prescriptions. I’m 45 years old and I aim to take zero till I have to take an aspirin at 90. That won’t happen if things  in my life continue as they are. That’s at least 4 sets of side-effects to deal with. 4 sets of expenses. 4 sets of food/drug interactions. 4 sets of medical visits and tests. 4 sets of headaches. Fortunately for me, I ducked in time and didn’t receive the full force of the kick – this time. I wish you the same, at worst.

https://assets.aarp.org/rgcenter/health/rx_midlife_plus.pdf

 

Creativity · Inspiration · Musings · Seasons

Glad to be Back

 

firepl

It seems that try as I might, I am incapable of writing in the summer. I have had a million ideas but even the revisiting of my idea notes is a senseless effort in frustration. So I gave it up. Summer creativity took the form of painting, photography, gardening, and cooking. I loved it. We’ve had a hot hot summer and not a lick of rain here in Oregon. It was fabulous.

The clock hits a frenzied tick-tocks in my head in the summer. I enter hummingbird mode. Every minute is prized and must be scrupulously spent – I wait nine months for this! I literally have to spend all summer ignoring that it is slipping away and, instead, appreciating its decadent wonder.

But now the kids are back to school, all too soon, and I find myself in my comfy chair, laptop on lap, determined not to lament the passing of my favorite season. I home-school my son and one of our favorite places to sit for his classes is in our rustic living room with its majestic ceiling-high fireplace pictured above. It’s a superb place to spend my Fall, Winter, and Spring with my son.

coffwarmer

I am learning that one of my mental associations for writing is the candle warmer in the photo’s foreground. I use it as my coffee warmer because I love coffee and enjoy it hot to the last drop. Mid-summer I relish my coffee in a to-go cup as I only sit around for the quickest minute, and, bored as a bee, I buzz from one pleasure to another. But come the school year, I gear way down as my comfy chair holds me close and long.

School started this week and the thought of writing started as a tiny trickle on the first day. Today is day 3 and it is a little brook, bubbling briskly by, dancing around perfect polished rocks and ferrying pretty fallen leaves downstream.

What got the stream going? The little red light reflected on my coffee cup. What a great revelation – coffee warmer on, writing-brain on! So now that I’ve figured that out I can hold up the fantastic gift that is Summer and offer it back to the Giver in deep thanks.  I can trust that He who enriched us with it has many other wonderful gifts to bestow. I will not shun them by clinging tenaciously to what is passing. Moreover, He is a supremely more wonderful gift than the best Summer, no matter the Falls, Winters, and Springs of our lives.

season

Ecclesiastes image from https://slideplayer.com/slide/6394320/  on 9/4/2018

Gluten-Free · Musings · Recipes

Sweet Potato Cake

This magnificent creation is simple, healthy, easy to make gluten-free, and absolutely delectable.

1 lb Sweet Potatoes (or use potatoes)

1/4 cup all-purpose flour (use gluten-free flour if you need to)

1 stick butter (1/2 cup)

1/2 cup granulated or brown sugar

4 large eggs, separated

1 tsp lemon zest or lemon extract

1 tsp almond extract

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup pine nuts

3 Tbsp confectioners sugar to sprinkle

  1. Peel, dice, boil, and mash the sweet potaotes
  2. Mix in the flour
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  4. Butter a 9″ cake pan and line with parchment paper
  5. Beat the butter and sugar on high till creamy
  6. With mixer at medium, add egg yolks one at a time until just blended after each
  7. With mixer on low, beat in potato/flour mixture, lemon zest or extract, nutmeg, and almond extract
  8. Add raisins and pine nuts.
  9. In a very clean bowl, beat egg whites till stiff peaks form
  10. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter with a spatula
  11. Scoop it into the prepared pan and bake for about 40 minutes or until golden brown and I toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean
  12. Cool the cake in the pan for 10 minutes then turn it onto a rack
  13. Let it cool completely
  14. Dust with confectioner’s sugar before serving
  15. Refrigerate and enjoy within 3 days

Serves 10

 

Autobiography · Cats · Insomnia · Musings · Oops! · Short story

Broom, Meet Cat!

cat

I haven’t slept well in months.

This contributes to a mild case of constant underlying rage, curbed only by the gorgeous spring days we are having and the resulting pleasure of playing in my flower gardens.

Rose, our regal (to hear her tell it) cat, occasionally slips into the house at night to cuddle with the boys. This drives the Rancher crazy. She used to be an indoor cat till she had 5 kittens and the whole rambunctious (jumping, climbing, tearing, playing, running, tipping, pooping in planters, flea-inviting, etc.) bunch was banished by said Rancher to the great outdoors. She has raised them all now and they are contributing members of cat society. She thinks things should revert to the way they were before the brats came along, and she should enter and exit as she pleases.

Endless family conversations have happened about whether she is an indoor cat, or an indoor-outdoor cat.  He wants her to be an outdoor only cat. This sends the boys into convulsive fits of lamentation. He wants my support so he looks to me for agreement during these conversations. He doesn’t understand that her superb cuddling abilities surpass his, and that I too relish her snuggles. So I slowly avert my eyes, take a long draft on my delicious coffee, and return to typing my blog, oblivious to hullabaloo.

At 2.17am last night, the queen scratched on my bedroom door to inform her minion that she wished to exit the house and go a-prowling. I got up, eyes closed to deter a full awakening, and, muttering about how she really needed to be an outdoor only cat, walked to the front door. She bounded past me in the opposite direction and headed to the side door. I sighed in annoyance and, with one eye open at half mast, plodded my tired self to the side door where she waited patiently. I slid the heavy glass door open and inhaled the wonderful night air.

She paused a second and deciphered the myriads of smells that came at her as she normally does before she darts out. She didn’t move. “Go,” I said, my irritation mounting when she didn’t exit after a few seconds. I opened the eye fully to make out her dark form and put my foot gently behind her to help her out.

The vixen turned her venomous fangs at me and hissed like a cobra ready to strike. I hesitated to grab her and throw her out – given the aforementioned fangs and general sore attitude. She was not getting away with this ridiculous behavior!

“Oh no you don’t!” I hissed back, my eyes now both fully opened. I threw on the lights,  stomped a few feet to the kitchen, and grabbed a broom, ready to launch her out the door and clear into tomorrow. I stomped back into the room, noisily pulled away the chair she was now hiding under and, like a champion golf player, poised the broom to tee and snarled, “I’ll show you who’s queen in this house!”

With angry, sleepy, light-assaulted eyes narrowed, I glanced at the exit to ascertain my 300 yard aim when, to my dismay, realized the screen door was shut!

I’d shut it earlier to enjoy the spring breeze and whoever shut the door didn’t slide it open. I was appalled at myself and heartbroken!

“You can be queen, Rose,” I apologized as I slid the screen door. “And you can be an indoor cat too!” I turned off the lights and shuffled with eyes closed to my bed next to the snoring Rancher. Boy am I glad he doesn’t read my blog. He’ll never hear about this.

Acceptance · Autobiography · Curly hair · Humor · Musings · Parenting · Short story

Stubborn Curls

curls

When my Paul was about 3, he dreaded walking into new situations, especially where there were crowds. The Rancher who fathered him is rather bashful so I intelligently attributed it to that genetic frailty (I can say this stuff because he doesn’t read my blogs.)  I had to reassure Paul we would have a great time where we were going. I’d remind him of previous positive experiences. This is my child, who, without fail, would finally warm up and have a marvelous time –  ten minutes before it was time to leave!

As we pulled into a parking lot, his anxiety would reach a frenzied pitch and he’d make the declaration that he wasn’t going in, excogitating excuse after excuse. He clung tenaciously to his car seat when it was time to get out of the car. I’d finally had it up to here with  calmly reasoning, and pleading, and cajoling, and bribing, and he knew it. “What is wrong with you??!!” I would ask.

Like a whipped goat, he would finally bleat, “They’re going to touch my hair.”

The child donned a massive afro with the most darling boisterous curls.

“You get out of his car right now,” I would state rather clearly with teeth clenched and eyes narrowed. “Right now! No one is interested in touching your hair. You didn’t even comb it. I just need to cut it.”

“Nooooo…” he would howl anew.

“Then get in there! And you will look people in the eye and say halo.”

“Noooooooo…!”

I’d finally march to the building and he’d come hobbling behind me, whimpering all the way with sagging shoulders, Thomas the Tank Engine in hand. He only came because Thomas told him it was probably a good idea. At the door, I’d sigh and recombobulate my frazzled self, and whisper a thank you to Thomas.

I couldn’t believe it! In the building, like eager moths to a fire, female hands – young and old alike – would come at him squealing lustfully, “Look at that hair!” They would moooaaan as they ran their fingers through it and I would watch my child give me the death glare, his little arms crossed in fury. A particular little girl loved to fondle his curls and suck her finger.

At that moment, it always struck me as funny how a shy child would relish donning a crowd pleaser like a massive afro, then dread the attention it brought!

Gluten-Free · Muffins · Musings · Recipes

Doppelgänger Muffin

Gluten-Free Coconut Almond Chia Muffins

I’m learning to cook gluten-free and frequently end up with dry baked goods. I’m not generally crazy about the flavor either, compared to gluten alternatives, this beauty is moist and flavorful! It is packed with protein, healthy oils, and fiber.

muffin

1/2 cup Coconut flour *

1/2 cut Almond flour *

1 tsp baking soda

4 Tbs Chia Seeds

1/2 cup honey

1 cup coconut, or other, milk

6 eggs

4 Tbs coconut oil or butter, melted

3 tsp vanilla extract

(* you can use a whole cup of Coconut flour or a whole cup of  Almond flour instead of half of each)

  1. Preheat oven to  350 degrees F
  2. Sift the flours and baking powder in a bowl. Mix in Chia seeds
  3. In a separate bowl or blender, whisk honey, milk, eggs, oil/butter, and vanilla
  4. Gently stir wet ingredients into dry
  5. Pour into greased or lined muffin tins, filling 3/4 full
  6. Bake for 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean
  7. Remove from tin and cool on rack
  8. Enjoy as is or with a dollop of yogurt or with ice-cream and/or fruit of choice!

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/doppelganger/