Monday, December 28, 2015

Oh boy that was funny...

I thought about telling you the follow up story to "The Woods" today. I pulled out my old notes and read what I wrote many years ago. Oh boy was it funny! I laughed all the way through it....a real knee slapper...but too long. If you want to hear it sometime let me know. I'll start earlier in the day. Right now it's getting too close to my nap time.

I don't know how all of you go about celebrating Christmas day. We have the kids and grandkids over on Christmas Eve. We sleep late on Christmas morning, drink coffee, and talk about the day before and all the wonderful memories from years past. Then when the coffee pot is empty we begin our day of celebrating. Debbie starts taking down all the decorations while I dismantle the tree. After I have the tree back up in the attic where it belongs my contribution is over. Debbie spends another couple of hours packing away decorations, rearranging the furniture to the pre-holiday positions, dusting, vacuuming, and having an all round good time. I take this time to retire to....well, just about anywhere the cleaning is not. Sometimes I go to my study but if the weather is nice I like to go outside and enjoy the quiet winter day. This is when I smoke my annual, only done because of traditional demands, Christmas cigar. I'm not sure when this tradition started but it has gone on for a long time. When it began, there were several us meeting on a patio or porch and having a cigar together. Now, it's just me. I can't seem to let it go for a couple of reasons. First of all, I love tradition. Secondly, I love cigars and this is the only one I can smoke without a lecture from Debbie.

Last Christmas was kind of cold so I sat just inside my garage as the sun filtered through the bare tree limbs. I was enjoying my smoke when I noticed a guy across the street standing outside smoking a cigarette. Being in the holiday spirit, I walked over to wish him a merry Christmas. I didn't recognize him as being a family member of my neighbor, Rob, so I asked if he was visiting. He told me was there for dinner and needed a quick nicotine fix. I said, "Old Rob sure puts together a good spread on that smoker doesn't he?" He replied that Rob had surely done so today but it was his first time to visit and couldn't answer on past meals. It turned out this guy was the friend of one of Rob's co-workers. He had just moved to town and had no family. The co-worker invited him to join him at Rob's for Christmas dinner. I walked away from there feeling all warm and fuzzy for Rob's open hospitality to a stranger on Christmas day. As the year passed, my memory of that day grew until in my mind Rob had fed a homeless guy he found wandering down the know how the mind works!!

This year was warm and sunny and I enjoyed my cigar in my front yard. I should explain here that old Rob does all his grilling on a large smoker on his front drive since the smoker is too large to get through his back gate. As he removed wonderful smelling creations from his smoker, three people stood around him smoking and drinking beer. They looked like they could use a good meal so naturally my alert brain assumed the situation. I couldn't help myself. I marched right on over there and told Rob how much I thought of him and his generosity to the homeless. He looked at me for a second and asked, "what homeless people?" I didn't want to be too obvious so I just kind of rolled my eyes and nodded my head toward the sad looking trio right next to us. Rob looked at them....then he looked at me.....and then he said, "Russ, I'd like to introduce you to my two brothers and my baby sister". I went on home soon after that and finished my cigar on my patio.

Monday, December 21, 2015

The woods...

I used to write short stories during my lunch break. Right before I started back to work I would send the stories to some of my co-workers who seemed to enjoy them. I was going through a difficult time eventually and didn't feel like writing. I started to get requests for stories and responded to each that it is hard to write when stressed out and depressed. After several more requests I put my feelings aside and spent an hour on a new story. It was dark....what had been intended as funny was brutal and mean. In less than an hour of sending the story out I was getting requests to please, PLEASE never write stories while I'm depressed.

I'm kind of stressed and depressed now...not that bad but borderline. Its enough for me to hesitate writing anything new. I thought for a change I would tell a story I told a few years ago. Its easy reading, a bit of humor and nostalgia, and most importantly written when life was grand and I walked around with a silly smile on my face all the time. Maybe retelling this story will help me get out of my funk.

"The Woods"

Long before the Methodist church made a parking lot out of it there was a great park at the end of our street. Before the city made a park out of it there was a really cool stand of woods with a creek running through it at the end of our street. We were absolutely forbidden to go anywhere near these woods for fear we would fall into the creek, be eaten by a bear, or possibly have more fun than was legal in 1956. For these very reasons we spent every waking moment planning a trip to the woods, sneaking off to the woods, or running and playing with total abandon in the woods.

It was a beautiful spring day when Glenn and I felt the urge to make a trip to the woods. It may have been okay if we had bothered to tell Mama where we were going....of course if we had told her we would have forbidden to go. It makes perfect sense to both of us even today that our reasoning was sound in sneaking off. We scooted out of the house with no problem. When there are five kids in the house it's barely noticeable when two go missing. We made it to the woods and were having the time of our lives within a few minutes.

Had we known this would be our last trip to the woods we would have soaked it in with every breath. Too many times in life the things we love are taken from us with no warning. After less than an hour Mama came looking for us. She found us. She had a switch in her hand and a mean look in her eye. Glenn was able to run because his feet were actually on the ground. He was only four though and never gave running a thought. He decided to hide behind a weed instead. A bad decision but excusable based on age and experience.

If I had been on the ground I would have run....all the way to Bedford before I stopped. Unfortunately I was mid-swing over the creek on one of the grapevines hanging from the oak trees. And, I was swinging toward a very irate Mama. I thought about letting go and falling into the creek. I would have survived with only a couple of broken bones. In the end though I landed right in front of her and took the first bite of that switch right across my skinny legs like a man. Being a man was short-lived however. I was squealing like a girl after the second or third hit. Glenn got it just as bad. The walk home was rough.

We were still getting an occasional swat as we worked our way up the hill toward home. We had never counted the kids we knew on the block until that day. There must have been a hundred of them. They were all outside as we went by. The were all watching. They were all whispering, "there but by the grace of...." or something of that sort.

We kept our distance from the woods while the wounds to our legs and pride healed. It must have been at least a week before we ventured down there again. To our shock and sadness there were bulldozers tearing those woods down to make way for a new city park. Our hearts were broken. We vowed we would never step foot in that park. Then we ran home as fast as we could before we were missed.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Its time to listen to the carols now....

It seems like the marketing world wants to extend Christmas well beyond its intended timeframe. I used to love Christmas...especially Christmas music. I'm enjoying some really good music as I write this but its the first Christmas music I've willingly allowed for the season...oh sure, we've all been bombarded with it since the day after Halloween but that isn't our fault. We, as normal well-adjusted adults, know Christmas music should be played a couple of weeks before the actual day and absolutely stopped at midnight Christmas night....I think it is an obscure law retail management chooses to snub. I also hate hearing about Black Friday sales beginning November 1st or earlier. Don't get me started on all the newly created annual sales competing with Black. I hate seeing Christmas decorations displayed well before I've gotten around to buying Halloween candy. My biggest complaint though is seeing Christmas lights after Christmas....come on, give it a rest. Santa does not need to find your house in the dark two months after Christmas.

As we've grown older Deb and I have settled into a wonderful Christmas tradition....we have Christmas with our family on Christmas Eve. This gives the grandkids a chance to spend the actual day with the other grandparents who give better gifts. Christmas day for us has become the day the decorations come down. Debbie starts in around 10:00am. She generally has all traces of Christmas tucked away by 2:00 in the afternoon. I help by staying out of her way. Its always a grand day for us.

Hmm, I seem to have drifted...back to Christmas music. I love Christmas music during the Christmas holidays. When I have to hear it beginning right after Halloween in every store or all day long from the radio across the hall from my office I begin to hate it. When I can't turn on my radio without Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree while trying to digest my Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas music becomes pretty obnoxious. Just sayin'....

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Happy Mama's Day

We call her "Mama" pronounced, "Momma". I tried for years to get my sibs to spell mama momma but they wouldn't budge so I finally gave in and spell it incorrectly too. The only time we would EVER think of Mama as mother was on Mother's Day. We felt "mother" was a bit too formal for our 900 square feet of living space. She raised us five kids to be successful, healthy, and happy adults. She did this with my dad's help of course but the personality building, be kind to your neighbor, don't go starting fights lessons of growing up came from her. Daddy provided the financial portion and the strict live by 'em or die rules. I dearly love them both and without them I wouldn't be the quiet, yet somewhat mysterious adult I am today.

Mama was a storyteller. She had a great memory and told tales with lots of detail and intrigue. We knew everything about her life growing up and yet we begged her to tell us more. She made night time almost as exciting as getting to watch "Gunsmoke" all the way through. (Side note here: Daddy would make us turn Gunsmoke off if Miss Kitty's outfit was a little bit too low cut.)

Mama was a strict disciplinarian. Of course none of us took her too seriously in this department because we had all experienced Daddy's discipline, which was something to think about on dark and stormy nights. She made us mind but she did it in a way that never scared us....except when that little vein in her neck started bulging and her left eye would start to twitch. That was a sign we were about to get "the switch". The switch grew on the Weeping Willow tree in our backyard. It was aptly named because it did cause us some serious weeping. If we finally drove Mama to the breaking point she would tell us to get the switch. We had to go out and pick out the switch she would use to punish us. It hurt......oh man, did it hurt!!

Growing up was good. We had a lot of laughs. Mama liked to laugh and she excelled in practical jokes. We learned early on that "practical jokes" meant scaring the pee-waddle-n-do out of one child while Mama and the other four kids laughed manically. These jokes were always set up and performed while Daddy was at work. He didn't appreciate a good joke the way the rest of us did. My favorite was the one where she would rub Merle Norman light green face cream all over her face, wrap a white sheet around her and hide in a closet until one of us kids came along and opened the closet door. She was a hoot and the slight urine smell of our house was attributed to this particular joke.

Aside from these life lessons I can list several more things Mama taught us...first of all, she taught us about the Lord. We were just dumb enough and lazy enough that had it not been for her teaching and example we might have all grown up to be....oh, I don't know...democrats or something worse.

She also taught me:
1. Dogs belong somebody else's yard.
2. Cats belong in the history books. They should not be....period.
3. Bathe regularly. Nobody likes smelly boys.
4. Wear clean underwear when leaving the house....who knows?!
5. Don't fight.
6. If you do fight, whip 'em.
7. If they wear glasses give 'em time to remove their glasses before punching them in the nose.
8. If you're going to tell a story, make it a good one.
9. Don't smoke unless your kids are driving you crazy and you absolutely have to lock yourself in the bathroom and smoke.
10. Don't wear long hair unless you're a girl.
oh, and one more...
11. Plant lots of Weeping Willow trees.

The list could go on and on but you get the idea. We were raised by the best Mama ever created. We all love her deeply. We would tell her that to her face but it starts to lose its intent when you have to repeat it over and over...and then finally yell at the top of our lungs, "I SAID I LOVE YOU.....DADGUMIT!!" Mama doesn't hear too well nowadays.


Thursday, January 1, 2015

I miss radio...

When I was about eight, our Dad gave my much older sister, Cindy, her first radio. I immediately became her best friend. I fell in love with the radio. I loved the songs, the weekly top 40 ratings, the dee-jays....I even liked most of the commercials. I got my own radio from Dad about two year's later and Cindy lost her listening companion....I think she grieves to this day but that's another story. My first radio was a mint green, Arvin AM radio. Back then AM was all anyone needed. FM was just a weird idea nobody needed to consider. My Arvin radio became my favorite possession, just ahead of my beloved Micky Mantle ball glove. I would listen to the radio any time I could get away with it. Sometimes it was hard to have any quality listening time because, even though he bought the radios, our Dad hated the noise. In fact, our Dad invented remote control. As soon as he pulled the car into the driveway each day, the radios automatically went from about a seven on the volume dial to a low, low two....we're talking "whisper" mode.

One of my favorite sons, and I have two of them, bought me a new radio, cd player, alarm clock, and power massager for my study this year. Oh sure, I'm kidding about the power massager. That was an additional charge he didn't want to pay for but that's another story. I have yet to figure out how to operate anything on it except the radio. I have scanned every AM station and every FM station and so far there is nothing even close to what I remember as having loved on the radio. It's all opinions, infomercials, Hispanic dance tunes, or something the youth of today calls "music". I did find one oldies station but their idea of oldies is music my two boys grew up with....and we all agree THAT was disgusting. There are a couple of country stations but please believe me when I say, "what they are playing is not country". I don't know what it is but it drives me right up the wall. I really need to learn how the cd player works. Then I can play the cd's I have that are remakes of cassettes, which are remakes of 8-track, which are remakes of the good old vinyl records I used to own. Sure, you can laugh at my situation. Maybe YOU know how to listen to Pandora and build your own radio station. I still have trouble logging on to Solitaire, which has one of those little thingies on the "desktop" of this computer. Until I learn how to work this cd player I'm not going to learn anything else so please don't send me any "hints" or offers of help. If I had asked for help it would have been for something serious and not how to work my new radio...or how to set up Pandora. I would have asked for leaf raking or gutter cleaning....something worthwhile and needed. Not that I'm trying to hint I need these things....just citing examples, ya know?!