Monday, October 21, 2013

"I'm on the Top of the World"; A Modern Day Love Story

Such a feelin's comin' over me
There is wonder in most every thing I see
Not a cloud in the sky, got the sun in my eyes
And I won't be surprised if it's a dream

Since coming West, aside from missing my family and friends at home,  I have been "on the top of the world"!   Truthfully, the literal "top" started in June when Rachel and I flew to Denver.  We had an awesome mother/daughter trip combined with business for Rachel.  A couple of the highlights of our trip this summer included traveling to Red Rock--one day I will return to a concert at this site--where we ate at The Fort (highly recommended going on our experience), and then the next day when we travelled to the Rockies.  Even though there was some threat of poor weather conditions, we took the Old Fall River Road to climb via the one-way/single lane, mostly gravel road to 10,000+ feet!  We were on the top of the world literally and figuratively!  We saw the most awesome views going up, and after arriving at the Alpine Visitor Center to eat and shop, we went outside to walk straight into the mist making us feel as if we were in the clouds!

Then in September, my best buddy and I, along with Huck and Finn, started West.  Again, I found myself on top of the world.  In fact, many of my friends, as reflected in their posted comments, seemed to find this new height disconcerting enough to issue warnings of being too close to the edge.  View this:

The Badlands.  The most significant aspect of this site is not how many feet in the air it is but, rather, the sheer vastness of the geological formations among other things.  I believe that for me, in particular, this "top of the world" might be more metaphorical than literal as I got to experience this with the love of my life, my buddy, my pal! 

Everything I want the world to be
Is now comin' true especially for me
And the reason is clear, it's because you are here
You're the nearest thing to Heaven that I've seen

This past Saturday I found myself yet again "on top of the world."  Roy and I went to Mt. Rainier;  this time, we were at only 5,400 ft. but when we reached Paradise Visitor Center.  I read "I'm On the Top of the World" on a display and knew that the old song by the Carpenters that I listened to incessantly during my college years described this experience in which I am currently so immersed. 

There is only one wish on my mind
When this day is through I hope that I will find
That tomorrow will be just the same for you and me
All I need will be mine if you are here

I'm on the top of the world lookin' down on creation
And the only explanation I can find
Is the love that I've found ever since you've been around
Your love's put me at the top of the world

Sunday, October 20, 2013

I Got a Deal!

My husband and I have been married, as of August 12, 2013, for 35 years.  Those people who know Roy well know that he likes nothing better than the hunt for a good deal and will even pit one business (very effective with car dealerships) against its competition to get the best possible outcome. He pours over ads for the cheapest Diet Cherry Dr. Peppers and drives the distance to acquire them.  He buys canned vegetables by the case if he sees them on sale.  By this time, some of you are saying "enough"! while some of you are saying "that is just good business sense"!

Roy has tried to be a good role model and teach his family members about being thrifty.  One of our children is Roy, Jr. when it comes to money, while the remainder of us are at different stages of learning or just can't be bothered!  Take me, for instance.  In 35 years of marriage, I have learned how to ask for certain discounts, how to shop on line for the better price, and I have even managed to make myself ask Walmart to match the price of their competitor--if Roy reminds me that this store or that has it cheaper.  The shopping online for the kill is no stretch for me at all, but if the cashier in the store acts in the least like the church treasurer who believes the Sunday offering is her personal property or, in other words, balks, I fold, smile and thank her sweetly.

I find that I have to scratch my head in wonder when it comes to certain pursuits of "the deal." I will illustrate the concept.  I see it play out on a daily basis in the food industry as well as in retail, but it is easier to illustrate it than to "name" it.  Panera Bread is one of my favorite places to hang out and use their wi-fi, read or snuggle up to their fireplace all while having the best cheddar broccoli soup that I have ever eaten bar none.  I have a MyPanera card, and I love the surprises that I receive via that card, but there is a problem with it.  A few days ago, I dropped in at our local Panera for just a cup of soup with a whole grain baguette.  I wanted nothing more or nothing less as it was a little later than the recognized lunch hours, I wasn't starving, and I didn't want to be too full to eat dinner with my husband when he got home.

I ordered.  The cashier said, "You have $2 off on the Pick 2 on your card.  Would you like to upgrade and take advantage of the savings?"

My mind is arguing with itself or perhaps it is with Roy's voice--either way, I succumb to the allure of getting a cup or bowl (I can't remember which) plus a sandwich and a baguette and save $2!  Yes!  I got a deal!  Within the hour as I leave I realize that I have spent $2 more than I would have spent had I stuck to my guns.  Granted, I got more food, but I am now feeling sick because I have overstuffed myself, and I will not be able to eat dinner with my husband.

Second case in point!  Easy Spirit has been my shoe of choice for the last ten years or so.  While these shoes have different levels of support, the brand itself came highly recommended by the foot therapist who treated my plantar fasciitis several years back.  However, I never purchase these shoes in a department store nor online; I more frugally seek out Easy Spirit outlets.  A couple of days ago, I realized that I had arrived in this state with one pair of black shoes--casual flats--and one black shoe with a heel. I could not find my other black heel.  Thanks to Google, I was elated to find an Easy Spirit store about 30 minutes from our home!  Yes!  I walk into the store to find the much needed pair of black heels, locate them, and look up to find the following sign:  BOGO 50% off, or something to that effect.  So starts the struggle of what to do!  If I had come in for a pair of boots, I could have gotten 30% off of a single pair!  . . . Okay, so I could use another style of a navy shoe, so what do I do?  Spend $20-$30 more than I had planned and go home with two pairs of shoes.

The point is that I GOT A DEAL, didn't I?

I console myself with the knowledge that when I get to Heaven, an angel nor God will meet me at the Pearly Gates and say,  "For just $100, you may upgrade from from an inside mansion to a mansion with a view."  No!  Jesus paid it all, so I would not have to wonder if I got a deal or not!  Amen and Amen!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Home is Where the Heart Is???

When I made the decision to retire from my teaching job March of 2012, I traded the joy of inspiring the dreams of my students for realizing a few dreams of my own.  My dream of the perfect retirement took me to live in Indiana with my husband who had been there already for six months and to upgrade a 1960's house by taking down more wallpaper than I care to even think about in retrospect.  Just as I finished making that house a home, I was blessed to teach again during the fall of 2012, until the closing of the academy.  My heart was in that home because my husband and my furry babies were there.  However, when it came to moving back to the home that we had had built with our own stamp of personal choices on it, I was not heartbroken to trade in the shallow closets, original oak flooring (much of it covered by carpet), and formica countertops for walk ins, Brazilian Cherry and granite.  In spite of the upgrades, would it have been home without my husband there?  Not really, so when he was sent to the next assignment, although I balked in the beginning, I packed our left over furniture--some inherited and some purchased from an estate--chose only the clothes suitable to our destination, and drove across country.  Somewhere between Montana and the west coast,  my best friend and husband leased a home mutually agreed upon (based solely on a website view and description) in our preferred neighborhood/town.

When we arrived, we were met with these views:
Main street moving through the town center
Adjacent street dressed in fall colors

Neighborhood Starbucks--Lucky Me!

I was reminded at once of the movie Pleasantville, and, at the same time, of my friend's husband's recent post concerning intentional communities (linked for your reading pleasure  Reading John's view of an intentional community made me want to rush out and get in on the ground floor of this concept, so I hope that he will not be offended by me connecting his academically researched plan for a community to our little town designed to include a store, among other deliberately chosen features, to meet every daily need of the members of the community allowing them to rarely have to leave town center if they so choose.  We have a dry cleaner, library, Yogurtini, Jiffy Lube,  bus "depot," hotel, post office, Mexican restaurant, 3 sushi establishments, a pub--to name a few examples--and my neighbor informed me that we are getting a grocery store within a short time.  The streets are tree lined with the elementary school and childcare facility located alongside the homes, apartments and condos.  Dogs are welcome additions and are companions to their owners who frequently walk, ride bikes or jog on the sidewalked streets.  Our town is designed so that the houses back up to their own alley where the garbage is discreetly picked up, parks are dispersed throughout the community, and landscape at the front of each house is manicured for the most part by the city workers rather than home owners.  Gray, beige, yellow, clay and blue are repeated colors of houses on any given street where inhabitants look down on their side yards from second floor windows or casually from the front porches of their deep, one-storied homes called ramblers.

The house we call home is a two-story with an open living, dining and kitchen area warmed by a fireplace while three bedrooms with two baths hover above.  A garage and grassy side yard with hot tub completes our "little world." (For the sake of inquiring family members, pictures are included,)  This house has wood floors that creak with every footfall and no bathroom on the first floor, but we embrace it as our home because it pulses with the love and energy of four hearts--Roy's, Huck's, Finn's, and mine!
Our Northwest home

Living Area with my dad's recliner, couch and chair from Indiana and Canvas 1 repainted to match each home

Entryway with Mrs. Finnerty's secretary

Dining area and corner kitchen

Guest room with my Uncle Bob's cedar bedroom set and my great grandmother's quilt

Master bedroom with Canvas 2 painted to match its new home

Kings of the Side Yard


Thursday, October 10, 2013

"I Just Love Old People"

George Younce has been a favorite of mine for years, and I am certain that Heaven is an even happier place (if possible) since he and my dad arrived there separately over the past year or two.  Many times during his conversational portion of concerts with the Cathedrals, I have looked at his receding, gray hairline, have responded to his quick wit that bespoke of aged wisdom, and have heard him say "I love old people."  I concur. Since my hair is not as gray and my wisdom is not as sound, perhaps my saying this is not as ironic nor laughable in a good way as was with Younce, but I say this in all sincerity.  I love the way our elders turn a phrase which sometimes is foreign to our less seasoned ears, but we get the meaning--or not.  Either way, old people do not castigate you if you miss the point!  They look at you with an understanding smile and ease your discomfort by silently signaling "I've been there before you, and I sense your discomfort.  It will be okay,"  or in current vernacular  "Been there, done that.  I survived."  Case in point. . .I go to water aerobics on base on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  Because I haven't been involved with an organized exercise program recently, I chose the low intensity class (It also meets at 10:00 rather than 9:00, so it fits my needs on more than one level.).  Upon walking into the locker room on the first day, I am met by retired female military personnel, retirement- age spouses and a few wives shy of age 65 all giving me advice as to choices related to the class offerings.  Leaving the locker room,  I enter the pool area rather timidly, and in mid-stride to join the already stretching members in the water, I notice that the little Korean lady closest to me motioned that I should pick up the floating dumbbells, a noodle and hand weights--poundage of my own choosing--before entering the pool. All of this was done without language but rather pointing gestures and a whole lot of smiling.  She walked me through the acquiring of equipment, signing in and getting into the water to join the class already in session. Already, I was feeling a sense of nurtured belonging.

I love their stories.  The older gentleman who stands between the aforementioned little Korean lady and myself in the pool loves to talk.  It is obvious that he is one of those people who have never met a stranger, and it is equally obvious that he has not used all of his male-alloted words by the time he arrives to class (I bet his wife lives for the hour when he leaves for water aerobics--jk).  Aside from the fact that he made me miss half of the instructions throughout the first class, he tells great stories.  He told me yesterday that he and his wife were going to Kansas City for a military reunion, and then the stories began. . . .

I get their antics and fun loving spirit!  Having been a teacher of teenagers for several years, I can make the observation pretty confidently that there is always a clown in every class.  It is true with these military retirees as well.  Three men at the other end of the pool, perhaps former officers and leaders who were probably responsible for many men's lives and safety,  whoop and holler at random times when the class gets boring or they smack their foam noodles wildly and unabashedly on the surface of the pool as their classmates twitter (like birds, not social media) in response.  Oddly, their "acting out" does not evoke any occupational urge in me to reprimand nor remind them of their role in the "educational community."  Ha!  I embrace it!

And last but not least, I love their embedded meanings-- uplifting, in nature, rather than employing a "putdown."  Granted, I am in my late fifties, currently wearing more pounds than I would like, and very modest.  I go to the pool with my swimsuit on under my street clothes not because of modesty issues but for the purpose of saving time.  So it was quite ironic as I stood in front of a locker and began to remove my street clothes that a sweet lady with wrinkled, mocha colored skin and a gravelly voice bathed in a smile passing behind me said, "Hey, it is not legal to do what you are doing in public."  Ha Ha!   I, for just a moment, felt like I was in my 30's in an athletic body with the ability to be Queen of the Pool!   Nice feeling!  "I just love old people!"

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Being a daddy's girl; a tribute to my dad on his 1st birthday in Heaven

Paul Keith Parks, Oct. 1, 1927--March 6, 2013

It goes without saying that I definitely was a daddy's girl;  my mother recognized it, and many times would affectionately tease me about it.  My mom and I were best buds, and I could tell her anything as she was a terrific listener, knowing that she did not judge nor belittle me in the least.  My dad, though,  was complex, like an onion with layers, and he had the power and position to motivate me in a good way to never disappoint him--whether I was five or forty-five.  He might be the closest thing in my life to a hero.  What (and not limited to this initial list) made him such a great father?

  • He approached things logically with me not just emotionally.
  • He inspired a good work ethic by example.
  • He was protective as, I believe, is unique to a father of only one child. 
  • He made me aware that I was very important to him and many of his decisions were made solely on the premise that I was the center of his world.
  • He rehearsed "what if" situations--possible dangers--until he felt that I knew how to correctly respond in the event they happened (fire, car going into a body of water, a panicked crowd, etc.).
  • He analyzed people and what motivated them and communicated those "readings" of human nature to me.
  • He taught me about God, morality and character--and lead by example.
  • He encouraged me to think.
  • He made me feel very safe.
  • He made me laugh with his quick wit.
  • He taught me a great appreciation of language by enriching my life with the colorful vernacular of his generation and those southern expressions with which he had grown up hearing.
  • He taught me to drive a stick shift, to fish, to hunt, and the list could go on.
  • He allowed me to see his hurts and made me be okay with being human.
  • He hated arrogance and held up humility as the better choice.
  • He was a man of his word and demanded integrity.
  • He made me believe that I could be anything that I chose to be--he empowered me!
  • He made me believe that he would die for me!
  • He would not allow disrespect of himself nor of my mother.
  • He taught me to say "Yes, sir," "Yes, ma'am," "No, sir," No, ma'am," "Thank you," and "Please."
  • He gave me a wonderful love of animals.
  • He passed on a love of gardening--of growing things. 
  • He taught me the art of persuasion because he did not give in to my every whim. . .                   (to be added to as I remember) 

Wrap 'n roll, anyone?

 With all of the diversity of culture within the greater military family,  one result is a hotbed of good food and entertainment.   I thought that I would be a good friend and share an idea (actually, I may be documenting the specifics more for myself in a place where I know I can find them) that requires  a minimum of preparation and absolutely no serving by the hostess at mealtime and is different, fun, and delicious!  A couple of days ago, I was invited to a "Wrap and Roll."  I was intrigued by the title of the event.  It was to occur at 6:00 in the evening, and the emailed invitation with attached flyer informed the recipients that we were going to learn to make spring rolls and sushi--thus the name, wrap and roll.   Yea!  Thanh and Rachel are my sushi buddies, and thanks to Sri Son (an extended family member), our whole family had at least a working knowledge of spring rolls.   However, I have never made my own!  Since it was a girls only party, I left Roy to his own devices for searching the frig for food and merrily went on my way.  When I arrived at the home where the event was to take place, I noticed the dining room table was set with wooden dinner plates and a container of chopsticks with no forks in sight.  There were two fun-loving hostesses who had prepared a terrific experience for a small group of women whom I had never met in my life except for the two who planned it, and amid much laughter the evening began to unfold as large platters were place in the middle of the table.

We were going to make the spring rolls first.  Rather than try to explain step by step, it is easier to provide a link that contains a tutorial explaining exactly what we did with the exception of putting chicken in the spring roll.  We used shrimp as you can see in the picture. 
The peanut sauce was to die for!  Luckily, all of us loved peanut butter, and no one had food allergies (You might want to poll your guests beforehand for such issues as there are other choices for sauces).

After we each had mastered the idea of making a spring roll to our own taste and presentation, we ate, talked and laughed ourselves through several more.  As we began to wind down, one of our hostesses swapped the first platters out for the second set of pre-assembled platters containing the ingredients for making sushi (not expertly rolled sushi, but our own versions).

The ingredients for the sushi were cooked, roasted, sauteed or marinated--no raw fish for this group.  Our meat, for this dish, was cooked salmon resting on a bed of roasted cloves of garlic, or as the shrimp was deliberately left on the table, it could be used as well.  This time the vegetables were julienned carrots marinated in rice vinegar for several hours until they were soft,  julienned cucumber, white radish sprouts and avocado.  We used the traditional sheets of seaweed or nori (which we broke into fourths), and what I call sticky rice completed our list of ingredients!  I am including another tutorial link Making California rolls that is rather similiar to what we did minus rolling the sushi in sesame seeds.  As we ate our creations, we dipped them into the soy sauce and wasabi mixture. (If you are unfamiliar with wasabi, carefully blend a small amount of wasabi with the soy sauce.  Years ago at a Chinese restaurant in Virginia Beach, my husband had the unfortunate experience of eating what he thought to be soup to be eaten liberally but was rather a sauce to be used lightly--bringing tears to his eyes in the eating and tears to my eyes in the telling!)  By the time we reached the end of the meal, an awesome American apple crisp with ice cream,  we stood around the kitchen casually talking like old friends, holding our desserts in hand, and feeling thankful for two ladies who dared to be different and prepare an awesome bonding experience for us.

If you should choose to do this, I am certain that a culturally-correct invited expert might be a great idea for teaching purposes, but we were novices and the more creative and less worried we were about correctness, the more fun it was.  Also, if Asian food is not your forte, I'm thinking the concept could be applied to other ethnic foods as well with an equally clever title for the event.