Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Going Green... One Pinterest Obsession After Another

I am a big fan of Pinterest. I post a million things hoping to get to just a few worthwhile projects before I die.

One of the boards I have created for myself is a DIY board... I'm sure all of my fellow pin-addicts have one of these as well. My board is filled with all kinds of recipes and ideas to save time, money, my sanity, and the environment.

Although I have taken the time to Pin these ideas, I admit I have only put a few concepts into actual play in my life. I did however, plant some seedlings in my leftover egg shells and am regrowing my green onions from the cuttings, so not all is lost ;)

Since moving to this farm in January 2014, a farm which has been certified organic for the past several years, it occurs to me, more than ever, that I need to be making some changes in a few items I use on a regular basis; such as laundry detergent.

So, my interest was piqued when a class at the local community college was brought to my attention. The class was about how to make homemade cosmetics and products. I signed myself up and coerced my sister into going along.

The two hour class was fun and informative ... we didn't get as much hands-on as this klutz would have cared for, but as there were Pyrex dishes filled with melted wax, etc., it's probably better that I attempt these things in my own kitchen and not in a room full of witnesses.

Our instructor,  Louise, encouraged us all to share the recipes and techniques with family and friends. She also said to experiment a bit to see what combinations of oils and fragrances you like... don't be afraid to venture out of your comfort zone. So, as I know I will misplace my newly-acquired recipes AND I want to do as instructed, I will share what I learned here ... I will add some stock pictures from the web as I don't have any of my own yet. I will also attempt to add some links to aid in purchasing some products, tutorials, and such.

Homemade Liquid Laundry Detergent

1/3 bar soap (Ivory is suggested although you can also use Fels-Naptha); grated
1/2c. Arm & Hammer Washing SODA (not detergent...the boxes look similar, so be mindful)
1/2c. Borax
30 drops of Essential Oils of your choice (lavender, or lemongrass ... keep it pleasant and simple) You can purchase oils at most health food stores or order oils here 
3  1-gallon water jugs

Bring 5 cups of water to a boil. Lower heat and add the grated soap and stir until melted. Add an additional 4 cups of water to the mixture; stir. Remove from heat and add the Washing Soda and Borax; mix well. Do not add essential oils until mixture has cooled just a little bit to avoid dissipation. 

Take your 3 1-gallon containers and add 7 cups of water to each. Stir mixture, then pour 3 cups of mixture into each of the 1-gallon containers. As the mixture cools, you will want to shake it. You can then transfer mixture to a more manageable storage container, if you like. 

Use 1/3c of your detergent per load ( 1/4 c. if you have a front-load machine) As there are no chemicals to prevent separation of ingredients, it is important that you SHAKE WELL BEFORE USE

All products, except for the essential oils (link provided above), can be purchased at Walmart. 

Homemade Powder Laundry Detergent

2 bars soap ( Ivory, Fels-Naptha, or Dr. Bronner) HINT: Ivory is cheaper and more readily available. 
1 1/2c. Arm & Hammer Washing Soda (again, be sure it's the washing soda and NOT their detergent...big difference) 
1 1/2c. Borax
Essential Oils ( optional and amount added is at your discretion. Start with a few drops and add more as you go along) 

Finely grate your bars of soap using an old fashioned cheese grater OR you can use a food processor. Just be careful when grating the harder bars of soap if using a processor.... you don't want to damage or ruin an expensive kitchen appliance to save a few dollars. Ivory is soft and should grate nicely.

If you'd like to mix the ingredients into a finer powder to avoid any soap flakes from streaking your darker clothing, run small batches through a coffee grinder for just a few seconds before storing. 

Use 2T of your detergent per load. If you have a front load washer, you can use 1T per load. 

HINT: Save your plastic 1-gallon coffee containers to store your detergent. I have saved up quite a few and am going to spray them with chalkboard paint and write what's inside and how much to use (Thank you Pinterest for the idea!!!)  LOL

Homemade Lotion

1 3/4c. hot water (specific instruction below regarding temp) 
1/4c. emulsifying wax available here
1/4c. oil of choice (avocado, olive, coconut) HINT: Always get cold pressed extra virgin oils
7 drops of essential oils of your choice
(2 candy thermometers are handy and should be used for this recipe) 

In a Pyrex measuring glass, combine the oil and emulsifying wax. Microwave 1 minute until melted. Optimal temperature is 155*F (-/+ 5*)

Microwave 1 3/4c water for 1 minute. Optimal temperature is 120*F  (-/+ 5*)

Add the essential oils to the wax/oil  mixture at optimal temperature. Stir. 

Once you determine that your temperature is optimal for both the wax/oil mixture and water, pour the hot water into the wax/oil  mixture and watch it turn milky ( color will depend on the oil you use. Avocado and olive oil mixtures may turn a lovely yellow while coconut will be white). Occasionally stir the temperature of your lotion mixture until it cools to  approximately 125*F. 

Pour the lotion mixture into wide mouth pint-size jars. Mildly shake the jars until the mixture cools. You can transfer into a plastic bottle with dispenser if you like, just be sure bottle is free of BPA so it doesn't leech into your organic lotion. You can recycle an old lotion bottle OR Amazon has quite a few selections ( I did not check to see BPA content in any of these bottles) 

This lotion is smooth and luxurious... good for hands, face, body. Use sparingly as a little goes a long way. 

Homemade Deodorant

3T. Shea Butter (refined) can be found at most health food stores or available here
3T Arm & Hammer Baking Soda   IMPORTANT: Arm & Hammer is the only baking soda that does NOT have traces of aluminum. Only use Arm & Hammer
2T Corn Starch
2T Cocoa Butter  - can be found at health food stores or available here
2 Vitamin E oil gel capsules (puncture and squeezed into recipe as instructed) 
 4 drops Essential Oils (Tea Tree Oil, Orange Oil suggested. Lavender highly recommended as it has natural qualities to kill bacteria, viruses, fungi) 

Melt all ingredients (except Vitamin E and Essential Oils) in microwave safe dish for approximately 30 seconds Stir well. 

Add Vitamin E from capsules and Essential Oils. Mix well and pour into small containers. You can even use your empty deodorant tubes, if you like. 
You should have enough for two containers. Keep one to use and keep the other in the refrigerator. 

TO USE: Scrape a little deodorant out of the jar with the back of your fingernail; a small, pea-sized amount will do. Hold under your arm for 5 seconds or until it is warm enough to spread under your arm. It make take a few days use to notice if this product is working for you. Remember, this is a deodorant, NOT an antiperspirant. Although the mixture will have some antiperspirant properties, you may still sweat a bit. 

IMPORTANT NOTE: Some individuals may have a sensitivity to baking soda. If you notice a reaction, you may want to cut back on the baking soda for your next batch. 

Homemade Lip Balm

1 1/2 tsp. Beeswax
1 7/8 tsp. Coconut Oil 
1 1/8 tsp Cocoa Butter (link for purchase above) 
3 tsp. Olive Oil
3 Vitamin E Capsules
4 Drops of Essential Oils ( Peppermint is recommended, but experiment with oils of your liking) 

Place all ingredients ( EXCEPT FOR THE VITAMIN E CAPSULES - HEATING THE VITAMIN E WHILE MELTING THE OTHER INGREDIENTS WILL CAUSE IT TO LOSE IT'S HELPFUL, HEALING PROPERTIES) into a Pyrex measuring cup. Melt ingredients in double boiler OR microwave. Melt, stirring often until all ingredients are liquid and mixed well. 

Remove from heat and add the content of the Vitamin E capsules ( pierce capsule and squeeze oil into mixture; discard capsule) and the Essential Oils

You will notice that there is not much product once melted. That's Okay! You will have enough to fill 6 empty lip balm tubes. Carefully pour the mixture into a 1c. measuring cup to ease with pouring. Fill tubes and allow them to cool and harden. 

Another great resource for products to assist you in these DIY projects is Mountain Rose Herbs

I hope you are able to make a few items for yourself. They were much easier than I had originally thought, and after attending last night's class, I am more motivated than ever to place a DIY Day on the calendar and stock up! 

It is important to remember that the cosmetic items DO NOT have any preservatives, so they will "spoil" with time. Best rule of thumb is to use them up within a 6 month time frame. SO, if you're making big batches, be sure to share with family and friends. 

Feel free to share this blog post and I'd love to hear back from you regarding your success with these DIY recipes. 

*DISCLAIMER> > > Again, I used stock photos from a google search. I do not own these pictures and did not obtain permission to use them. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Diner Definers

Shortly after our arrival to our son's home in Iowa. my sister and her husband arrived to welcome us and suggest we go to the local (and only) cafe for dinner. 

Assured that I would be able to get something "meat-free", I agree that dinner sounds like a great plan and wonder how all of us will fit into my sister's car. 

Much to my surprise, as I stand, freezing and shivering, next to my sister's car, everyone starts walking the three blocks in the 30* weather, avoiding the ice patches on the streets and sidewalks as they go. I dutifully fall into the ranks. 

Once seated at "Mother's Steakhouse"  I begin the defrosting process and peruse the menu. I decide on a dinner salad and baked potato with all the "fixins". 

However, much to my dismay, in this little community in Iowa, baked potatoes don't have fixins! I think we truly stumped the young waitress when asking if they had chives. (No, they don't... She thinks...I still don't think she knows what chives are) ...

So, I have to rethink my dining options as a dry potato doesn't appeal to me.... How about the potato skins ... I can do those!

I inquire about the potato skins... "Do they have bacon on them?" I ask.

 I am rewarded with a blank stare followed with a confused, yet resounding "no" ... 

 Ok, Ok!!! I get it, there's no bacon. Good !!

"Do you want the personal size?" she asks. "No," I reply, "lets do the full order because you know everyone's gonna reach over and take them off of my plate."  And I swear, this was her response. 

...... you'd think I had just arrived here from Mars.  (Mars ... California.... makes no difference when you're new to a small community)

And now I know why she had such an expression ...

In California, potato skins are basically a baked potato with the innards scooped out. Add cheese, bacon, and chives... Pop em into the oven for a few and serve up w ranch dressing or sour cream.  

In Iowa, potato skins are  peeled, and generally discarded skins of the potatoes and then deep fried !!!! I was the recipient of a whole, huge steaming basket of potato peelings, NOT the 4 to 6 little wedges I was envisioning. 

Needless to say, I received NO assistance eating them. I even brought a box home for breakfast.

Remind me to ask specific questions next time I go out as I'm pretty sure "sweetbreads"
will not be a "cinnamon crumble bagel" from Paneras. LMAO

Dairy of a Snow Shoveler

It snowed last night.

I got up three times in the middle of the night to check to see how much had fallen...

I got up this morning, grabbed a cup of coffee, and sat in my living room enjoying how the sun reflected off of the snow.

I remembered a funny story my husband had shared a few years ago. Not only did he share it with me, but he photo copied it and passed it around to everyone at work proclaiming that the elements of the story were the very reason he would never move back to Iowa.

And yet, here we are...in Iowa...preparing for our first FULL Winter. When we arrived in March, we brought a blizzard with us. It literally rode in on our coat tails (I know the neighbors are still blaming us).   And then, we experienced a freak blizzard in May... MAY !!! Who gets snow storms in MAY?? Well, we did. ( I know the neighbors are blaming us for this one, too)

Let's just go for the trifecta and take credit for the flooding that happened here in June while we're at it. This resulted in the entire moldification of our son's basement living area. he now sleeps in my craft room.

At the moment, we still have our sanity and are smiling. But, much as the individual in the story I am about to share, I anticipate an entire "melt down" as the season progresses. We are told to expect a rough Winter.... I'm sure we will get blamed for that one, as well.

Enjoy (at my expense ....)

Diary of a Snow Shoveler~~
Day 1
6:00 PM. It started to snow. The first snow of the season and the wife and I took our cocktails and sat for hours by the window watching the huge soft flakes drift down from heaven. It looked like a Grandma Moses print. So romantic we felt like newlyweds again. I love snow!

Day 2
We woke to a beautiful blanket of crystal white snow covering every inch of the landscape. What a fantastic sight! Can there be a more lovely place in the Whole World? Moving here was the best idea I've ever had. Shoveled for the first time in years and felt like a boy again. I did both our driveway and the sidewalks. This afternoon the snowplow came along and covered up the sidewalks and closed in the driveway, so I got to shovel again. What a perfect life.

Day 3
The sun has melted all our lovely snow. Such a disappointment. My neighbor tells me not to worry, we'll definitely have a white Valentine's day. No snow in February would be awful! Bob says we'll have so much snow by the end of winter, that I'll never want to see snow again. I don't think that's possible. Bob is such a nice man, I'm glad he's our neighbor.

Day 4
Snow, lovely snow! 8" last night. The temperature dropped to the teens. The cold makes everything sparkle so. The wind took my breath away, but I warmed up by shoveling the driveway and sidewalks. This is the life! The snowplow came back this afternoon and buried everything again. I didn't realize I would have to do quite this much shoveling, but I'll certainly get back in shape this way.

Day 5
20 forecast. Sold my van and bought a 4x4 Blazer. Bought snow tires for the wife's car and 2 extra shovels. Stocked the freezer. The wife wants a wood stove in case the electricity goes out. I think that's silly. We aren't in Alaska, after all.

Day 6
Ice storm this morning. Fell on my butt on the ice in the driveway putting down salt. Hurt like heck. The wife laughed for on hour, which I think was very cruel.

Day 7
Temperature is way below freezing. Roads too icy to go anywhere. Electricity was off for 5 hours. I had to pile the blankets on to stay warm. Nothing to do but stare at the wife and try not to irritate her. Guess I should've bought a wood stove, but won't admit it to her. God I hate it when she's right. I can't believe I'm freezing to death in my own living room.

Day 8
Electricity's back on, but another 14" of the damn stuff last night. More shoveling. Took all day. Darn snowplow came back twice. Tried to find a neighbor kid to shovel, but they said they're too busy playing hockey. I think they're lying. Called the only hardware store around to see about buying a snow blower and they're out. Might have another shipment in March. I think they're lying. Bob says I have to shovel or the city will have it done and bill me. I think he's lying.

Day 9
Bob was right about winter's here because 13 more inched of the white crap fell today, and it's so cold it probably won't melt till August. Took me 45 minutes to get all dressed up to go out to shovel and then I had to poop. By the time I got undressed, pooped, and dressed again, I was too tired to shovel. Tried to hire Bob who has a plow on his truck for the rest of the winter, but he says he's too busy. I think the jerk is lying.

Day 10
Only 2" of snow today. And it warmed up to 15. The wife wanted me to clean the porch furniture this morning. What, is she nuts! Why didn't she tell me to clean them months ago and cover them? She says she did but I think she's lying.

Day 11
6" snow packed so hard by the snowplow, I broke the shovel. Thought I was having a heart attack. If I ever catch the man who drives that snowplow I'll drag him through the snow by his nose and beat him to death with my broken shovel. I know he hides around the corner and waits for me to finish shoveling and then he comes down the street at 100 miles an hour and throws snow all over where I've just been! Tonight the wife wanted me to watch a romantic movie with her, but I was too busy watching for the snowplow.

Day 12
Happy Valentine's Day! 20 more inches of the slop tonight. Snowed in. The idea of shoveling makes my blood boil. I hate snow! Then the snowplow driver came by asking for a donation and I hit him over the head with my shovel. The wife says I have a bad attitude. I think she's a fricking idiot. If I have to watch "Sleepless In Seattle" one more time, I'm going to stuff her into the microwave.

Day 13
Still snowed in. Why the heck did I ever move here? It was all HER idea. She's really getting on my nerves.

Day 14
Temperature dropped to record low and the pipes froze. Plumber came after 14 hours of waiting for him. He only charged me $1400 to replace all my pipes.

Day 15
Warmed up to above 18! Still snowed in. THE WITCH is driving me crazy!!!

Day 16
Still more snow. Bob says I have to shovel the roof or it could cave in. That's the silliest thing I ever heard. How dumb does he think I am?

Day 17
Roof caved in. I beat up the snow plow driver. He's now suing me for a million dollars not only for the beating I gave him but also for trying to shove the broken snow shovel up where the sun don't shine. The wife went home to her mother. More snow predicted.

Day 18
I set fire to what's left of the house. No more shoveling.

Day 19
Feel so good. I just love those little white pills they keep giving me. Why am I tied to the bed?

Saturday, May 4, 2013

My Mayberry...

This past winter, my husband and I packed up our few possessions and left our lives in sunny Southern California for the frozen plains of  Franklin County, Iowa.

And, right now, many of you are going to suggest that I make myself an appointment for a CT scan, STAT! Because who, in their right mind, does that !!!

Well, to me, Iowa is home.

 I had spent many summers at my Grandpa's home in Sioux City, Iowa and I have fond memories of carefree summers of running free, catching fire flies at dusk, learning to play cribbage at the kitchen table while listening to the ball game on his radio. Back yards went on forever, because neighbors don't believe in fences.

Every day my Grandpa and I would walk to Peter's Park where we'd stop in to say hello to Ed, the barber. Sometimes, Grandpa would get a trim. We'd go to the Ben Franklin Store to pick up a treat or two to keep me occupied and then head to the Masonic Lodge, where Grandpa would tidy things up before the Mason's next meeting.

 Those summers were magical to me.

In later years, I'd visit family in Franklin County during the summer months. We would have fresh corn on the cob feasts while playing board games til two in the morning. My boys would would run and play with their cousins, catch frogs at the pond and go fishing. They'd catch fire flies, just as I had done as a child.We'd spend all day at the county fair and Wednesday evenings at the Farmer's Market, watch fireworks at Beed's Lake on the 4th of July.

 The mood in the small Iowa towns was always relaxed, an overall atmosphere of calm.  No one ever seemed to be in a hurry, neighbors took the time to engage in friendly conversation and genuinely cared for each other. Farmers met for coffee at the local diner every morning People smiled and greeted you when you'd walk down the street or enter a store.

To me, Iowa was my Mayberry.

We had lived in Iowa before, during the winter of '85, and had survived what locals called a "Centennial Storm". A winter so brutal it only comes along every hundred years or so. It snowed for weeks and we would experience long cold snaps, often with temperatures well below zero. Many times I recall the Wind Chill Factor being at -80 degrees. My husband vowed that as soon as he could free our truck from the massive snow bank in the alley, he was going to pack up his little family and head for warmer weather, never to return. And he did.

Twenty-eight years. I had tried for nearly twenty-eight years to convince my husband that Iowa was where we needed to be; where we needed to be raising our sons. But he wouldn't relent. I begged, pleaded, and schemed. I presented him with insane real estate deals, but he'd stand firm that we were staying in California. Iowa was not for him.

Then, in early January of 2013, I had it in my mind to try again. I  decided to start saving some money towards a down payment for a house in Iowa. I thought I'd tempt him yet again with the bait of an inexpensive country home; a simpler life.  A last ditch effort.  I didn't say a word, but had nearly met my savings goal when, one month later, after a stressful day at work, my husband sat down at my feet and asked me if I'd consider moving to Iowa. He was done with California.

Once I determined that he wasn't joking or baiting me, I showed him my stash of $20 bills and it was a mad dash from that point forward. Within six weeks we quit our high stress jobs, packed the truck, kissed the children and grandbabies goodbye and  hit the highway towards a better life.

This is OUR Mayberry now. We've rented a little house in a community with approximately 260 residents. John Deere tractors seem to outnumber the cars. My husband is more tolerant of the winter temperatures and conditions (as I write this, it is the first week of May and we have been hit, once again, with a record-breaking winter and there is a foot of snow on the ground). Many things are as I remembered; relaxed, carefree, genuine.

I've been a city mouse for far too many years. There's going to be plenty of stories to share as I become a country girl in my Mayberry. So sit back, grab a Mason jar of sweet tea, and listen to a yarn or two. <3

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Shake That Ass... Step It Up

Lately, many of those whom I hold dear have been going though some pretty significant changes in their lives. Changes in their employment, their relationships, their residential location, etc.

For all of us, with change there are moments of fear, uncertainty. The second guessing if the choices we have made are going to pan out the way we had anticipated; had hoped for.

My son, James, has recently taken the leap to make some bold moves to secure a better life for his family. They saved every penny they could, sold off nearly every possession they had, gave notice at work, packed up the cars, strapped in the babies and headed off to the expansive plains of  Iowa.

There were some hiccups along the way; there always are when you travel with little ones. One always seems to come across the less-than-perfect motel along the way, the ever-present stop and interrogation by the bored highway patrol who's noticed the loaded down out-of-state vehicle caravan driving along an abandoned stretch of highway in the middle of the night. And the never-ending pangs of being homesick. Those of us who have made such journeys understand this all too well.

If it's not one thing knocking you down, it's another, it seems. I've been there myself. I know how discouraging it can be. I know how hard it is to try to see the positive in your present circumstances.

But, much like I have been trying to lovingly relay to my son and his wife, if you just shove the negatives aside and try  to see the positives in your situation, there is a glimmer of hope to be found.

Just as I was remembering my own trials survived during cross-country treks in my earlier years, and trying to find the sentiments of support for my kids, I came across this story and wanted to share it.

It's all in how you view things...

One day, a farmer's donkey fell down into a well.The animal cried piteously for hours as the farmer tried to figure out what to do. Finally, the farmer decided the animal was old, and the well needed to be covered up anyway; it just wasn't worth it to retrieve the donkey.

The farmer invited all of his neighbors to come over to help him fill in the well. One by one, they grabbed a shovel and began to shovel dirt into the well. At first, the donkey realized what was happening and cried out horribly in protest. Then, to everyone's amazement, the donkey settled down and quieted.

After a few more shovels -full of dirt were thrown into the well, the farmer looked down and was amazed at what he saw. With each shovel of dirt that his the donkey's back, the donkey would shake off the dirt and take a step up onto the growing mound of dirt beneath him.

As the neighbors continued to shovel, the donkey continued to shake it off and step up. Pretty soon, everyone was amazed as the donkey stepped up over the edge of the well and happily trotted off to the fields.

The moral of the story is this: Life is going to shovel dirt on you, all kinds of dirt. The trick to getting out of the lifes' wells is to shake it off and take a step up. Each of our troubles are a stepping stone. We can get out of the deepest well just by not stopping, never giving up.... Shake it off and take a step up.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Get In The Boat

 Sometimes, when someone repeatedly asks for God to help show them the direction their life should take, maybe they should consider that he IS answering their prayers in the form of just listening to someone who can offer advice or encouragement. Sometimes the advice or encouragement isn't what you want to hear, but maybe, just maybe, your prayers are being answered and you aren't listening... 


I was reminded of a story I had heard some time ago, and I wanted to share it with you today.

 There was a man drowning in the ocean. He prayed to God to save him. 

A few minutes later a boat came and offered to pick him up and take him to shore. The drowning man refused and the boat left. 

Another boat came along and offered to save the man and he said, "No, God is going to save me." So, the boat left. 

Finally a third boat came and a man said, "I can help you." Once again the drowning man said no. 

When the man finally drowned, he stood before God and said, " I trusted you. I prayed to you! Why didn't you save me??"

God said, "I heard your prayers, I answered your prayers... I sent you three boats. You chose not to get in."

Are you listening? Do you see the boats in your life, but you're waiting for a miracle? Do yourself a favor.... get in the boat.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Big Fish: The One We Wished Had Gotten Away

Today I was to have lunch with all of my coworkers from the Special Education Dept for the school I work for. We had been assigned an entire half of the dining area of an all-you-can-eat buffet at a local luxurious Indian casino.

As we all gathered at the buffet, two coworkers and I were separated while checking in and were seated on the opposite side of the dining room. 

While perusing the salad bar (ok, I'll confess, the dessert bar) I had been approached by our director and it had been suggested that we join the rest of the group. Once I had my salad (brownies) appropriately plated, I made my way to the group but was stopped dead in my tracks as a coworker walked right in front of me with a platter draped and dripping with overwhelmingly stinky King Crab legs......YUCK!!!

the blonde is heartless....right???
I promptly made an about face and distanced myself from the smelly, stinky, exceptionally grossness that was before me. I quite literally let out an involuntarily retching sound as I nearly puked.

As I hastily fled in the opposite direction , I offered an apology from over my shoulder murmuring something about how I can't, I just simply cannot, stand the smell of anything seafood.

The guttural reaction I displayed that day goes back much further than the last few months of my self-imposed vegetarian state of mind. No, this is directly connected to a childhood memory that even the best of psychotherapists will not be able to erase from my mind.

Mitten Mountain in Dolan Springs

When I was 6 or 7 years of age, my family lived in Dolan Springs, Arizona. This open-range cattle-country desert community is located about 72 miles beyond BFE in the middle of nowhere. Chances are, you've never even heard of the place.

A set up similar to what we lived in

My family lived right off the main highway in a single wide trailer void of any modern convenience we take for granted now. We didn't have a city sewer system (we had a septic tank), no running water (we had a water tank that had to be trucked out to be filled every so often... shhhhh, don't tell anyone, but my brother and I swam in that tank all the time not thinking it was our drinking water...ewwww...*giggle), and our electricity was wired in from a line off the telephone pole at the street. I'm not even sure we had a phone. Yeah, we were roughing it!

I can only imagine how depressing it must have been for my mother to live there with her four children. My dad, on the other hand, was able to escape during the week as he worked across the state line at Kaiser Steel in California and would be gone Mon-Fri, returning home on the weekends.

One year, my dad proposed a deep sea fishing trip with the promise to my mother that he would take the rest of the family on a nice, well-deserved vacation far away from the desert's oppressive heat and wind storms when he returned. My mom agreed to the deal and off he went for an adventure on the high seas.

With my dad ~ Summer '73 or '74

He returned a few days later with a grin from ear to ear. I remember how proud my dad was when he returned from that trip with the prize catch of the day. Not only had he snagged the biggest catch of the trip, but he had also won the money pot for doing so! I don't recall how much money he pocketed, but it was nothing compared to how proud he was of the Yellow fin  tuna he carted 200+ miles back home

At some point shortly after this picture of my dad and I was taken, he skillfully cut, sliced, diced, and chopped that poor fish into Tuna Steaks which my mother promptly wrapped in saran wrap and foil and placed into the freezer with the promise of stews, casseroles, salads, and whatever else one does with tuna.

So, with the man trip a distant memory, my parents loaded up the family truck and we headed off  for a family get-away. I don't recall where we went, and I'm certain it wasn't all that great; certainly not Hawaii or anything grand. Most likely, it was a trip to Vegas to visit extended family, which for my mother, probably wasn't much a better Hell than the solitude of the desert. But, the thought of civilization, running water, air conditioning, and adult conversation  would be enough to make a week or more with one's mother-in-law a paradise in and of itself.

If memory serves, we were gone about  two weeks that summer. Not that it's important, really, other than to note that we were gone from the trailer for an extended amount of time. We're not sure when it happened, but at some point while we were away, a summer storm blew through the region and lightning  knocked out all the power to our home.

I will pause here for a moment to let you complete the perhaps not-so-obvious equation in your head:

60 ft long tin can (aka trailer)
- electricity
+ summer temperatures over 100 degrees
+ 50 pounds of tuna in the now defrosting freezer
+ extended fermentation time
= a nose-hair curling stench that permeates the senses and stays with you for the rest of your life !!!

I have the vision clearly ingrained in my mind of my parents opening that trailer door !!!
The stench was unbearable, the reality unimaginable, and I"m sure you can only imagine the reaction !!!

All that tuna had defrosted in the freezer and all those fish juices ran out the drain in the back and all down the coils on the rear side of the fridge.... onto the floor .... through the cracks in the linoleum ..... and into the subfloor... and baked in the hot summer sun the entire time we were away.

We kids had it easy, but my poor parents had to clean that mess up. I don't recall, but certainly, there had to be maggots involved, which would only be a secondary inconvenience to the stench.

We were too poor to simply toss the old fridge and buy another. No, it had to be salvaged and cleaned and every effort was made to rid the fridge and the trailer of the smell. My mother even resorted to burning coffee on a hot plate placed inside the fridge.

I honestly don't know how she survived ... my mother truly is a saint!

So, those of you who know me, and even for those of you who don't ... I hope this provides you with a better understanding of why I won't be joining you at Red Lobster, or a clam bake, or the fish market at the pier.... don't try to convince me that I will like fish if I try it prepared this way or that. I simply don't want it! It's one of those childhood memories that stay with you forever.

I simply cannot stomach it.... and that is no fish story !!!  

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Guidance of One's Path

I have had several moments in my life where I have felt a presence, a guidance of sorts, even warnings, perhaps. 
Some may refer to these instances as Divine Intervention, Women's Intuition, or Deja Vu. Some may even refer to them as something along the lines of the paranormal, or unexplainable, the Heavenly. 

This past April, I had one such moment in my life; one of many. It was my birthday, and the family and I were going to drive from Southern California to Las Vegas, Nevada, to visit my father, whose birthday is the day following mine. 
Those of you who have driven the 15 Freeway to Vegas can attest that, although busy, the road is a desolate one. 
You can go for miles and miles in the desert without seeing anything or anyone except fellow travelers. It is literally in the middle of nowhere, especially once you get past Baker, where the world's largest thermometer is. 
 We were several miles east of Baker, heading up a steep grade, when the dog started getting antsy and let us know she needed a pit stop. My son, Justin, was driving and he was looking for a place to pull over. But when he would start to slow down, I kept saying," no, this doesn't feel right. Keep driving."
Finally, I felt the timing was right to pull over and he did so when I told him to.

The Tamarisk tree where we stopped.
Now, this stretch of desolate highway is littered with nasty, scrubby, brushy tree every so often. Ugly trees called Tamarisks that are natural magnets for all kinds of debris blowing along the highway. Many times, you will find shoes lofted into the higher branches.
 There is such a Tamarisk where we pulled off on this day.... We have passed at least 50 similar trees the past mile or so, but we have stopped at this one.
My son gets out. My husband gets out with the dog. And my granddaughter, who is 8 years old, starts to get out. 
Usually, this is a normal thing for her so she can explore for rocks, etc. I normally wouldn't inhibit this natural curiosity she possesses,  but this time I snapped at her as she reached for the door handle and told her to stay in the car. I didn't feel right about her getting out. She asked why and I told her I just didn't feel safe this time.
I started freaking myself out, becoming increasingly paranoid, telling myself as I looked at the tree in front of me that "wouldn't it be creepy if there was someone under that tree?? " 
It was completely illogical as we were in the middle of nowhere
and it was 100 degrees outside in the desert sun. It just didn't make sense to think that way. I was being silly. 
But, the feeling didn't go away. I stared at the tree and didn't see anything. But was still very uneasy. 
As the feeling continued to linger, I took notice of a large knife my husband had recently purchased. It was stuffed between the truck's driver seat and the center console. And I thought that I could easily grab it if I needed it ... But was worried about how I would get the knife to my son or husband if they needed to defend themselves should there be someone lurking; watching.
 Just when I had told myself for the third or fourth time that I was freaking myself put and to knock it off, my son ran up to my door and opened it yelling at me that he needed my bottle of water because there was a dehydrated, delusional man underneath the tree!!!
Sure enough, somebody HAD been under that tree and I had felt their presence.
So my son took him the water, unarmed, while I gained better access to that knife, just in case. 
My son came back a few moments later, as my husband and I wearily and guardedly watched; on alert...my hand on my phone to call 911 should I need to. He returned to me and asked if we had any food for the man. I gave my son some left over donuts we had picked up earlier. (Hmmm...I'm sensing a theme in some of my stories  God & Donuts.. click here
The man had asked Justin to not call the police. He was homeless and was always run out of the places where he sought refuge. Today, he had taken refuge under that tree and thought he'd perhaps die there. I repeatedly asked my son if I needed to call an ambulance, my hand still perched on my phone's keypad.  But, my son said the man was starting to make more sense as he drank the water. 
Obviously, we couldn't offer him a ride with a small child with us. Even had she not been with us, I've seen too many scary movies to take any chances. However, we gave him what we could and assured him we wouldn't call the authorities. I thought long and hard about calling an ambulance, but I didn't sense an urgency to call,  so I didn't. We left him there and pulled back onto the freeway with a sense of WOW, what just happened!!??

Now, as we drove along, I started to take inventory of what had just happened, as well as the moments leading to that decision to pull off the road at that exact location, at that exact time. I realized two extreme factors leading to that moment. 
That morning, on the way out of town, my husband offered to take us to IHOP for my birthday breakfast. I declined,  saying that I was craving donuts. I have not purchased a box of donuts in years!  
Also, we had stopped in Barstow at the McDonalds train tourist trap. My parents had always stopped there when I was a kid, so I wanted to take my granddaughter there. You know, kinda make it a family tradition. We all looked around and got something to drink before heading back to the truck.
 When I travel, I ALWAYS drink Diet Coke.  I always have an extra large fountain drink of diet coke in the cup holder. But this one time, I told my husband that I just really felt like having water. 
I NEVER buy bottled water while traveling. But this day I bought two large bottles of Aquafina.
When we found that man, I had water to offer him (had I purchased a Diet Coke, the sodium would have made him all the more thirsty)
When we found that man, I had food to offer him (had we eaten at IHOP, we wouldn't have taken any leftovers with us). 
I was led to that tree and had what that man needed !!!! 
The realization about the food and water wasn't apparent to me right away. But as we drove along the freeway, the more I thought about things, and the more things fell into place. This is like a weird, paranormal thing I get from time to time. 
I don't always know how to explain such things... God, the Universe, coincidence? I know how I was raised to believe, but much of what I sense sometimes defies the teachings. I just don't know. What  I do know is this was one of the strongest instances I have yet to have experienced. 
I updated facebook as we drove along, relaying the craziness of all that had just unfolded to my fb friends. One by one, they shared their awe. One friend shared a most precious observation: How wonderful a gift it was for my birthday to witness the selflessness of my child as he cared for that man, putting his own safety aside to help one he knew was in need. It was a proud moment, for sure.
My kids, husband, and friends listen to me now when I say I don't feel right about something or if I have a dream.  Much of the time, it is nothing more than a feeling. But there are more than just a few instances that make me realize I'd better heed to this guidance. 
Listen to your feelings, friends, the  guidance of your path may be from a power unseen, but certainly not unfelt.We just need to learn to recognize when the guidance is there.
 "And this, our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything."  ~William Shakespeare