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 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 

Monday, September 3, 2012

To Gif or Not to Gif

Recently, I have seen, and become entranced, by the use of gifs in other blog postings, particularly a fantabulous posting of a book review for 50 Shades of Grey click here. The gifs, along with the writers snappy sense of humor, are truly what made this book report as awesome as it is!

What is a gif, you may ask? A gif is a graphics interchange format. what does that mean, exactly? I don't

I attempted to use Wikipedia to define, but as 99% of the definition is in computerese, I have no clue how these things truly work, I'm just hoping to use them. So, I am thinking about adding a gif or two to my blog postings as I re-edit and define my styling a little more here and there.

I have already discovered creating my own memes:

I find the ability to create these memes to actually be very therapeutic and I love how I am able to laugh at the WTH  moments in my life.

Now, I am hoping to be able to take the time, research a little, and add some gifs to my stories in an effort to add some more CPM (chuckles per minute) to my postings.

If you're unfamiliar with a gif , as I was just a few short weeks ago, here is a sampling:

 I have founds a few gif sites and am looking for more. So, what are your thoughts? To gif or not to gif, that is the question..