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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Bigfoot From Space

As I write, Trent is watching one of those "the spacemen did it" programs filled with the commentaries of the guys who have no girlfriends that I wrote about in an earlier blog. Incidentally, these and other programs have inspired a new phrase in my vocabulary. Although it is grammatically incorrect, and I was an English/History major, I use this expression almost daily. And what is this blemished pearl? Something that seems to sum up the theme of many of these programs. "It was the space-mans. The space-mans did it!" I have found that this can actually be used to explain any number of things. A news story about some animals getting out of their cages at the zoo? The space-mans did it, of course! The weather is unseasonably hot? It is the space-mans who are at fault! The dishwasher hasn't been run yet? The space-mans. I know, I am a terrible, awful person.

The program that is on in the background here this evening has some things I would never have imagined. Did you know that Sasquatch/Bigfoot/Yeti/Skunk Ape, etc. are extraterrestrials? And Gilgamesh's sidekick was a Bigfoot? Oh! Goliath was a Bigfoot, too? Who knew? And they created vast networks of caves that enable them to travel and communicate with each other all over the world. I think phones and planes are easier, but they didn't ask me. There is some debate over whether they are pure extraterrestrials or the products of those wily space-mans mating with beautiful human women. We have been regaled with tales of Bigfoot-type creatures descending from spacecraft or waiting at spots where spacecraft hover or land. To me, it just does not make a lot of sense. It must not to Trent either; he just switched over to Olympics coverage.

According to the people on these programs, these are beings of extreme intelligence and capability. Heck, not only did they travel across time and space to come here, but they established themselves as Gods here before they built the pyramids and just about everything else of beauty and/or magnificence that was created in the Ancient world. If they are so evolved, why don't they speak? Heck, why don't they do something about all of that shaggy hair? And why do they smell so bad? We mere mortals at least use soap and deodorant. And, if they are so darn smart, why aren't they in charge and bossing us all around, and making us live in the forests and mountains while they enjoy their climate-controlled dwellings?

I know that there are many species of flora and fauna that modern man has yet to discover. Perhaps one day something Bigfoot-like may even be brought to light, who knows? As William Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet, "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy." I am perfectly willing to go along with something like Yes, Virginia, There Is A Santa Claus, but I am afraid to say that as far as the Bigfoot from space is concerned, I am a non-believer. On a planet like ours, nobody that brilliant needs to hide away!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Magic Mailbox

I really wanted to write last night, but it just wasn't happening. I'd write something, hate it, and erase it. Then I would start again, hate it again, erase it again. Luckily, when you are a blogger there are no rules that state you must write on specific days or you will get fired. When I was trying hard not to get out of bed this morning, it came to me in a flash. I knew what I wanted to write about. That's how it should be.

At one time, one of the grocery/small store shopping areas near where Gram and I lived had a US Postal station. It was an unmanned station where you could mail letters and packages, and do things like weigh boxes so you knew how much postage you would need. There were probably stamp machines as well, I don't remember that part too clearly. When Gram would receive her pension check, we would jump in the car (okay, we didn't exactly jump, that wouldn't be too wise for an older lady to do) and go to the grocery or mail out her payments for her bills.

Something that was both cool and convenient about the postal station was that you could actually drive up to the mailbox on either the driver's or passenger's side and drop the mail in a slot if you didn't want to get out of your car. Since Gram wasn't as easily able to get around as she used to be, this option really appealed to her. She could put the mail in the slot herself and know for a certainty that it had been mailed, and not have to get out of the car and do any walking or standing in line.

We pulled up and Gram double-checked all of her letters. She made sure they were all there, and that they all had return addresses and the stamps and sealing flaps were firmly attached. Then she threw them down the chute into the belly of the mail-beast. On one such occasion, right after she dropped the mail in the box, a voice asked us, "Will that be all for you?" We looked at each other, eyes wide, and mouths open in surprise. "What?" we said. "Will there be anything else for you today?" "No," we answered shakily, "that's all." "Okay, thank you!"

We were kind of freaking out. Who ever heard of a talking mailbox? Especially one that asks if you need anything else? We started looking around for the host and camera crew of one of those hidden-camera television shows, but nobody showed up. And then we heard the voice again. "Welcome to ------ Restaurant, what can we get for you today?" Yes, we were hearing the drive-through speaker from the fast-food restaurant across the parking lot! We got completely hysterical, laughing at ourselves. Here we had been thinking that we either had a magical mailbox or were the victims of an elaborate hoax. And all along, it was just someone on a really loud speaker wanting to know if we wanted any fries or drinks with our burgers, which we hadn't ordered from across the parking lot. After that, every trip to that postal station was good for a laugh, even if we didn't get asked if there was anything else we wanted. Because we already knew it was a Magic Mailbox.

Thursday, July 26, 2012


On July 26, 1906, a baby girl named Elizabeth, who would become one of the most important people in my life, was born in Saint Joseph's Hospital in Denver, Colorado. When she was just twenty-two months old her mother, who had been pregnant with twins, died of pregnancy/childbirth related problems, along with her two babies. Her father, John, was truly devoted to his wife and never remarried. So Bessie, as she was nicknamed, grew up in a single-parent home, and she and her father were truly devoted to each other.

In November of 1923, at just past seventeen years of age, she ran off and married Hiram, the true love of her life. They had four babies, but unfortunately the first was born dead. Surprisingly enough, even though she was born in a hospital, she had all of her babies at home. Gram was a small woman; although she claimed to be five feet tall, she eventually confessed to me that she was only four feet, eleven inches, but five feet sounded so much taller! Gram had two little girl toddlers when she was pregnant with her last child, the son Harold whom I mentioned in the post "The OMG Road." 

Gram's husband was a motion-picture projectionist, so he worked in the evenings. When Gram was pregnant with Harold, she told me, she was so large by her sixth month that she had to have her legs wrapped in elastic bandages from hip to toe. Since that made her unable to get up from a chair and she had two girls to look after, she would spend the evening leaning against the kitchen counter so that she would be able to take care of her girls. When it was time for Harold to be born, she went into labor on a Friday. And labored, and labored. Her doctor, Doctor Purcell, would come and check on her, and tell her to lift the bed when she felt a contraction. Harold finally showed up on the following Wednesday and weighed over twelve pounds! Since her water broke five days earlier, it nearly killed them both. 

When she woke up the next morning, her mother-in-law had put a phone book next to her bed, opened to funeral homes! I think that gave her the strength to survive. The kids all ended up getting terribly sick during the next couple of years, including pneumonia as a result of Depression-era dust storms. This resulted in Gram becoming agoraphobic, something that she worked very hard to conquer.

When Gram's kids were all grown up and had all of their kids, Gram became a widow. After thirty-eight years of marriage, Hiram was gone. She was a widow for over thirty-five years, and I don't think she ever looked at another man. She told me once that when he was alive, her first thought each morning was what she could do to make his breakfast special. Maybe she'd cut his toast a special way or something, just a little gesture of love. She confessed that even thirty-odd years after his passing, she still woke up each morning with her first thought being what to do for his breakfast. Then the realization would hit that he was not there, and she would go on with her day. I wept when she told me this. It was, and still is, one of the most beautiful examples of enduring love that I have ever heard.

This lovely lady, whose children were all raised, and who had grandkids of her own, allowed two Hungarian girls from Chicago into her home and her heart. Even though we were not related, she was like a mother to me, and I will be forever grateful for all of the things I learned from her. Ours was a very unique relationship. We could finish each others' sentences, laugh ourselves silly, and have long chats before bedtime, which we called solving the problems of the world. We could also get so mad at each other! I guess that just confirms that she was very much like a mother to me.

We lost Gram in the spring of 1997, and there are still times that I miss her. But I can laugh or cry about things we went through together, and treasure my memories of the years we had together. She helped form me into the person I am. I still feel her presence in my life, and often find myself using one of her many delightful expressions. I will finish off with a story she told me about her father. She told me that her father liked just about everyone, but every so often he would find someone that was the exception. He once told her that he was talking to someone that he thought was pretty stupid, so he told the man, "You know, you remind me of someone I knew once. He rode his donkey into town and tied it up at a hitching post. Then he went to the feed store and got a feedbag for the donkey. When he came out, instead of putting the feedbag on the donkey, he threw it in a hole in the street. He was so stupid, he didn't know his @$$ from a hole in the ground!"

Goodnight, Grammie, I love you!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

And Tandy, Too?

Sometimes Trent and I hear someone say something that is just so darn adorable that we have to make it part of our everyday language. Kids don't realize what a treasure trove their everyday comments provide. Case in point, you may remember the story I wrote about a little boy named Jeffrey who told his irritated mother, "Mommy, don't hurt myself!"

We were visiting some friends who have kids, and the kids were excited to share their day's exploits with us. The oldest child, a boy of about six, was telling us about what he had done just before we came over for dinner. His face was serious, and his blue eyes were wide open as he told us his story. "I was out riding bikes today. And when you're riding bikes, you have to be really careful so you don't hurt yourself. I have to wear a helmet when I ride bikes because riding bikes is dang-erous." Yes, we love this word now. "I'd better make sure I have some chocolate cake with this milk, because if you drink milk all by itself, it can be dang-erous."

I think my all-time favorite comes from my brother-in-law's grandson Patrick. I happened to be visiting my sister and her husband on Halloween evening, and his daughter brought her three sons over to Grandpa's for trick-or-treating. Liz had gotten the boys plastic treat buckets and put candy in them and topped them with small toysPatrick must have been about three or four years old, and had chosen to be a cowboy. I think this was partly because he could put on the cowboy boots by himself like a big boy. I should clarify. Patrick was dressed as a "Towboy." Like a lot of kids that age, he had problems with a few words.

Patrick's little treat bucket had stuffed toys from a television program on the top. He ambled over to it as a real towboy should. I do believe the fact that he had his boots on the wrong feet may have helped him to walk almost like John Wayne. He dropped down on his knees in front of his bucket of goodies, exclaiming over the toys, and calling them all by name. Then came the moment of surprise and joy when he realized he had  more than just toys inside his bucket, there were treats to eat, too! His hands flew to his little-boy cheeks, and he practically shouted, "And tandy, too!?" This has become a favorite expression of happiness around here. If something happens that is really fun or a pleasant surprise, "and tandy, too?" is perfect to convey the joy of the moment.

Of course sometimes someone will hear us use one of these expressions and think we are kooky. But it gives us a chance to share a lighthearted moment and a sweet little story with them. Some of them even start using these sayings themselves, which makes us realize that sharing a little bit of humor can be a wonderful gift. If something is just deliciously funny to you, your friends will probably enjoy it as well. Especially if you give them some tandy, too!

The OMG Road

I have written many times about my Gram who raised me. Her husband had at one time lived in the gold mining region around Central City, Colorado. In fact, his mother and a younger sister who died as a toddler are buried in a lovely mountainside cemetery in a place called Russell Gulch. When I was growing up, we would make day trips into the mountains, and sometimes would stop and visit this sad, beautiful place. So when Gram's nephew Ted came for a visit to Colorado, it was inevitable that Gram's son, Harold, would take him up to see where his grandmother was buried.

Gram and I joined Harold, his wife Roberta, his daughter, Carole, and cousin Ted on this day trip. It was a beautiful day, and we had a mountain picnic, which the men washed down with liberal quantities of beer. For people from lower elevations, drinking at an elevation of about 9150 feet can result in a state of impairment pretty quickly. In less elegant terms, by the time lunch was done, Ted was well on the way to blotto. Harold was enjoying the company of his cousin, and was getting a bit of a buzz as well. Nobody worried about it much; the family had driven to and from there many times.

But I don't think any of us realized Harold was going to take a road down the other side of the mountain, one called Virginia Canyon Road. It is more commonly known, however, as the Oh My G-- Road. There is even a sign at the top of the hill describing it as such. Why such a name? Imagine a road that begins at an elevation of around 9150 feet. Make it less than one lane wide. Seriously, just wide enough for one car to travel with a clearance that is at most a foot or two between the car and either the rocky face of the mountain or a drop-off of over 1500 feet.  Oh! And it is partly paved and partly packed dirt. Sounds fun, right? If driving on this road were the only thing separating me from death, I'd be the dead woman on the side of the mountain. It's that scary. Just the thought of having to drive in reverse until you find one of the few "wide" spaces in the road in order to yield to another car that has the right-of-way is enough to make me say, "No thanks, I'd rather walk."

So, here we were, headed down the OMG road with a tipsy driver and a merrily toasted passenger from the flat lands of California. I was seated behind Harold, and Carole was seated behind her mother, who kept saying things like, "Oh, look at that tree!" or "Aren't those clouds pretty!" Naturally, Harold would look, and when he did, the car would swerve a bit from the center of the road. When you swerve from center on a road this narrow, it can get pretty awful very quickly. Carole and I about lost our minds. I was holding onto the driver's seat so tightly that my knuckles were white. We were telling Roberta to quit pointing things out. Ted grew very silent. When Carole started shouting, "Daddy!" I was so scared that I started yelling "Daddy!" too! Yes, I was that scared!

By the time we had descended to Idaho Springs, a mere 7526 feet in elevation, I wanted to get out of the car and kiss the ground in celebration of still being alive, but my knees were too shaky to hold me up. I think Carole probably felt the same way. Harold was still smiling and enjoying himself. And Ted? He was stone cold sober and as white as a ghost. I had heard the expression before, and seen people get pale, but his face was completely colorless. The rest of the journey was boring in comparison, which made both of the girls in the back seat very happy and relieved. 

I have ridden on the OMG road a few times since then with drivers I really trust. It is always a beautiful ride. Once, when Trent was driving down the mountain, there were some mule deer so close to the road that you could have reached out the window and touched them. But every time I get on that road, I think of that hair-raising ride with my uncle. And I enforce a strict rule: anyone who gets caught distracting the driver has to get out and walk!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Coupons And Collections And Hoards, Oh My

This is another one of those days that I have found myself consumed by odd questions of my own making. Have you ever noticed how, when there is an accident or breakdown on the road, everyone seems to be compelled to slow down and have a look? I have long referred to those scenes as train wrecks. Normal people who usually don't want to see morbid things find themselves unable to resist. Trent and I refer to certain reality shows as train wrecks. Let's face it, some of them are kind of gruesome, but for some reason I can't change the channel. 

One of my recent train-wrecks has been watching programs about people who hoard. While I can see how it could be easy to overdo hobbies and collections, there is a whole new level of excess displayed in these shows. Trent asks how I can watch them. For two reasons, I think. One is fascination with how the human mind works, and how easily it can be broken. I also think that deep down, we watch stuff like this to scare the wits out of ourselves so that we don't do it. I know it gave me the impetus to go through some boxes and get rid of some extra things we don't need. Although I am pretty sure I could never live surrounded by eight-foot tall piles of flotsam and jetsam.

This afternoon, I thought, "Well, what about those coupon people?" Are they secret hoarders who have found a more socially acceptable outlet for their compulsion? Who really needs hundreds of packages of toilet tissue or eighty toothbrushes or five hundred cans of tuna or twenty packages of hotdogs in their house at one time? They may have their hoard neatly stacked on shelves, but does that make it any less of an obsession? How can they possibly use all of that stuff before it becomes old? "Aw, come on, Sally, this spaghetti sauce only expired six years ago, it's absolutely fine!" Is the difference between hoarding and procuring a matter of cleanliness rather than quantity? Does being a canny shopper mean you are not a hoarder? I don't know.

I do not want anyone to think that I am against laying by supplies for a rainy day, or being prepared for emergencies. In fact, that is how I was raised. And I like having some extra things in the pantry or freezer just in case we can't get to the grocery or maybe we screwed up the checkbook. Or just because we might want something a little different for our dining pleasure. And it is important, nay, vital, to try to always have the ingredients for making cookies on hand. You may have a chocolate-chip-cookie emergency, you know. But beware, my friends. Making them can cause the arrival of hordes.


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Where Did You Get That Name?

It's kind of odd, really. My siblings, who were all born in Hungary, were given very Hungarian names. Of course, when we came to the USA, their names were Americanized to a degree. My oldest sister is named Margit, and naturally the nuns at the Catholic school we attended in Chicago insisted on calling her Margaret. She put up with it until her adulthood and then switched back to her name as it really is. My brother still goes by John, which is not terribly far from the Hungarian Janos. My sister Liz, due to a spelling error, uses Erzebeth, although the proper spelling is Erzsebet. It is really funny to go shopping with her and watch the clerks tell her that her name is spelled wrong on her card, or ID, or whatever. If it were me, I would probably say something like, "Hey, do I question the spelling of your name, Dawnniece?"

For years, when I have told people my first name, Katrina, they have said things like, "Oh, are you Dutch?" or "That's Russian, isn't it?" When I tell them that I am a Hungarian-American, they look baffled. Well, think about it. Margit, Janos, did I end up with such a non-Hungarian name? Is it because I was the only child born in the US? Did my parents have a dear friend or relative with that name? I'm afraid it is nothing quite that glamorous. My mother named me after herself, but a more American-sounding version. Her name was Terez Caterina, so she named me Theresa Catherine. Yes, I know, that still doesn't explain why I am a Katrina now. Bear with me a bit longer, my dears.

After we lost our parents and Liz and I spent some time in an orphanage in Chicago, some relatives in Colorado found out about us. My mother's third or fourth or whatever cousin and his wife heard that there were two girls in an orphanage that were related to them. So W. and A. sent for us to come live with them. And we flew out to the Denver area to begin a new life. As we rode from the airport to their home in the suburbs, A. told me that I could no longer go by the name of Theresa. "I have a daughter named Theresa, so you will have to go by your middle name. Your middle name is Katrina, so from now on you will be called Katrina." But, still, you say, where did she get Katrina from?

Katrina was a very cranky member of A.'s brother's household. An overweight, shorthaired, black-and-tan colored dachsund. Yes, like Indiana Jones, I am named after the dog. The cranky dog. The short, stout, cranky dog. Perhaps it is only fitting since my birthday, July 13th, is the same as Harrison Ford's, and he played the intrepid archaeologist and explorer that I just mentioned. So, does it make you think maybe A. really wasn't too thrilled to have me? Oh, well, water under the bridge, as they say. It is a unique name. And all things considered, I could have ended up with far worse. I could have been a Shep or a Spot, or a Lassie! I wear my name with pride, and had my name changed legally when I reached adulthood. Nowadays, though, instead of people asking me if my name is Dutch or Russian, they simply say, "Oh, you poor thing, just like the hurricane." Pssh. Whatever. I had the name before she did. And besides, I was not named after a storm. I was named after the dog!

Friday, July 20, 2012

A Cosmic Shift

If any of you felt the earth tip on its axis this afternoon, it is my fault. I apologize for any stress that this cosmic shift may have caused you. But I've gone and done it. What caused this wrinkle in the universe, you ask? I can encapsulate it in five words: I am now wearing bifocals.

Yes, after fighting this forever, I have finally caved in. I would say that I started to need the magic glasses at about thirty years of age. And no, you can't get me to say how many years I have delayed this decision. I know you will use the information to compute diabolical mathematical formulas that result in you knowing my age. I am not ashamed of my age, and don't feel a need to be mysterious about it. I just don't think it has any bearing on my blog. I would hate to have any readers thinking, "Wow, I thought for sure she was younger, like my age maybe." Or, "Wow, I would have thought that someone so wise would have been far older." Hence the age mystery. Enjoy the content without focusing on silly stuff like birth dates, is my way of thinking.

As I said, I have really resisted this. Not because it made me feel old. I think I was afraid of being able to function with them. I had heard so many horror stories of people falling down or sicking up or having terminal headaches. So I kept getting regular glasses. I bet I looked really super-cool looking over the tops of my specs, holding my phone up to my nose in order to read and send texts. I found myself increasingly taking my glasses off to see my tablet, and all the while I was looking like it was a book in Braille and I was trying to read it with the tip of my nose. I didn't need any stinking bifocals!

Now the really scary part. I kinda like them. I can see the t.v. and glance down and read something off my tablet or cellphone. I can simply keep my super-chic updated nerd glasses firmly planted on my nose. I shall wear them with my head held high until I take them off at night and put them in their lovely leather case. In the morning, I will put them on and be able to read and watch the telly and appreciate the lovely flowers and trees. I might have to start blogging twice a day! .Okay, reality check! No, I haven't fallen into a chocolate-coated ice-cream filled, no-calorie world. I couldn't possibly. Because now I can see where it is!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Fun At The Doctor's Office

If you have to go to a particular doctor's office or clinic quite often, like we do, you get to know and appreciate the staff. We know that everyone in the transplant clinic works very hard, and we really appreciate them all. They may be medical professionals with a heap of book-learning, as I like to say, but they still like to enjoy themselves and have fun at work. This is the kind of place and group of people where all kinds of hilarity can happen. Case in point: Trent had a transplant in 2005, just a couple of months before Hurricane Katrina struck. On our first visit after the hurricane, Laurie, one of the social workers on staff, came up to us to say hi. She took one look at me, whose first name had turned into a bad word, and just burst into laughter. "Yes, Laurie, now we know that MY kidneys work..." She had to walk away. Seven years later, she still loves telling that story.

When we arrived at a post-transplant clinic visit about a week after Trent's most recent transplant surgery, we saw a new face at the check-in desk. There was a very kind-looking lady with a very sweet smile. And a name tag on her workstation that read "Ken." We all got a good laugh at it, and she proved to have a great sense of humor. In fact, she even let me get away with coming back out to the desk, seeing her getting ready to go somewhere, and saying, "Don't get up now, Ken, I need to make an appointment for Trent!" Funny side note: Marie was "resting her eyes" in the waiting room, but when we came out of the appointment she was sitting there totally alert. "Why aren't you napping?" I asked. "Well I was until you came out here and said get up now!" The day was a treasure trove of laughs, what can I say?

About a week later, we came back for yet another visit and saw a gentleman who also had a very happy smile and a kind face. And a name tag that said "Marlene." To make matters even more fun, when given gentle ribbing about it, he proved to have a marvelous sense of humor as well. How often can you get away with saying, "So, Marlene, I see you aren't a Ken today," and survive with both body and spirit intact? I have come to adore these two incognito travelers as much as I do all of the other clinic staff. And we have gotten to the point where I simply smile and remove the name plate for them. If there is ever a day when I am unable to give them some loving teasing about it all, they will probably ask if an extra exam room is needed for me as well!

Imagine our surprise today when we went to a different clinic on a different floor, and there at the check-in desk was Ken! I mean the real one. We aren't sure whether we are famous or infamous, though. When someone sees you coming, bursts out laughing, and calls you by name, what does it mean? Since he has always treated us with the utmost courtesy, I am going to say that he appreciates an audience that comes with its own material. But who needs to come with their own material when there is so much fun waiting there to be found?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

I Was Just Resting My Eyes

As my dear little Gram got older, we started to do something we ended up really loving. We would both lay down on her bed and watch t.v. programs or put movies in the VCR. It was relaxed and fun. I remember coming home from work one evening and asking what she had going on the telly. "I'm watching Er," she answered in a matter-of-fact tone. "What?" "I am watching Er, you know, the show with all of the doctors and nurses." "Oh," I said, "You mean ER." "That's what I said! It's spelled E.R. That's Er. I'm watching Er." It took me a while to figure out that there was no winning this one, so I finally gave in to the Grandma-speak. So she watched a show called Er. Big deal.

We spent many evenings or parts of my days off enjoying t.v. together laying on that bed. Sometimes one of us didn't feel that great, but we would still have our time together, her dog Maggie curled up between us. On one memorable occasion we were eating some candies that looked hard but were kind of fluffy, you know, the ones that melt in your mouth pretty quickly. She just had to give Maggie a bit of that butterscotch flavored candy. I had a perfect view of what followed. Like most canines, when she realized she didn't like it, she spat it out. And it landed on the sleeve of Gram's blouse. When the dog looked at it like she was thinking, "Wow, did I do that?" I just lost it. Gram's eyes grew wide. What was so funny? "She spit it ooouuuuuttt!" When Gram realized that she had candy glued to her sleeve, it made her hysterical too, so we were a matched set of laughing, crying, slap-happy women.

When I put a movie in the VCR, or in fact when we were just watching programs, she would often doze off. It was a bit more than a dozing off on many occasions, and her creative snoring sometimes got the best of me. I'd lie there, laughing heartily but silently, hoping that the shaking of the bed wouldn't wake her up. After I regained my composure, I would stop the film or turn off the television. Her eyes would fly open, shooting angry sparks at me. "Why did you turn that off? I was watching it!" "But Gram, you were asleep!" "I was not! I was just resting my eyes!" I'd start the program again, and in a few minutes her eyes would droop and the symphony would begin. Once again, I would switch it off, and the sparks would fly. I would ask, "Well, then, what's going on in the movie?" She'd try to bluff. "Well, some stuff happened and the guy was going somewhere." She would start to laugh, having to admit to herself that she had been asleep. We could always pick up where we left off on another night.

Sometimes it took several days to get through a movie, but I didn't mind. I usually watched it on another television in the house, so I wasn't missing out on anything. It was all about enjoying the time together. And I was getting some extra entertainment to boot! Nowadays, Trent or I will sometimes drift away while the t.v. is on. I guess the same malady ran in his family as in mine, because we don't necessarily fall asleep. We're just resting our eyes.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Humidity And Happy Dances

Days sometimes unfold in a different way than we expect, and end up being better than we plan or hope for. I woke up this morning knowing I had some tasks to do. We recently gave up the garage we were renting, and had to move the items we had stored out there into our apartment. Since Trent was unable to do heavy lifting so soon after his transplant surgery, I moved the boxes inside in the evenings during a record-breaking heatwave. Great timing, right? Then I felt a bit overwhelmed by the prospect of going through them and then storing them in our reading room. But the last couple of days, I managed to get some big chunks of work done in short periods of time. I got up this morning and finished moving the boxes around. Every time I went through the entryway and living room, my heart felt light because I had finished the hardest part of the job.

Late in the afternoon we had a storm system move in. Being Coloradans, we are unused to humidity. Hard to believe I was born and lived my first several years in Chicago, which is so humid that you are as wet after drying off as you were while you were in the shower. While we welcomed the rain, the sixty-eight percent humidity has us feeling like we had a load of bricks strapped to our chests. But when evening rolled around, it was a delight. The air was cool and fresh, cool enough for me to want to bake a little cake. 

As I sat on the sofa watching t.v. and eating chocolate cake, Paris sat next to me, intently watching the slice of cake growing smaller on my plate. As the cake slipped away from her, she wasn't able to control her manners any more. Lucky for me that she only weighs about nine pounds, because when she realized I had left some cake on the plate for her, she pushed me aside with her shoulder and ate every crumb she could find. Then she turned to me as if to say, "You have any milk in that glass? I really like to have milk with my chocolate cake." So she washed her cake down with some milk, and trotted off feeling very proud of herself.

It's absolutely precious to me how happy a smidgen of cake and a drink of milk can make a dog. After starting with her dessert, and then finishing with some canned food, she jumped up on the bed, truly content. I know this because she did her Happy Dance. She throws herself down on her side on the bed, talks, and moves her legs and head around, and repeats several times. Her joys expressed, she curls up and settles down for a nap. I hope her dreams are good ones, filled with beef stew and cakes and milk. And maybe I can make her dreams come true again tomorrow.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Can You Keep A Secret?

Some of my most interesting experiences happened while I was working in retail. The people that I worked for had shops in a very fancy "shopping center" (NOT a mall, it was in a neighborhood too ritzy for a mall), a quaint shopping district, and even at Denver International Airport. Some people might think that working retail is comparable to being caught in one of Dante's Circles of Hades, but it isn't, really. Okay, well, some days it is. But you get to see snippets of people's lives and behaviors that can be anything from shocking to hilarious.

My first holiday season in retail (at the ritzy shopping center) was probably the most memorable of all. I had not been hired on when the shop opened just a few months before, but had been brought on staff before the holiday rush to assemble gift baskets, and then in the shop to ring up sales. The lines were constant, so I learned to catch my breath whenever an opportunity presented itself. I grew to wish that people would write checks rather than use cash or credit cards - I could take a moment to catch my breath. 

At one such moment, I let my mind take a break as a well-groomed, intelligent-looking woman who was probably in her fifties wrote out her check. I was startled back to reality when she asked, "Pee-pee?" My heart started thumping and my brain went into overdrive. I was embarrassed for her, and for myself. "I beg your pardon?" I asked politely. Again she said, "Pee-pee?" What should I say? Here was a grown woman, quite possibly old enough to be my mother, and she was asking me where she could go pee-pee! Not where the watercloset or powder room or restroom was, but where to go pee-pee! I looked at her like a deer frozen by oncoming headlights. I was speechless, which is no small feat for me. "The word 'shop' in the name of the store, is it spelled with two p's?" I managed to hold it together, but had a hysterical laugh at myself later. Needless to say, I decided at that point to NOT mentally check-out any more!

Another favorite moment happened at DIA. So many different people from so many different places pass through airports. Grandmothers on the way to see new babies, pilots and flight attendants getting ready for another trip, celebrities and just plain folks. Incidentally, I learned one of my most important travel rules while working at DIA. Always carry two extra things in your carry-on bag - your medications and a change of underwear. That way, no matter where your suitcase goes, you will not be caught either without your pills or with your pants down, so to speak.

I was able to meet so many interesting people and share moments of their lives. One day, a gentleman told me that his mother had been quite a character. All the time he and his brothers and sisters were growing up, none of them knew how old their mother was. Seriously! They knew when her birthday was, but she would never let them know her age. When he and his mother were getting a bit older, for some reason it started to bother him. He really felt that he needed to know how old his mother was. So one day when he was visiting her, he said, "Mom, you've never told us how old you are. Now I am starting to get older and I would really like to know what your age is." She looked him in the eyes and said, "Can you keep a secret, Son?" "Of course I can, Mom!" She smiled and said, "So can I!" They both got a good laugh out of it, but the subject was closed. He never knew how old she was, but he had come to appreciate this little quirk of hers. The numbers were far less important than the person.

Although I often found myself going to and from work at times that were incredibly early or late in the day, I grew to appreciate the quiet time during my travels. I would start wondering what lives I would become a part of that day. I might be there for someone to share their sadness or joy with. And who knows, maybe someone would ask me if I could keep a secret!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Watch Out, His Lips Are Moving

I had the pleasure of spending some time with my friend Marie today. Not only did she spend nearly two hours with me at the Department of Motor Vehicles so that I could get my Identification card renewed, she also took me out to lunch. All in all, it was a very good Friday the thirteenth birthday for me. I told her that since I had written about her more than once, perhaps it was time for me to write about her husband, Thayne. Thayne is a good guy. He's a big tall teddy bear who works in the computer industry. Yes, Marie's husband is a nerd. He is also a very generous person - it was because of Thayne and Marie's willingness to share their frequent flier miles that I was able to go to Hungary to find my family. He can also be very funny. 

Marie, Thayne, Trent, and I like to get together and sit around the table after one of Marie's delicious meals and talk and tell stories. Thayne has the gift of being able to say the most incredible or outrageous or even simple things with a straight face, and all the time he is leading you down the garden path, as they used to say in the old days. He could have easily become an actor or attorney or (gasp!) a politician with this ability, but he is more of a teaser than a Great Prevaricator (big old liar - I could have said big old liar but prevaricator is such a delicious word!). Luckily for me, I also have the same ability and can usually recognize when he is dishing out something that smells a bit funny. I try to use my powers for good and rescue people from his story's grasp, but I must admit that it is sometimes fun to watch people be so willingly led astray.

Trent was going to Disney World with Thayne and Marie and was very excited for the trip. Trent loves Disney. What else do I need to say? He jumped at the chance to go. One evening before the trip, we were sitting around having one of our post-dinner chats. Thayne had a frown on his face. "Trent, buddy, I've been waiting for the right moment to tell you something, so I might as well tell you now. I got a call from the airline today. The Department of Homeland Security has put Florida on a heightened alert because of something that happened down there. So we may not be able to go. Or we might miss the first days of the trip." The room became still. Trent was thinking of something to say. I didn't need to think, though. "Honey, look at him! Don't believe what he is saying! His lips are moving!" Thayne got a really hearty laugh out of both the look on my husband's face, and the fact that I busted him.

Thayne has a "true story" about something that happened when he was growing up. If I know someone is around that has never heard it, I will practically beg him to tell them. Since he is a good friend, he will often indulge my request. The refrigerator in the house where Thayne grew up had the freezer in the bottom, one of the pullout drawer freezers. One day, his mother pulled out the drawer to get something out to make for dinner. After everyone had eaten, she decided to put the leftovers in the freezer for another day. That is when she found the cat. Apparently curiosity tried to kill this cat, because he had somehow gotten shut in the freezer drawer. It looked like the cat was a goner. He was cold and not moving. But Thayne's dad knew he had to do whatever he could for the poor beast, so he called the local veterinarian for advice. The vet told him that there was a trick that just might work to save the cat. A teaspoon of gasoline in his mouth could possibly make him recover. So his dad followed the vet's advice, and it was like a miracle. Within seconds, the cat was not only recovered, but running around like a madman. He was dashing through the house and leaping all over the furniture! He started to climb up the living room drapes, and suddenly fell down dead. The poor cat had run out of gas...

You can't imagine how many people have been roped in by that story. It is told with such an honest, innocent face. Yes Thayne, you are The Master. But I know your ways. I always watch out when your lips are moving!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Six-Packs and Elephants

Sometimes thinking about one funny thing can lead you down the road to several others. All of this oncoming traffic has made me want to share another story with you about my dear friend Marie. Marie is one of the sweetest and kindest people I know, and fun to be with. She also seems to be okay with me teasing her when we have those funny moments, so I can write about her without fear of great bodily harm.

A couple of weeks ago, Marie was picking us up to take us to one of Trent's post-transplant doctor visits. When we got out to the car, she was coughing like crazy. Okay, she was choking a little bit, and therefore the coughing. Luckily, after a few moments of hacking, she began to breathe better, so we got on our way. "Gosh," Marie said, "the way I was coughing, you'd think I smoked a six-pack a day!" Needless to say, we instantly dissolved into puddles from laughing so hard. I like knowing that I have a friend who, like me, can accidentally turn the words "smoking six packs a day" into "smoking a six-pack." It lets me know I am not the only one. My little Grammie would say that your tongue got twisted around your eye teeth and couldn't see where it was going.

I cannot tell you my favorite Marie story on this blog. No, it is not unsavory. No, it doesn't involve any swear words. It's just that it is so funny, I have promised her that I am going to submit it to The Reader's Digest and see if I can make some money off of her. Hey, I would share! Seriously, though, if this mysterious funny thing hadn't happened to me, I know it would have been someone else's Reader's Digest story.

One evening Marie, our husbands, some of their kids, and I went out to get a bite to eat. Naturally not everyone wanted the same thing, so some got their food from another casual restaurant and we all ate in the same place. While we were waiting for everyone's food to be prepared, I decided to tell Marie a silly joke. "So, Marie, do you know how to get an elephant out of your grocery cart?" Marie answered, "No, how do you get an elephant out of your grocery cart?" "Well, it's simple, I replied. "First you take the f out of Safe and then you take the f out of Way." Marie's forehead creased in a frown. "But there's no f in way." I started laughing like a kid, and said, "Yeah, I know!"

Marie was still frowning. "But, Katrina, there's no f in way." "Right," I said. This went on for a few minutes, and then the kids showed up. (I must interject here, these were high-school age kids. I am no corrupter of youth.) They all wanted to know what I thought was so funny, so I told them, and they all started laughing. Now Marie was getting really irritated. So I told her to just say what she had already told me a few times in a row. "There's no f in way. There's no f in way. Oh! There's no effin way!" Marie, having finally realized she had delivered the punchline, had a great laugh not only at the joke but at herself. And isn't that a great thing to be able to do? This has become one of the happily remembered moments of our shared and funny history. I hope we will have many more. Meanwhile, we will keep on the lookout for six-packs and elephants.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


I was online today and saw that the Colorado Lottery was asking people what their dream vacation would be if they won the $80 million jackpot. It started me thinking about the things I could, and perhaps would, do if I had that type of windfall. No, I didn't run out to the store and buy a ticket. Dreaming is free, after all.

Oh, the things I could do if I had multiple millions at my disposal! Naturally, the first thing I would do (after recovering from the shock-induced coronary arrest) would be becoming debt-free. Millions or not, I am sure that there are many other people who would agree that having no debt would be heavenly. And then I would be able to do all of the good deeds I have always wished I could. I could help feed, clothe, and shelter those who are not as fortunate as I am. What joy to know that I could do something so small, but yet so large, and be able to relieve someone else's worries! 

I would love to donate clothing to a service that helps people get their feet under them, and have them be surprised when they reached into the pocket of their new suit coat to find some cash had been left there for them as a surprise. It would be like doing the whole Secret Santa thing on a grander scale, and all anonymously. 

I would be able to help with animals who have no homes or families, and provide them a place to live, perhaps even in a humans and animals rehabilitating each other type of setting. Maybe I could even find a way to protect some of the beautiful wild creatures of the world. 

I could set up scholarship programs that might be able to help people of all ages get an education and reinvest their skills into their communities. I could help fund arts education at schools that can't afford things like music classes or painting supplies. 

There are so many things I wish I could do. Some are very selfish. I'd like to take a trip to visit my family in Hungary. For one time in my life, I would fly first class, and be able to actually sleep in a horizontal position for a few hours. I'd like to have a flat in Budapest, and a house in my family's little village in western Hungary. I would take Trent to every Disney property in the world as we traveled to all the places we would like to see. And when we got back to the U.S.A., we would get some sort of home on wheels so that we could travel the country as we wished. The thought of all the places we could go has my mind boggled.

I don't have millions of dollars. Heck, I'd be excited to be able to call myself a "thousandaire." But from time to time, I can take a few dollars and donate them for food for homeless families. I can give used goods to resale stores to help people furnish their closets and homes on a smaller budget. I will continue to love dogs and tigers and elephants and wolves and whales and so on. And when I want to visit my family, I can get online and chat with them. I can always look at my photographs and travel back to the places I have been before. And visit new ones via books and computers. Life is good. And so is dreaming.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

How Many Forints Is That?

Some years back, I had the opportunity to go on a trip to Europe with my sister Liz and my friends Marie and Julie, who is Marie's sister-in-law. The primary purpose of this trip was to go to a little village in Hungary and find my family, which we did. This story, however, is about some other things that happened before then.

I guess I am a strange sort of traveler. Many years ago, before I went on my first trip to New York City, I went to a bookstore and purchased a couple of books that had all sorts of information about things to see and places to go in The Big Apple. I am not the sort of traveler who has an itinerary for each day, "Monday we will go to Macy's, Tuesday we will go to Tiffany." I really don't like the feeling of being forced to do something on a specific day. What if I wake up on Tuesday and feel like going to Central Park instead? But I do like to know something about where I am going so that I can enjoy myself to the fullest. It is because of this that I found my way to The Hard Rock Cafe in NYC, and my friend and I absolutely loved it. But I digress.

Before I left for Europe, I did a lot of reading about Hungary, especially Budapest, because we were going to be spending several days there. (I also read a lot about Paris, the other main destination of our trip.) Something that is amazing about this trip is that it was the first time I had ever been outside the continental U.S. No, I had never even visited our neighbor to the north, Canada, or our neighbor to the south, Mexico. I was excited and nervous but I wanted to make sure I understood the important things. To me, one of those was how much the money was worth in comparison to American dollars. (Also, the first phrase I made sure to learn in both Hungarian and French was asking where the bathroom was!) 

So I kept my eye on the exchange rate for Hungarian forints and told my traveling companions this important fact: at the time we were traveling there, one thousand Hungarian forints were equal to about six U.S. dollars. Simple, right? Julie and I took to it like ducks to water, and had no trouble mentally converting forints to dollars. It was the accountant, Marie, and the banker, Liz, who struggled. We'd be in a quaint little shop looking at beautiful Hungarian embroidery. Liz might look at the price sticker, let's say 2500 forints, and say, "2500 dollars!" Marie would look at the same price sticker and say something like, "Okay, this is 2500 forints and 1000 forints is six dollars, so," at which point Julie or I would impatiently say, "It's fifteen dollars!" It ended up being one of the big jokes of the trip, with Liz often exclaiming something like, "Are you kidding me? One hundred dollars for a loaf of bread!?"

These moments are among the treasures we gained on our trip. Memories are precious, and also can be great fun. I have had many hilarious times telling Marie's family that the one who is supposed to be good with numbers was thoroughly flummoxed by the mighty forint. And when either Liz or Marie seems to be falling into a pit of confusion while trying to figure something out, this natural-born smart-aleck will jump in and say, "How many forints is that?"

p.s. I will, of course, write more stories for you about other things from our travels. In the words of Hannibal Lecter, "All good things to those who wait."

Monday, July 9, 2012

It's Not All Bad

Some things are just beyond figuring out. I'm talking about some of those silly things that happen and make you literally just shake your head in disgust or disbelief or dumbfounded-ness. In fact, I have experienced three of those moments so far while writing this blog post. I begin typing and decide I really don't like the words I used, so I hit the backspace key a few times. This creates a runaway erasure mode that removes everything I have typed so far. Oh, well, I am just beginning to write anyway, no big deal. So I start again, and see something on the screen that looks like this: Ryovlihf dsipgjna grgdfnsot. Huh? Okay, start over. Oh, fun. The font changed in the middle of a sentence. Like I mentioned already, this is perfect timing because I wanted to talk about those kinds of moments anyway. Is it just me, or does this one also happen to you?

Last night we knew we needed to get up really early to have some follow-up appointments related to Trent's recent kidney transplant. The end of this morning of visits was going to be pretty uncomfortable for Trent, so our dear friend Marie was kind enough to drive us there. But have you ever noticed that when you will need to get up early enough to wake up the sun the next morning, it is simply impossible to unwind and get to sleep? And then, finally, blissfully you slip into slumber. You'll get at least four hours in before the alarm clock goes off. That will be enough to get you through. Ahh...Boom, boom, BOOM! That is the sound your bladder makes as it knocks on the door of your brain and says, "Hey...I have to go REAL BAD!" You turn over, look at the clock, and realize the alarm is going off in ten minutes. Yes, this happened to me this morning. My bladder was being a bully. So, I got up and got dressed, putting on my Grumpy t-shirt just in case. I am proud to say that I didn't spend the day in a state of crankiness. In fact, I was in a pretty good mood. Especially after I had a nice afternoon nap!

All in all, it was a really good day. Trent's kidney functions are in the better-than-normal category. His healing has progressed nicely, so he has now been given the thumbs-up to get in the swimming pool. Naturally, it was a little too cool for him to want to go swimming today, so he celebrated by taking a warm swim in the bathtub. He's a happy camper now. There is some chicken roasting in the oven, and the lovely garlicky aroma coming out of the kitchen is a very happy kind of smell. Paris keeps disappearing into the kitchen to sniff the air in front of the oven, hoping that some of the chicken will end up in her food dish. Maybe that is why I am writing earlier this evening. It distracts me while while I am waiting to eat. It may have been a rough start, but it's not all bad!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Torture By Siblings

Brothers and sisters torturing each other has a long history. I don't know about your family, but it sure thrived in mine. 

When I was a very small girl in Chicago, my oldest sister Margit, who even at the young age of about twelve knew everything, would tell me tales of terror. I always believed her; I was too young and innocent to even think of her saying something that was not true. "I know someone who got up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. She looked in the mirror in the dark and scratched her eyes out! So if you go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, don't look in the mirror, or you'll scratch your eyes out, too!" I was afraid of the bathroom for years. 

Our relatives in Hungary used to send us packages with things we couldn't get in the U.S., like wonderful Hungarian goose-down pillows, for example. As a scrawny little kid I kept toasty warm during the winter sleeping under one of those pillows. These packages usually included some kind of candies. There were these liquid-filled, honey-colored hard candies that were embossed with a bee. They were very tasty, and my sisters and brother really loved them. Of course, if I didn't eat any, there would be more for them, so they had to find a way to make me not want to eat them. So how do you convince a little kid that they don't like candy? Simple. You tell her that the reason there is a bee on the outside is because there are bugs on the inside. And they looked so innocent when I refused to eat any of it. Scam artists. 

My brother was one of the worst terrorizers of all. I remember going to a local fair where they had the street blocked off and all kinds of rides. It was so much fun! John and I got on the Ferris Wheel and I thought it was the best thing in the world. You could see over the tops of some of the trees, and you were able to see far down the street. What bliss! Until John noticed that I was having such a good time. He waited until we were stopped at the top and started swinging the car. And I don't mean some little rocking back and forth, either. He was maniacally swinging the car back and forth as far as it would go, saying, "Watch out! You're going to fall down and die!" I have never gotten on a Ferris Wheel since, and am not too fond of roller coasters either.

Now that I think about it, though, my sister Liz (yes, the excessive-compulsive one) is the worst torturer of all. We went through all kinds of drama through our growing-up years, but have come to a better understanding and appreciation of each other. But the old gal still loves to torture me whenever possible. We have taken a few road trips together, and usually have a lot of fun and laugh ourselves silly. But that is when she tortures me. There is something you need to know about Liz. My dear sister produces a kind of gas that could be used as a weapon in war. These gas bombs have a pungency and power that couldn't possibly be matched by the gas of several buffalo or perhaps even a herd of rhinos. 

So here we were, driving home from our trip through Eastern Wyoming, looking at all of the antelope, when I smelled something incredibly foul. "Liz! You need to roll down your window!" Liz just laughed, so I started to roll down my window. Which she had locked. I had to shriek and beg for relief, which she thought was funny. I guess it's always funny until someone passes out in your car. This happened a few more times until I finally got her to promise not to do it any more. Did I mention that I am too trusting of my siblings? She just waited until we were on another road trip, this time to visit a friend in Utah. We were driving through Wyoming, again, and had stopped to have dinner and ice cream. A torrential rain started falling, but we were comfortably dry and warm inside the car. And then it happened. "Wow, did we just drive by a sewage treatment plant or something?" Liz started to giggle. And then I knew that once again I had been gas-bombed. Even with the pouring rain, I did a great imitation of a dog. I got drenched hanging my head out the window, but at least the lining of my lungs remained intact.

Although my siblings did their best to do me in, I am still here, and able to breathe, and sit up and take nourishment. I can even go to the bathroom by myself in the middle of the night. But, as I said, I have no desire to ride the Ferris Wheel. And I am not impervious to the effects of nerve gas. I am still too trusting of my siblings, but maybe someday I will learn. So Liz, you had better watch out...sibling torture can go both ways!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Nobody Says the H-Word

Having a dog can really limit your vocabulary. Do you remember the line from the movie Beetlejuice, "Shh! Nobody says the B-word!" If you said his name three times, all heck would break loose. Well, around our house, and those of some of our friends as well, there are certain things you just don't say around the dog. Unless, of course, you want to experience all heck breaking loose.

Our little Paris has quite a vocabulary. When she gets a new toy, for example, we always give it a name. While she is chewing and flinging it about, trying to break the poor thing's neck like a wolf making a kill, we will say something like, "Is that your new Bunny? Do you like your Bunny? Bring me that Bunny!" She will look at us when we say the name, and after just a few repeats, she knows what the toy's name is. A sure-fire way to get her revved up and "talking" is to innocently ask her, "Paris, where is your Cow?" Or any of the other dozen or so toys she has. She will stomp her front feet and start vocalizing. "Throw it! Throw it! I must chase it, catch it, kill it!"

As with Bowie, whom I've told you about elsewhere, we simply cannot say the word walk. For both dogs, this creates an excitement and expectation for an outing, and it just wouldn't be fair not to deliver. Both dogs will head straight to where their leashes are kept, dancing with excitement. Taking it a step further, we have now come to a point in our home where we have to be careful with words like out or outside. Paris becomes a whirling dervish of delight. Bowie's family, when discussing whether to take him along for an automobile ride, has to use the code of "B. B. in the C." If they decide he should go, you see, the phrase is "go bye-bye in the car." Yes, another ecstatic dog moment.

The word we have to be most careful about here is the h-word. We have gotten to the point where we can't even say it when we are away from home. Paris has kibble that she can munch on at all times, but she loves to have canned food. She has been known to go into the kitchen and start talking to the refrigerator, telling it that she is feeling a bit empty, and would it please give her a dish of food? We can't use the word hungry around here unless we are serious about going to the kitchen and feeding her something. The word hungry starts a reaction that can't be contained. She leaps off the bed, talking all the while. She searches for a toy, any toy, to keep her from losing her mind on the way to the kitchen. She dances in little circles when she knows the food is ready, and sits up and waits for it in breathless anticipation. Heck, sometimes we can't even say Hungary, because it just sounds too much like the h-word!

We slip from time to time, and have gotten some good laughs over it. I don't say I am going to walk to the mailbox, I say I am heading there. We also find it amusing that two mature adults who are nowhere near home will turn to each other and say, "I'm h, are you h too?" But you do what you've got to do. And around our house, that means nobody says the h-word. But maybe I'll whisper it in her ear right now. I love to make a dog's day! 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

What's In A Name?

You will seldom hear me wishing anyone a happy fourth of July. It's just one of my things. It isn't about the sentiment. This holiday has very deep meaning for me. It's the wording. Do we say, "Happy January First!" Not usually, I imagine. Has anyone ever wished you a happy last Thursday in November, or do they use the word Thanksgiving? For me, the words the Fourth of July simply say what date it is. I like to say Happy Independence Day.

On Independence Day, I spend a lot of time reflecting on how this country came to be. I think about a group of men who promised each other that no colony would be forced into revolt against the British; unless the Declaration was accepted unanimously, it would not be accepted at all. The colonists had come to find their government intolerable. They were given the responsibilities of British citizens, like paying taxes, but didn't get the rights that most British citizens had.

The founding fathers bravely did something that had not been done before. They wrote a document that listed all of the reasons that they no longer wanted to be subjects of King George III, or a part of England. And they ended the document with this beautiful and incredible statement: And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor. They knew that what they were doing was considered high treason and punishable by death. Their lives, families, and property could all be lost if England was victorious, but their conviction was strong enough for them to be willing to lose everything. Thinking about this really humbles me. How incredible to have that kind of dedication to such a noble cause.

And all through this time, and after, the Revolutionary War was being fought by men who were not professional soldiers. They did not have beautiful uniforms and polished boots like the British soldiers. In fact, many of them had no shoes at all. But they had a brave and intelligent General named George Washington, and assistance from France and others to fight the British. On September 3rd of 1783, a treaty between England and the United States of America was signed. A new country was officially recognized by its parent nation. At the risk of sounding schmaltzy, I will tell you that I love this country. We certainly are far from perfect, as every country is. But we have such incredible freedoms here. So many things that we take for granted on a daily basis are not always seen elsewhere, and my own family's background makes me all too aware of that.

So do you think I am a kook for wanting to call it Independence Day? Shakespeare said that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. But I still like the sound of Independence Day.

Monday, July 2, 2012

I Confess

Oh, the shame. It is time for me to come clean. Bowie will not be the center of my attention this evening, even though I am still at his house. You see, it is Monday night. This summer, Monday and Tuesday evenings are the ones when it is usually my husband who loses out on my attention. Yes, I am a fan of Hell's Kitchen and Master Chef. To make matters worse, on Wednesday there is Around the World in 80 Plates. I am hooked. I don't want you to think I watch every cooking show, or that I am always watching The Food Network. If Bowie could speak, he would tell you I have been watching a lot of Discovery ID channel programs. In fact, it bothers this sensitive dog so much that he is forced to go in the other room and sleep on "his" sofa. Paris, on the other hand, will lay down next to me on the sofa and fall asleep. The spilling of human blood doesn't seem to bother her a bit, as long as it is on tv and not Mommy or Daddy.

I will be right there to watch Top Chef when their next season begins, too. It simply fascinates me to see the way these people interact with each other. And throw each other under the bus. If you watch Master Chef you know that one of the home cooks this season is blind. One of her competitors won a preliminary challenge and his reward was to choose which cooks would get fresh or canned versions of certain proteins. Thinking it was a great opportunity to get rid of his blind competitor, he chose for her to get a live crab. When she pulled it apart and the shell cut her, he was smirking and laughing and I wanted to hit him even though I am non-violent. The karma wheel was spinning, though. She won the best dish and is still on the show, but guess who isn't?

So in a short while I will be watching Gordon Ramsay yelling at the contestants in Hell's Kitchen, and sometimes speaking firmly to the contestants on Master Chef. Graham Elliot will be kind, but may also have some strong words for really bad dishes. And then there is the inscrutable Joe Bastianich (yes, he is the son of Lydia Bastianich!), who will taste the dish and just stare at the cook before turning his back on them. Or perhaps spitting it into a wastebin and declaring it unfit for consumption. I become more and more amazed at what these culinary geniuses create. They take various meats and combine them with fruits and vegetables in ways I never could think of.

Maybe one of the reasons I like these shows so much is because while I am a decent cook, nobody will ever be calling me Chef. And I will probably never have an opportunity to dine on food prepared by Gordon Ramsay or Graham Elliot, or go to one of the Bastianich restaurants. I am content to live vicariously through watching food take on a new life and personality in these cooks' and chefs' talented hands. But I can still make a pretty decent paprikas csirke (chicken paprikash), among other things, and bake cookies like there's no tomorrow.

 All or this talk of food is whetting my appetite, and Bowie has already come over to me at the computer to show me that he is weak with hunger and can't hold his head up any longer. So I guess now that I have confessed, I can see about getting something to eat. Oh, if you're wondering why I like those other programs, with murder and crime and so forth, that is a whole different story. Maybe we can share it sometime.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Adventures in Dog-Sitting

I am currently dogsitting one of my favorite canines. I just happen to be one of his favorite humans, so we are well matched. Bowie even has his own name for me. In his eyes, I am MyKatrina. When I come over, he scampers around to show his excitement. "MyKatrina is here, MyKatrina is here!" Then we go through our routine of me letting him out and petting him in the yard, and him coming back in and seeing if I will put something in his food dish.

Bozilla reminds me of the dog in the Mayhem commercial. When anyone comes to his house, they are, of course, coming to see him. He has never met a stranger, and loves to welcome people into his home. I have often joked that if anyone unsavory ever came into the house, he would be a very gracious host and make sure they knew where all of the valuable items were kept, followed by a request for a treat. You see, he is a lover and not a biter. But that's okay. I am not worried, because I know that I am here to protect him. Actually, I am sure if anyone did any of his humans any harm, he would release his inner wolf and chew them to bits. Well, I can dream, can't I?

Here's how a typical day with the Boze-monster goes. In the early hours of the morning, 7:30 at the latest, Bowie lays his head on me to let me know that I need to get up. It isn't because he wants to go out and answer nature's call, it is because he is so weak from hunger that he can't hold his own head up any more. Even though he is eager to eat, he wants to have a good-morning pet and scratch. It is amazing to me that a dog in the throes of starvation can force himself to wait for twenty minutes and still be kind enough to turn and move so that I am able to reach every part of his back and neck.

After his breakfast, he keeps an eye out to see what MyKatrina is going to be eating. Because if there is anything that goes well with food, it is more food! Then we settle in to do whatever is on the agenda for the day. I might read or watch a movie or get on the computer. Bowie catches up on his sleep. Although he is a good, sound sleeper, somehow the sound of the fridge door will always get him up. Usually at about mid-morning, he has his singing lesson. I play some notes on the piano, and he releases his inner wolf and lets him howl.

Bowie is fed twice a day, and I suspect that he figures he can fool all humans into thinking they cannot tell time. A couple of hours before his set mealtime, he will engage in what I call showing off. He will fling himself around the family room, barking loudly and wagging his tail. "I'm so darn cute and funny! You've got to feed me. Nobody could resist anything this cute!" When that doesn't work, he goes into the kitchen and uses his paw to drag his food bowl around just in case we are too dense to know what he is talking about. After dinner and some relaxation, his soft snores lure me to sleep, and I rest up for the next day's adventures in dog-sitting. I know we will both have a good time.