True Grit

Memory Makers Masquerading as Cats

I love blog posts about the magic of ordinary days. You know the ones that expound upon the grit in our daily lives as if it’s some sort of fairy dust sprinkled over us that makes everything perfect and wonderful. This blog post is about the true nature of grit.

If you have ever owned cats or know anything about their personalities, you know they are thieving, little devils. They develop weird passions for things like pens, pencils, Q-tips, etc. Basically, anything they can swipe off a table, out of a cubby in a bathroom cabinet, or from the trash. My three cats (Henry, Simon, and Freddie) crave pencils especially if I’ve placed an eraser cap on the end. They usually chew off the eraser that comes with a pencil (I have found gnarled pieces of metal left as evidence of their handiwork) necessitating the addition of an eraser cap. I believe they work in concert to ensure this happens, and then they celebrate by waiting until I go to bed to work the pencil out of the jar in the living room, the wire spiral of my notebook, or from the side of my laptop cooling station.

Looking for one of my lost pencils is what prompted this blog post. I was on my hands and knees in the kitchen with the three offenders watching my progress as I laid my head parallel to the floor to peer beneath the printer table. I spied a popcorn kernel, and my mind flooded with memories of teaching Joshua how to make popcorn on the stove. I retrieved the kernel and sat back on my knees as I recalled what a great day that was and how many more like it we’ve had since. But I didn’t find the pencil.

I looked into the corners of the fireplace mantel also in the kitchen. A two by three piece of grey Lego was wedged behind the antique wood. It has been years since my kid played with Legos. He started by building every kit according to instructions, but his best creations were those he made up without the benefit of a pattern. The Titanic with a removable panel to simulate destruction by an iceberg, the Iron Giant, a mask similar to that worn by General Grievous, an M1 Garand that ejected the clip, a three-level ship longer than my kitchen table, and a working crossbow were among my favorites. Still no pencil.

Under the stove I found a cap from a bottle of Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy. How my cats managed to get the bottle cap was beyond me, but its discovery prompted the memory of a wonderful, teen-free evening spent with my husband. The night was outrageously hot and the light beverage tasted delicious and refreshing. Husband and I felt like newly-weds again as we whiled away hours in each other’s company doing absolutely nothing and loving every moment. Again, no pencil.

I crawled all over the house looking for my pencil. I could have simply used another one, but it was a matter of principle now. The cats trailed me with mild interest, and I swear they nodded their heads toward their litterbox as if suggesting I look there. Little creeps.

Every room received a thorough search, and along the way tidbits of stuff located beneath furniture or in corners prompted memories of the past twenty five years. At times I fretted over scuffed baseboards and the scars of puppy-chewed carpet, a house that looks quite “lived in” and the realization that I need to sweep more often than I already do! (A wise friend once said, “If you have pets, you’re going to have pet hair.”) But every inch of every room in our home offered up life that was and still is sound and stable. I cast a glance at my cats who sat just out of reach watching me. Their smug faces seemed to say, “You’re welcome.”

I eventually found my pencil inside the cooling station where a clumsy paw had pushed it in an effort to snag it off the table. I threaten to beat their hides every time one of my pencils goes missing, but I have to admit the process of looking for it adds to my memories most positively. Someday—hopefully not in the near future—my broken heart will reminisce Henry, Simon, and Freddie, and I’ll be most appreciative for the days they decided to steal my pencils.

Children Need Pause and Rewind Buttons

Well, we finally did it! The hubby and I survived high school. We made it through all four years and came out the other side relatively unscathed. There were some bumps and bruises along the way in the form of forgotten homework, mad dashes to school with hastily packed or forgotten lunches, and most recently, the delivery of two loads of cardboard that entirely filled the back of hubby’s SUV to the school our son attended in the afternoon for Civil Engineering and Architecture. Oh, did you think I meant hubby and I survived our own high school years? No, no, no… I’m talking about our son, Joshua, and how despite all the snark thrown our way (and that’s when he was actually communicating) we are now the proud parents of a high school graduate.

Man, did that go quickly. I put him on the bus for kindergarten on Monday, and he graduated on Friday? When I dressed him for school, he had on shorts, a striped t-shirt, and sneakers that lit up when he ran. He loved those shoes. What came home that last day wore a backpack bigger than he was when he started school and sneakers longer than the bus. His sense of fashion didn’t change much. He still leans toward t-shirts, but if you ever see him in shorts it’s only because someone pulled a prank and cut off the legs of the sixty dollar jeans he conned out of his grandfather.

I have vague memories of a little kid who never ordered anything to eat except “chickie fries” suddenly being the young man whose stately walk into the auditorium and perfect pivot at the aisle deposited him at his seat where he promptly clasped his hands behind his back like a Marine standing at attention. And after the ceremony, the only way I could spot him among the sea of blue and white caps and gowns was to look for the face that had once been soft and round and was now square and chiseled. I can recognize that jawline anywhere.

Leap past the graduation dinner at his favorite restaurant to all of us fast asleep in bed that evening. Everyone except me because my mind and heart aren’t quite sure if I’m supposed to be happy or sad. I believe that mix is called melancholy. Add to it a dash of “what do we do with this young person now,” and you will be standing outside the fence of the ballpark in which hubby and I are now playing. Perhaps you are familiar with this scenario, but Joshua is our one and only. We won’t even have the opportunity to apply what we learn to another child.

As I sit here typing this, watching him brush his teeth in the kitchen sink like some kind of animal, I have to wonder how we did with him. Is he truly ready to be unleashed on the public? How much will his behavior reflect on us? Is it too late for Catholic military boarding school in Siberia? Does he love us? Does he even like us?

I suppose we could have done this instead of that. More of A and less of B. Chosen what was behind curtain one as an alternative to taking what was in the box. Would it have made a difference? Life is not a dress rehearsal, so who can really say? I made a promise to infant Joshua to never lie to him no matter how many times he asked me the same question as a toddler (it’s true that airplanes don’t fly when it’s too cold). I tell teenage Joshua that I’ll pay for any therapy needed due to emotional scarring endured while cleaning his bedroom.

Sometimes I wish we had a crystal ball so we could see where all this is heading because it feels like we’re riding a roller coaster in the dark. There are times when I think that’s a good thing because there will be no witnesses when I push Joshua out of the car. But most days, I cling to him in case there is a sudden drop up ahead that none of us can see. We know he wants us to loosen our hold on him for the thrill of rising out of the seat on the dips and hills. And we will… once we check that he secured his seat belt for life.

Eat, Drink, and Wear Stretchy Pants

There’s nothing quite like a well-seasoned turkey coming to golden-brown perfection in my roaster to bring tears to my eyes.  The smell alone reminds me of my Grandmother Smith, God bless her, clomping around her kitchen (she was not the most graceful) tending to the Thanksgiving turkey and many side dishes in preparation for dinner.

I mentioned in another post (When Maturity Strikes) that our son, Joshua, earned his first  turkey at his first job.  My husband received a turkey from work for our Thanksgiving dinner, so Joshua willingly saved his for Hanukkah.  He quizzed me on my intended preparation including seasonings and made me promise him that it would turn out juicy.  Based on the way we ravaged the poor bird, I believe I achieved success.  Here’s the kicker:  I don’t have a single picture of this culinary masterpiece.

My recipe is classic, simple, and tasty.  I know deep frying, brine baths, and flavor injections are popular, but I chose to keep it teenager-friendly.  It was, after all, his turkey.

Joshua’s Thanksgiving Turkey

1 proudly earned turkey, approximately 23 pounds

1 stick unsalted butter, cold and cut into eight pieces

½ stick unsalted butter, softened

½ T parsley

½ T rubbed sage

½ T rosemary

½ T thyme

½ T sea salt

½ T black pepper

Paprika

2 lemons

3 – 6 cloves of garlic, peeled

2 cans chicken broth

I started with a fully defrosted turkey that I rinsed, trimmed, and patted dry.  You will not need the giblets, neck, liver, gizzard, or heart for this recipe.  I worked with the turkey breast side up in my roaster.

Mix all the seasonings except the paprika.  Dip the cold pats of butter into the seasoning mixture on both sides and gently shoved beneath the skin of the turkey.  Use your fingers to separate the skin from the meat enough to place the butter.  Two pats on each side of the breast for a total of four, and two beside each of the legs also totaling four.  You will not use all of the seasonings for this.

Rub the surface of the turkey with the softened butter.  Sprinkle the surface, taking care to get the legs and wings, with the remaining seasoning mixture.  Sprinkle lightly with paprika.  Cut the ends off the lemons and quarter them lengthwise.  Place all eight sections of lemon and the peeled garlic cloves in the cavity of the turkey.

Tuck the wing tips beneath the turkey so they don’t burn.  Add two cans of chicken broth to the roaster.  Do not pour them over the turkey, or the seasonings will be rinsed off.

How to Roast is a good guideline to follow, however, keep in mind there are slight differences between cooking in a roaster versus an oven.  My advice is to stay with your turkey if it’s your first time and also because you’ll want to baste it throughout the cooking process.  Once your turkey is cooked to golden-brown perfection, allow it to sit for ten minutes before serving and carving.

Enjoy!

**If you don’t have a half tablespoon measure, the equivalent is 1 1/2 teaspoons.

Rewind to the Future

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times:  there are advancements to technology, but they aren’t always advancements to the quality of our lives.  Yet every day I find myself more dependent on some form of technology, and I must admit that a few have become quite the convenience.  Take my laptop, for example.

About six years ago, my parents surprised us with a laptop because our son had reached the stage of his schooling where he needed one to complete his homework.  Then there was the fact that the school insisted communication with students and parents be conducted mostly, if not solely, via e-mail and homework sites.  We had an old desktop model, but it just wasn’t cutting it anymore.

Since the generous gifting of the laptop, I have come to enjoy it for online banking, communicating with friends (although I still argue that social media makes people who once met for socializing somewhat lazy), watching movies, and my favorite, ripping CDs into custom-made playlists.  And then one horrific day, the DVD/CD drive thingy stopped working.

At first I couldn’t open it.  Not even with the cool trick using a paperclip the guy at the store showed me.  And when I placed a DVD or CD inside and shut the drawer, the laptop no longer read it.  Imagine my dismay.  My playlists would grow no more, and worse, it may be time to look for another laptop.

There was the option of an external drive, but even the sales clerk thought the price his employer was charging to be a little outrageous.  He suggested I try shopping online if I absolutely needed one.  At least he didn’t try to sell me a laptop I wasn’t prepared to buy at the moment.  Our finances aren’t ready for that commitment yet.

I’m not exactly technologically challenged, but I’m not savvy either.  Perhaps with all this streaming, DVDs and CDs were going by the wayside.  One day while running errands, I consulted our in-house IT geek also known as our son.  When I posed this thought to him, he agreed that an external drive would simply be a convenience for old-schoolers like me.

“You could rip all your CDs, Mom.  They even have external connections for those other things you and Dad have.”

“What other things?”

He cupped his left hand with a U-shaped slot between his thumb and fingers and inserted his other flattened hand inside, mimicking something.

“You know, those square things.”

Images of 3.5-inch floppy disks sprang to mind, but they had nothing to do with our discussion.

“What things, Joshua?”

Again, and with much exasperation on his part, he mimicked some bizarre function by rotating his index fingers in circles going the same direction.

“Those things that are square and go ‘round and ‘round.”

“You mean…cassettes?”

Let the laughter begin.  I rarely get one up on this kid these days.  He’s a titch smug from time to time with all he knows technologically, so when I have the opportunity to laugh (and I’m talking Precious Pup, wheezing type laughter as I’m driving) I take it.  Joshua is a good sport, though, and after turning beet red, he joined in the hilarity.  Still, he’ll never know the satisfaction of saving a favorite cassette from destruction by rewinding it with a pencil.

The Sukkah Experiment

Less than twenty-four hours to Sukkot, and I have no sukkah.  What I have is a cabana frame with no way to attach the Chinese silver grass (and no promise the frame will support the weight) and no way to affix the sheets I plan on using as curtains.  Oh, I also have a mother who says, “You know I like things elaborate,” and “I just ran out of time to make the curtains.”  Funny how we’re back to using the sheets I suggested in the first place and she dismissed as hillbilly.

This is round two of building a sukkah for the Gibson Family.  You’ll recall last year’s efforts (Learning Curve) were redneck at best.  We’ve come a long way since then, and we’ve learned a few things.  Such as sukkahs need four walls and branches still attached to the tree don’t count.  Still, we did our best, and I truly believe Adonai was honored by our efforts.  This year, I’m thinking He might be grading on a tougher curve, and we’re getting points checked off for lack of preparedness.

You see, I had this all planned out on Monday when Mom and I went to buy the PVC pipe, three-way elbows, and the shower curtain clips.  We were on our way to Home Depot and ended up everywhere except Home Depot.  I could have had this finished Monday evening and been peacefully admiring my sukkah in anticipation of sundown Wednesday.  Instead, I’m anticipating watching my mother weave paracord around the top of the frame (at minus five-foot-short, I have no idea how she’s going to reach the top of the ten-foot-plus, peaked cabana frame) probably while standing on a step ladder (I’m not sure we own one anymore) placed on uneven ground.  I’m having flashbacks to Mom and Dad fighting over the set-up of…well, just about everything.

And the grasses still need cut down.  With a reciprocating saw.  I know we own one of those, but I have absolutely no idea what it looks like or where it is.  Dad is supposed to help me with this, but then I wonder who will watch Mom while she’s weaving paracord on a ladder?  This is not going well.  At least Dad should be sufficiently occupied cutting grasses so as not to pick a fight with Mom.  And nobody better pick a fight with me because I have a headache already.  Is it too early in the day for a glass of bourbon?

Here’s the kicker:  we have until sundown this evening to complete this, except Mom wants to eats dinner in the sukkah as a family.  My husband, William, leaves for work at 3:30 PM.  So, we have roughly four and a half hours to get this thing ready.  I’m thinking we should have completed the sukkah today, enjoyed some coffee, tea, and cake in it, and then tomorrow when husband’s vacation starts, enjoy dinner as a family.  Am I the only person who sees this spiraling out of control?

Don’t even get me started on dinner.  Mom asked what I planned on making for the first evening.  This is code for “I’m buying the cabana frame, so you make dinner.”  Not a problem at all.  Really.  I figured we’d have the sukkah up by Monday evening anyhow, so I’d be free to prepare food.  Then she texts me with a picture of the marinara sauce she’s making for dinner.  I hadn’t even suggested a menu, and already she nixed it.  Again, not a problem.  We like marinara over spaghetti, and I have back-up sauce in case our teenager snarls his nose at it.

It’s anyone’s guess how this is going to go off.  I know there are a few details we still aren’t going to get right, but like life in general, Adonai gives us time to grow.  It’s anyone’s guess whether it’s His voice or mother’s in my head saying, “Have a little faith.”

Don’t Drive So Fast That You Miss Life

I wish I had listened when people told me to remember these days.  They were speaking of the days when my son, Joshua, was little.  And I did remember quite a lot; I have the scrapbooks and an entire room devoted to the production thereof as proof.

There was a time when I just wanted a few more moments of sleep, to eat my meal while it was still hot, or to sit down and read a book or watch a movie in the silence and peace I used to enjoy prior to a child.  As recently as yesterday when I sent Joshua to the school on his mountain bike to pick up his work permit so I could shower in preparation for taking him for a haircut so he’d look great for the picture on his temps then down to the BMV to get said temps then running home to make lunch before hubby left for work then cleaning up and staying put so Joshua could finish mowing for his dad and using the time to write a thank you note, put in laundry, and type up a synopsis for my current WIP then rushing off to buy pants for the job he started today, I thought to myself how much I want my life back!

Prior to that was all the running to obtain a birth certificate for the job and temps and work permit (I told him to have this stuff finished before school let out for the summer) as well as the three days it took him to get himself in gear to do everything listed above (I’m trying to be a hands-off parent as he matures).  There’s a DVD of Persuasion on my countertop begging to be watched, a book to be finished, and don’t even get me started on how I haven’t written anything toward my current WIP or my blog pretty much since school ended.

This summer has been crazy.  And really, I’m not complaining, but I wish I people who had said remember these days had also warned me that although children become more independent as they get older, in many new ways they are still quite dependent.  What I used to do for Joshua was contained to our little world, our home.  Now I’m pretty sure I’m trekking across America several times a week getting, taking, and doing for this kid.

My joyous internal screams were probably felt as shock waves in most of Ohio when Joshua told me he had job orientation from eight to three on Thursday and Friday.  What?  I’ll have two whole days to write and read?  Thank, Adonai; truly You are merciful.

Josh woke me at seven thirty to take him to work (Recall, he only has his temps since yesterday, and tonight will be the first night of driving lessons).  I asked all the motherly questions from did you take your allergy pill and brush your teeth to do you have your ID badge and lunch packed?  My questions were greeted with one-syllable, monotone affirmations.

I drove him to work and stopped a little way from the front doors so as not to embarrass him.  And then I watched my baby walk away.  And I wanted to jump out of the car and convince him to come home with me where I’d make him all his favorite foods, and we’d watch all his favorite shows, and then go to Kame’s to look at hunting gear, and visit Sweet Frog for yogurt, and if he was still hungry (which teen boys always are) we’d go for burgers or pizza.

Yes, this summer has been crazy.  I’ve hardly written at all since May.  When I pulled into the garage after dropping off Josh, I looked beside me and saw his lunch on the drink holders where he’d forgotten it.  I’ll be taking that to him around noon.  If I’m lucky, tonight after his driving lesson, we’ll go for a drive with me at the wheel.  It’s a habit we started in the evenings as the sun is going down.  We just pick a direction and drive until it gets dark or we’re tired.  Josh and I talk about everything during these drives, and the other day he told me how much he enjoys them.  I don’t believe he realizes that as I drive he places his hand lightly over mine where it rests.

I know things will calm down once school starts at the end of August.  My routine will be restored, and my writing will flourish.  For now I’ll set it aside because I wouldn’t trade publication with the best publishing house in the world or my book selling millions of copies and being made into a movie for the moments I’m collecting and turning into memories.

When Did I Blink?

When Did I BlinkI’m going to conceal the identity of the boy behind the mask because he would be mortified if any of his friends knew this picture existed and found out that he still plays with Legos. However, I’m also going to leave a large clue that this is the only man-child living with me at the moment. Well, there is my husband, William, but I digress.

I’ve been working on blog posts today, and while I’ve tried to remain focused on what I’m doing, my teenager has ensured that I have several moments of hilarious distraction. Take, for instance, the moment when I’m so intent on the writing goal before me that I fail to notice the presence standing beside me to my right and within my peripheral vision. Who knows how long he has been there, perfectly still, barely breathing, until I see him and bust up laughing.

This time, he’s wearing his Lego version of some futuristic military mask that looks a lot like General Grievous and holds a Lego version of a Kriss Vector. I grab my cell to take a picture and shake my head at his goofiness, but I’m also impressed with the accuracy with which he has built his latest weapon. It’s incredibly detailed in size and appearance except for the rainbow-colored exterior courtesy of Lego.

A little later, he startles me again from the left and just behind where I’m sitting when I hear a scratching tap on the window screen and turn to see Jason from the Halloween movies. Another picture and another round of “Joshua, you little snipe, I’m trying to get some work done!” Which I am, but I’m not so busy that I can’t laugh until my eyes water, snap a photo, and write a blog post.

When Did I Blink 2

All in all, his antics make for a really good day because just a little earlier, he’d been grumping and grousing about helping his father with yardwork. There are still moments during these teen years when he accuses us of plotting ways torture him and ruin his life (I’m laughing even as I’m typing this), but lately, we’ve been in a good place.

I once wished he could stay little forever and another time that he could at least remain young. When he hit thirteen, I wished he was twenty-five and living on his own. Yes, raising a child has its ups and downs as any good parent knows. I’m again starting to wish that I could hit the pause button on his life as I watch him shoot up in height and grow hair on his legs! (More mortification via Mom right there.) I don’t remember blinking that day at the hospital when they placed the red-faced baby with a headful of long, dark hair in my arms, but apparently, I did.

Lightning Juice

Several weeks ago, I decided to clean out my closet. Ambitious, I know. Thankfully, the job proved to be easier than I first expected. The solution was to simply remove everything I hadn’t used or worn in over a year and cart it off to Goodwill. A little sweeping, rearranging, and I was patting myself on the back in no time.

Right before I closed the closet doors for the day, I spied the box for my hiking boots in the back corner. Hadn’t I just worn those? I was pretty sure they were still sitting in the hallway going downstairs.

I wavered for a second: Leave the boots where they were and call it a day or retrieve them and feel truly satisfied on a job well done? I made a split second decision.

“Joshua?” I yelled from the bedroom.

(Pause)

“What?” he yelled back from the kitchen.

So typical of a teenager. Don’t bother to get up to come see what I want. (Yes, I know I was being equally lazy by not fetching the boots myself.)

“Bring me my Nevados,” I said, using the brand name of the boot.

(Pause)

“Your what?”

(Sigh)

“My Nevados!”

“What’s that?”

I quickly realized this exchange wasn’t going to produce the results I wanted. He was playing Minecraft.

Small sidebar: If you know anything about Minecraft, you know that once a person is addicted, yes, addicted, there is no reaching them throughout the duration of time they are engaged in playing. On one hand, Joshua loves it. He’s formed online communities with his friends and builds like a first rate architect. On the other hand, I’m firmly convinced too much exposure will suck out his brain.

“Please – bring – me – my – hiking – boots,” I bellowed at this point.

(Pause)

“Your what?”

(Sigh with teeth grinding)

“HIKING BOOTS!”

(Pause)

“Your lightning juice?”

Yes, Joshua, that is what I said: My lightning juice.

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