Getting Old is a Pain

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“…There will be no more…crying or pain…”  Rev. 21:4

I’d like to introduce you to my two new best friends.  Say “Hello” to Mr. Heating Pad.  I couldn’t ask for a better friend.  He’s soft, warm, and doesn’t talk too much.  Not exactly a bosom-buddy; more like a butt-buddy.  In fact, we’ve been together so much lately, you could say we’re attached at the hip.  My second friend is not as soft, but always seems to come through when I’m really hurting.  Meet Ms. Ibuprofen.  I always seem to feel better when she’s around.

It all started the day after Christmas, when, without any warning, I awoke to pain only a champion bull rider should experience the day after being thrown to the ground by a black bull named Tornado.  But, instead of riding a bull on Christmas Day, something even more horrific happened to me.  I got older.  In spite of my best efforts to act like a kid at Christmas,  my body wasn’t buying it.

The reality of getting older is the pain we’re feeling today, was actually caused by something we did many years ago.  I remember my grandfather saying one day, “If I’d known I’d be living this long, I’d taken much better care of myself.”  At the time, I didn’t know what he meant.  Now, his message is painfully clear.

So, here’s a partial list of the injuries I’ve endured over the years.  There was the groin injury in my twenties, the result of an overzealous aerobics instructor.  And, then there’s the professional masseuse, so impressed with my flexibility that she lifted my left leg next to my right ear.  I found out later she was a scout for the Cirque D’ Soleil.  After that, there was the skiing accident.  The first of many skiing accidents.  It was the first day of our vacation and happened on Robert Redford’s lovely Sundance Ski Resort.  I should have stayed home and watched  The Way We Were  on video, instead.  Fortunately, I’d only torn a few ligaments or tendons in my knee, a mere flesh wound.  So, no surgery was necessary.

My husband, in his infinite wisdom, decided to go on another ski trip the following year.  This time I was able to enjoy the trip, except for the last night.  He decided he wanted to go night-skiing.  I have trouble skiing in the daytime, so don’t know what he was thinking.  Falling off at the beginning of the ski lift should have been my first clue.  But no, I had to get back on and try again.  This time, I rode to the top of the mountain alongside a rookie snowboarder.  We both made it off the lift, then, Wham!  She slammed me into a wall, where I heard the sickening sound of my knee snapping.  The trip wasn’t a complete bust, though.  I got to ride in a bone-sled pulled by ski patrol going a hundred miles per hour down a snow-covered mountain at night.   I was strapped in so tight, thankfully, all I could see was the stars flying by as we made our way down the length of the ski run.  The highlight was being shoved through the square in the door of the emergency building just big enough for the bone sled to fit through.  I now know what a pizza feels like being slid off a paddle and into a brick oven, except I was freezing.

Which brings me back to today’s pain.  Evening is when the pain gets worse.  I start moaning like Randy on Christmas Story when faced with eating a plate of meatloaf.  Know what, Randy, I’ll trade ya’.

 

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Happy Hoppin’ John Time!

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Verse:  Save now, we beseech You, O Lord; send now prosperity, O Lord, we beseech You, and give to us success!  Psalms 118:25(Ampl. Bible)

It’s New Year’s Day, and in a short while, probably between college football games, I’ll begin preparing a meal that’s been a family tradition for years, Hoppin’ John.  According to my mom, Grandpa Zach began serving Hoppin’ John to his family on New Year’s Day.  He believed eating it would bring more luck, money and prosperity to them in the coming year.

This is a tradition I carry on to this day.  I decided to do some research on Hoppin’ John, and discovered its roots began in Southern states during the mid’ 1800’s.  One story behind the unusual name recalls how an old man named John hobbled through Charleston selling rice and peas.  But, most historians believe Hoppin’ John is actually derived  from the French term for dried peas, “pois pigeons.”

Here are the main components of Hoppin’ John.  Black-eyed peas are the star ingredient in this scrumptious concoction.  The peas symbolize pennies or coins,  and part of the ritual is placing a coin either in the pot, or under your bowl.  I prefer the “under the bowl” method, since there’s less risk of accidentally ingesting the coin.  I use a penny, and have too much respect for Lincoln, one of my favorite presidents, to put him through that particular ordeal.  Eating peas is believed to bring both prosperity and luck.  Rice, another component, represents good health, along with pork, thought to bring even more luck.  Here, I’m a divergent, preferring to use smoked turkey sausage in place of ham or bacon.  I think it tastes better.  Hopefully, this minor alteration won’t diminish the luck factor, and might positively benefit my health.  Along with black-eyed peas and rice, greens are served alongside the main dish.  Apparently, any type of greens work, as long as they are, well, green,  the color of currency, and represent wealth.  Mac and cheese, for instance, though served in many Southern restaurants as a vegetable side, won’t work, unless, of course, they’re green.  And, if they are green, better eat more rice for better health!

Like Sandra Lee, I opt for semi-homemade recipes, emphasis on the semi, not homemade.  I generally slice up some smoked turkey sausage, and sauté it in a pan with a little oil.  Then, I add some chopped onion, and sauté them together until the sausage begins to brown.  Next, I drain a can of black-eyed peas, usually flavored with jalapenos for extra spice, and add it to the pot.  I then add rice, and love using microwavable rice, for ease, choosing a wild-rice, brown blend, for more interest and flavor.  Next, stir, and the Hoppin’ John is done.  I like collards as my green accompaniment.  My mom always serves spinach, another flavorful choice.  There are some wonderful canned preseasoned collards available, like Margaret Holmes.  They’re absolutely delicious, and inexpensive, too.  Last, I use a boxed cornbread mix, Jiffy cornbread, that’s cheap, fifty cents a box, simple, with a slightly sweet flavor that perfectly complements the rest of the meal.  Of course, you could make everything from scratch, and some may derive pleasure from doing so.  Not me.  So, in an effort to at least begin the year on a positive and peaceful note, I choose the easy preparation method listed above.  The only thing left to do is sit down to a lovely, comforting meal, absolutely perfect for chasing the hangover/blues away.

I love eating Hoppin’ John on New Year’s Day, a tradition passed down from my grandfather.  As far as I can figure, I’ve had it every year for over fifty years.  I wouldn’t be surprised if my mom served pureed black-eyed peas to me as a baby.  And, even though my brother Rich is not a big fan of them, he manages to ingest at least one of these lucky, coin-like peas on New Year’s Day, figuring a little luck is better than none.  All this talk about Hoppin’ John is making me hungry.  I better get to cooking.  And, whether or not I’m more prosperous, I’m definitely more satisfied.

The Grocery Cart

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We’ve all experienced it.  You go to the grocery store, and pick out a perfectly normal-looking grocery cart, only to realize you’ve unknowingly chosen the understudy to the car in Stephen King’s horror movie, “Christine”.  Making matters worse, I wrenched my back heaving two tons of generic water into the “Shopping Cart From Hell”.  The good news, I saved seventy-five cents buying in bulk.  The bad news, it would cost fifty bucks to see the chiropractor.

The extra tonnage caused the cart to veer like a guided missile into the path of unsuspecting customers.  Thankfully, no one was injured during my shopping experience, except me.  Like Superman, I had used my body as a human shield to protect innocent bystanders within ten feet of the “Death Cart”.  Unfortunately, I threw my hip out in the process, doubling my chiropractic bill.

My harrowing adventure came to an abrupt halt, as I managed a Transformer-like move into a nearby cash-register aisle, with no other people (I.e., targets) in line.

In light of this experience, I’d like to make the following suggestions…

  • Stores should create a new position called Quality Cart Inspector, whose main duty is to regularly check all grocery carts for navigability and functionality.
  • Those carts that fail to make the “cut” should then be shipped to the Pentagon as part of a weapon feasibility study.

Everyday Blessings

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“I have set before you life and death…blessings and curses…choose life, so that you and your children may live.”  Deuteronomy 3:19 (NIV)

 

I believe that even on the worst of days, there are blessings all around us, if we look for them.  So, I’ve decided to capture some of the Everyday Blessings I encounter, and record them, to remind me of all the good stuff that happens on a day-to-day basis.  Here’s a just a couple of the “blessings” I witnessed today.

  • Went to a breakfast buffet, and the owner of the restaurant gave us one of his famous “Giant Cinnamon Rolls”.  He wasn’t kidding.  The roll was as big as my face, and weighed over 12 oz.  I verified it by setting it on a scale.  That’s one honking roll, my friend.  Now here’s to hoping I somehow keep from gaining any weight having eaten 1/2 of the aforementioned behemoth of a roll!
  • Saw a homeless man sitting on side of road, with his dog on his lap–both were asleep.  Even in these dire circumstances, these two seemed peaceful, because they had each other to lean on.  Pets are the best companions–they really are man’s(and woman’s) best friend.  Reminded me how fortunate I am to have my furry angel, Rosy.

Remember, the best blessings are those we confer upon others.  Now, go out and be a blessing.

 

Pumpkin Pancakes and Ketchup

It started out quite innocently.  My son, Zach, and I headed toward Denny’s to taste one of the many pumpkin products that pops up, like Toaster Strudel(which, by the way, has its own pumpkin variety!) this time of year.  We’ve already sampled our way through pumpkin spice coffee, pumpkin pie spice coffee, pumpkin spice creamers to go in the pumpkin spice coffees, pumpkin spice cookies, one with white chocolate chips, the other with cream cheese chips, all while breathing the delicious aroma of a pumpkin pie spice candle aglow on the coffee table, smelling so delicious I could almost taste it.

So, when Denny’s advertised Pumpkin Pancakes, we were in.  Even though pancakes are traditionally eaten for breakfast, I prefer to eat them later in the day, where the cumulative effect of copious carbs and sugar are less detrimental to my cranial functioning and capacity. Otherwise, if I eat pancakes early, the rest of the day I resemble a post-apocalyptic zombie, which is fine if it’s Halloween.  Oh, I forgot, it was Halloween.  See what I mean by diminished cranial capacity?  Still, I had to pick my husband up at the airport later, so must keep my wits about me.  Late afternoon was the perfect time for me to try these seasonal pancakes.

I hadn’t been to Denny’s in a long time, so I was anxious to experience that special diner ambience, again.  This nice young man seated us at a booth.  There’s something about a booth–so cozy.  Made me wish I had one in my dining room, except I couldn’t figure out where to put the TV trays.  Without hesitation, I announced my order, “Pumpkin Pancake Breakfast, please”.  “Do you want bacon, or sausage, or both?”  “Both, of course.”  Zach’s original intent was to also order the Pumpkin Pancakes, but the minute he spied that huge, cheesy, platter of nachos pictured on the front page of the menu, it was love at first bite.

Zach still wanted a “taste” of the Pumpkin Pancakes, however.  So, after placing our order, he negotiated a deal.  He’s become quite the bargainer.  I’ve taught him well.  Here’s the deal, I give him one of my pancakes, and he’ll give me “a” nacho.  Whoever heard of eating one nacho?  But, believing the trade would work toward the greater good of our relationship, and the lesser girth of my waist, I reluctantly agreed.

While waiting for our food to arrive, we listened to some great music playing in the background, including “Ballroom Blitz”–I’m still humming that one today.  Soon, our food arrived. There were two pancakes.  I carefully placed the top pancake on the extra plate I’d requested in anticipation of Zach’s deal, and slathered it with a huge portion of cinnamon-laced butter, as if the pancakes weren’t rich enough.  I figured I could spare some even though this was not part of the “official” negotiations.  Besides, there was least a half cup of this glorious concoction resting atop the pancakes, like a creamy, yellow crown.

Dutifully allocating the pancakes, one for me and one for Zach, I went to work on the rest of my meal.  First, I salted and peppered my eggs which were cooked perfectly over-medium.  Then, smashed them with my fork, just the way Grandpa Fred used to do.  Next, on to doctoring the hash-browns.  A little bit of salt, then I reached for the ketchup, formerly dubbed “the slowest ketchup”.  No truer words were ever written, except for the Bible.  I swear I heard Carly Simon singing “Anticipation” in the background.

After shaking it, I opened the lid, and carefully squeezed the bottle, not wanting any of the ketchup to find its way onto my festive, one-of-a-kind Halloween sweater.  Nothing.  Thinking maybe this was a new bottle, I tried to unscrew the lid, and remove the safety-seal.  Forget the safety-seal, this cap wasn’t budging.  To the rescue came my Knight-In-Shining-Armor, the Great Negotiator, my son.  Zach carefully inspected the bottle, and began shaking it, as only a strong, young man can do, and disregarding the feeble attempts of a middle-aged, menopausal woman with a bum-thumb.

Zach turned the bottle upright, opened the lid, and, quicker than a Hawaiian volcano, ketchup spewed forth out of that tiny hole, smacking him right in the middle of his glasses, which he’d thankfully worn, instead of the usual contacts.

For a brief moment, we stared at each other, speechless over what had just happened.  Then, as I looked at my son’s pitiful eyes through ketchup-stained glasses, we both simultaneously burst out laughing, and kept on laughing the rest of the day.

Zach, since the ketchup just missed your armor, you’re still my go-to-knight.

And, the Pumpkin Pancakes, by the way–the bomb!

Lost In Translation

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I know very little Spanish.  Several years ago, I learned a couple of essential terms for survival while on a trip to Mexico–tres queso(three cheese) quickly followed by bano, (bathroom).  For my husband, the second term was absolutely essential.  Poor thing.  But, that’s another post.  Fast forward to a recent trip we took to Talequah, Oklahoma.  In spite of my language deficiencies, Mexican food is one of my favorites.  I may not speak it, but I can eat it with the best of ’em.  Before leaving, I searched the internet for the best Mexican food in town by reading local restaurant reviews.  A restaurant simply named Jose’s, which had a 100% approval rating, was the clear winner.  Armed with this crucial information, we set out on our trip.

After visiting a couple of tourist attractions, we decided to eat lunch.  My husband entered the address into the GPS, and, mouths watering, we headed to Jose’s.  Now, while the reviews gave Jose’s glowing reports about the food, it never mentioned that Jose’s was virtually impossible to locate.  Traveling back and forth over the same road at least five times, we had to stop for gas.  It was then we finally spotted a tiny sign on a non-descript strip center, not even close to the main road we were on.  We’d finally found it.  And, there were a couple of cars out front, so we ventured forth, hunger and hopes high.

After entering, it was apparent this was going to be a bit of a different dining experience.  On one side of the restaurant was a little Mexican store, including a meat counter with a prominently displayed jar of pickled pigs feet.  Beside the grocery were tables, and a counter with a blackboard that featured their specialty items for the day.  No prices were listed.  While surveying the chalkboard, we noticed a couple of ladies working on food preparation in the kitchen.  They noticed us standing there, but continued to work.  Finally, one of the ladies, rather hesitantly, approached, and in broken English, asked if she could help us.   Though she tried, she did not understand our questions, nor did we understand her answers.  Thankfully, a younger woman came over to the counter, and taking the pad from the other lady,  asked if she could help us.  The first woman retreated back into her kitchen, obviously preferring her comfort zone.  Successfully placing our order, we found seats at a nearby table.

When the meal finally arrived, and we tasted it, it was easy to see why Jose’s had garnered such praise.  I’ve eaten lots of Mexican food during my fifty-plus years on this planet.  More than my share.  In fact, I ate it everyday while pregnant with my son.  I figured he’d either love it, or hate it, once welcomed into the outside world.  Fortunately, he loves it, maybe even more than I do.  To me, one of the true tests for any Mexican restaurant is the quality of their guacamole.  And, Jose’s guacamole,  freshly prepared and including the rare-seen addition of roasted corn, did not disappoint.  Absolutely the best guacamole I’ve ever tasted.   My whole family agreed, this was great food!

After finishing a delicious lunch, I wanted to personally thank the ladies responsible for making this delectable feast.  Seeing the cooks sitting at a nearby table, taking a lunch break themselves,  my son and I went over to express our gratitude for such a lovely meal.  Since their understanding of English was rather limited, I decided to thank them in their native tongue.  Slowly approaching the ladies’ table, and catching their gaze, I opened my mouth, intending to say, “Muchos Gracias”.  That was my intention.  However, to our mutual horror, out came the words, “Mucho Gasso”!  What?  Did that just come out of my mouth.  Now, those ladies may not have understood much English, but these particular words they clearly understood.  It was written all over the mortified looks on their faces.  Quickly, like a knight in shining armor, my son stepped forward, announcing in perfectly enunciated Spanish, “Muy Delicioso”.  Whew.  The ladies looks quickly changed from horror to relief.  Surely, if I  can raise such a nice young fellow,  I can’t be all bad.  Disaster averted, we quickly paid the bill, leaving Jose’s.

Next time we go, I think I’ll practice my Spanish before opening my mouth.  Better yet,  maybe I’ll let my son do all the talking.

 

 

SEALED FOR YOUR PROTECTION: The Shrink-wrap Conspiracy

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The other day my mom told me she’d called a company about a spin-brush toothbrush she’d recently purchased because there was no way to extract the toothbrush from its package without causing major injury to her person.   Mom has arthritis in her hands, so opening jars and other lids can present a challenge.  Still, she has developed methods for dealing with this.  In fact, that’s one of the reasons she married my father–his strong grip.  One of many reasons, but at this point in her life, having a husband with a strong grip is definitely a plus.  Still, she has figured out all sorts of ways to overcome the limited flexibility in her fingers.  When encountering a difficult package, mom whips out her trusty scissors or rubber grip, and can usually negotiate the product out of its plastic overwrap–called shrink-wrap.  However, no matter what method she employed(short of diffusing fireworks), this toothbrush wouldn’t budge.  Using a finger bloodied in the heat of the extraction battle, mom wisely called the company.  The cheerful voice on the other end of the line asked, “How can I help you?”  “Well, I’m having trouble getting my new toothbrush out of its package without needing a blood transfusion.”  “I’m sorry for your trouble, we’ve had lots of problems with that particular brush.  Let me send you a coupon for another toothbrush that’s easier to open.”  Within a few days the company did indeed send mom the coupons.  Sure enough, the new toothbrush was much easier to retrieve.  And, thankfully, no blood was shed during the process.

I’ve had my own encounters with shrink-wrap and other plastic coverings, most notably DVD covers.  How do you take those things off without damaging the contents, or your fingers?  I’m still trying to work out the mechanics of this maneuver.  By the way, it should be noted that whenever something is shrink-wrapped, the label usually reads, “Sealed For Your Protection.”  Based on my and others’ experiences, this surely means you’d be better off never purchasing/opening the product in the first place–unless you’ve made a sizable contribution to your personal blood bank account, and have an experienced paramedic standing by.   Perhaps, “Enter At Your Own Risk”, is more accurate.