Thursday, July 29, 2010

My Fantasy Dinner (with thanks to nrhatch!)

A blogging friend of mine, nrhatch, , has a wonderful entry today about fantasizing your idea of a perfect meal.  This idea was initially given to writers, but it can apply to anyone who might like to drift off into "Fantasy Land."  Writers (or anyone) are to invite 12 guests (plus themselves) to any setting on the planet (or even in a galaxy far, far away) to share fabulous food, laughter and love, and convivial conversation. Can you imagine who would be on your guest list (of 12), what would be served, where the dinner would be, etc?  Give it I try - I have!

The Perfect Company, The Perfect Food, The Perfect Location:  My Fantasy Dinner

1. Location:  It would be in my own dining room, with all the guests seated around the dining room table that I inherited from my Mom.  There will be candlelight, but the room will be light enough so that each guest's face can be clearly seen, and the room will be quiet enough that each person can be heard.  The weather will be a perfect 72° F, a light breeze, and low humidity, just the right weather for taking a walk after our meal.  The dinner will start before sunset, and as it will be early summer, the twilight will last for several hours, before yielding to a beautiful, starlit night with the moon riding, full, low, and golden.  OK - can you see it now?

2.  My Guests:  Needless to say, all twelve gave me their positive "R.S.V.P." well in advance, so that I know exactly how much food will be needed, so that nothing will be wasted.  I must make the following disclaimer - since most of my family (extended) would automatically be my first choice as guests (we always have SO MUCH FUN when we are all together) - I am not including them at this particular party.  I couldn't choose just one or two, so they will all have to settle for either quietly listening at the door, (an impossible task for many of my family), or waiting for my word-for-word description the day after!

On my list (in no particular order) will be St. Luke (writer of the Gospel):  I can imagine no one whose presence, conversation, comments, observations and compassion would be more welcome.  He was not an eye-witness to the earthly life of Christ, but through his total commitment, he had first-hand knowledge of Christ. As a gifted literary artist, he produced what many, including myself, consider the most beautiful book in the world.  Some of you who know me will be surprised that Jesus Himself is not first on my list.  We have a sign posted in our home between the kitchen and dining room that says:  "Christ is the Head of this house;  the unseen Guest at every meal; the silent Listener to every conversation."  Christ is always present with us, and since we invited Him in long ago, He needs no further invitation!

Next:  Albert Einstein.  After reading his biography by Walter Isaacson, I have become fascinated with the complete man.  Flawed and brilliant; awed in the presence of God, yet often agnostic; deep lover of music and his favorite violin (though not greatly accomplished at playing it); he was also a great wit and enjoyed  good conversation, good company, and friendly argument while at the same time standing firm on his wide variety of convictions.  What a guest!

Eleanor Roosevelt:  A brilliant, well-spoken woman, who enjoyed her life in the midst of her own suffering.  She was betrayed, yet triumphed; tolerant and compassionate; and she enjoyed the company of many people from diverse backgrounds.  She became for me the standard against which I measure every other First Lady, both before her time, and since.

Maeve Binchy:  She is one of the still living I will invite.  She is a favorite novelist of mine.  Her novels are completely character-driven, and often revolve around a group of people who may or may not be related (by blood or friendship), but whose lives intersect in some fashion or another.  Since she is Irish, her novels are set in Ireland primarily.  I am always sorry to reach the end of her books - I feel like I've made friends, and that our relationship has ended too soon.  Besides, what a book she could write about my dinner!

Father Francis Chisholm:  Yes, he's a fictional character, but this is my fantasy, remember? If you haven't seen Gregory Peck's portrayal of this man in the wonderful movie, or better yet, read A. J. Cronin's beautiful novel, "The Keys of the Kingdom," then I highly recommend this beautiful story of a Scottish priest who becomes a missionary in China.  Of course, he will look exactly like Gregory Peck - I can see him in no other way, and as I said, this is my fantasy!  Father Chisholm had all the character traits that one could ever wish for in a clergyman:  he was familiar with the teachings of the Chinese philosopher Confucius, adopted a simple way of life, and advocated ecumenical cooperation between all Christians. His tolerance was viewed with suspicion within the institutional Church by his superiors, as most prophets in their own time are, but he remained a genuinely happy man.

Mahatma Mohandas Gandhi:  Brilliant, gifted, compassionate; a blessed peace-maker; in spite of his flaws, he was a man who lived his faith instead of merely preaching it.  Here are a few of his memorable quotes below, that speak so well of his life:

“Be the change you want to see in the world.”
“Whenever you are confronted with an opponent, conquer him with love.”
“Nobody can hurt me without my permission.”
“There is nothing that wastes the body like worry, and one who has any faith in God should be ashamed to worry about anything whatsoever”
“Nonviolence is a weapon of the strong”
“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

Who wouldn't want such a person in their midst?  Besides, I could introduce him to the true Christians at my table!

Jim Henson:  His character and creativity delighted me from the very first Muppet I saw, and his legacy continues to delight and inspire me.  My understanding is that in his private life, he rarely spoke in the voice of the beloved "Kermit the Frog," or any of his other creations, but he was a wonderful conversationalist, and was able to impart his imagination and inspire it in others.

Rachel Carson:  Who could resist, especially in this day and age, having a passionate conservationist and ecologist as their guest?  I am looking forward to hearing her comments on and recommendations for the Gulf Oil Disaster.  I am certain she would have a few choice words, and her passion for the natural earth would be wonderful to be around!

Jane Goodall:  Oh, the places she's been, and the people (and animals) she's seen!  I hope she brings along her scrapbook!

Maya Angelou:  Writer, poet, activist, actress, teacher - so many talents all rolled up into one, she is sure to be an equal among all at this gathering.  I want a copy of the poem she will write for, on, and about the occasion.  She never fails to inspire and enrich.

Amy Tan:  A superb novelist, her novels are peopled with wonderful Chinese characters, both historical and present-day.  As a woman of Chinese descent, she has great insights into the life of her characters, and she has given me so much pleasure, brought forth countless tears, and elicited so many smiles, provoked so much thought, I cannot wait for her arrival.

Ella Fitzgerald:  The quintessential American musician, my desire is to not have her perform, but to relax, enjoy the company, and to talk about her life and times, her struggles and triumphs.  Of course, if she wants to scat a bit, who am I to stop her?

It seems I  leaned more heavily on the living than I thought I would, (1/3), but fantasies being what they are, the mind wanders around a bit.  My guest list tomorrow might be completely different! Now, on to the menu:

Although they were definitely asked not to bring anything, they will of course each bring along their favorite wine or beverage of choice, which will be deanted, if necessary, and served with the meal - if they so choose.

Appetizers: I will serve a few assorted favorite hors d'oeuvres, among which are mushroom turnovers - small, flaky cream cheese pastry crescents wrapped around a filling made of seasoned portabella mushrooms, shallots, wine and olive oil; bite-size quiche Lorraine; and the perfect pimiento cheese, made with a deliciously sharp Vermont white cheddar cheese, and served on waffle toast points.  (Waffle toast, an invention of my Mom's, is buttered bread, the best available, in any or several varieties, that is toasted in a waffle iron, then each square cut diagonally into fourths.  Besides wine, iced darjeeling tea with mint and lemon will also be available.

Starter:  A very light fruit salad, cool and refreshing to the palate after eating the appetizers.  Made with the very freshest of local organic fruits, all in season (in my fantasy, all fruits are available, locally grown, year-round!).  Crisp Red Delicious apples, perfectly sectioned oranges and grapefruit, green and red grapes, and a perfectly ripe cantaloupe - all combined with a tiny splash of cointreau.or Grand Marnier.

Main Dish:  Moving more in an ethnic direction, and using my father's recipe, handed down to me, I will prepare and serve Seafood Gumbo - rich, thick, and loaded with shrimp, oysters, crab, and scallops.  It will be spicy hot, but not too hot, but dried peppers and Tabasco sauce will be available, along with extra filé on the side.  This will all be served over rice - good old Louisiana white rice, a bit sticky, but thoroughly cooked.  There will be oyster crackers at each place, to put a finishing touch on the gumbo, if desired. Also, there will be a beautiful side salad, made with several lettuces (no iceberg), fresh non-refrigerated firm, ripe tomatoes, sliced and seeded cucumbers, scallions, sliced sweet peppers, shredded carrots, fresh green peas, (uncooked), and garnished with a bit of chopped egg.  All served with freshly-prepared, slightly sweetened balsamic vinaigrette.

Dessert: served after a walk around and through our beautiful water gardens (this is a fantasy, remember?)A most excellent , not-too-sweet Rice Singapore.  (My Mom used to laughingly call it "just a little rice pudding.")  Rice Singapore is one of those perfectly wonderful, though time-consuming dishes to prepare, but worth all the effort!  It's made with rice cooked in cream, sugar, vanilla bean and fresh-ground cinnamon.  It is served chilled, with ripe strawberries, and it truly does melt in your mouth.

The invitation will direct the guests to wear whatever they are most comfortable in, and should probably be loose-fitting, or have an elastic waist band.

One final note:  I will mention again, that in this fantasy, there will be no waste of any kind.  All food prepared will be consumed - either that night, or the next day or two - and guests will be free to eat as much or as little as they like, except I will perhaps encourage Mr. Gandhi to eat abundantly!  No need for fasting here in my perfect world.

Alright, everybody - now it's your turn!  Send me your ideas for the perfect Fantasy Dinner!

Hope you eat not too much nor too little, but just enough . . .

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Freedom can be a sticky notion, let alone a word.  We all want it for ourselves and others we love, in particular.  We, as Americans, purport to want it for all the world, (although our reasons are not always altruistic, unfortunately.)  What exactly do I mean by the word, though? It can be a very confusing idea if you stand freedom off by itself, and don't blend it liberally with self-control, and responsibility.  I remember hearing for the first time when I was in high school the axiom:  "The right (freedom) of a person to swing his/her arm ends where another person's nose begins."  So, am I really free?

I answer to myself, "Of course I am, because I have no desire to swing my arm into another person's nose!"  But what about someone else?  If they do have such a desire, then are they more free than I?  The answer, in a way, is also "yes."  Pure freedom is the ability to dream, be and do what you want, how you want, when you want, where you want . But is that what freedom, for all practical purposes, really is?  Perhaps we could define it more closely as the choice to behave and do as you please.  Therein lies the rub, so to speak!  Most of us in fact do have the choice to be and do whatever, but the consequences of choice are always in force, and cannot be avoided.  Those consequences can affect our choices for the remainder of our lives, and also the choices of others, so that the scope/freedom of our choices gradually becomes more and more restricted as time and our lives march on. 

Galatians 5:13 -"It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don't use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that's how freedom grows. For everything we know about God's Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself." 

Even in nations where individual freedoms are tightly controlled (is that an oxymoron?), the choice is still there; the consequences are different, however, and perhaps more immediate and perceivable.  So the question is perhaps not so much "Are we free?" but "How free are we?"
Best answer:  It depends!  First of all there are laws.  Natural laws of the universe/creation apply, which keep us, among many other things, (to date anyway) from just flapping our arms and flying about, or eating anything and as much as our hearts desire with no affect on our girth or health, or never aging - no matter how much we might want to - because they relate to our abilities, rather than our choices.  While we might dream those things freely, we cannot accomplish them at will.  (This opens up a whole other can of worms dealing with "What the heart can conceive, the mind can achieve (or vice-versa)," but we'll keep this discussion to our present, closed-minded conceptions of natural laws.)

Besides natural laws, there are our man-made laws.  Those kind of laws affect our personal freedoms more in the realm of choice.  My choice to sock another in the nose results (hopefully), through that infraction of the law, in some sort of legal or penal action/punishment.  Sometimes the infraction of a man-made law intersects directly with a natural law.  Not only has my choice to harm another  affected my future choices, but it has affected the ability of the victim to be uninjured, and consequently some other choices s/he might wish to make.

I believe in God, in the core of my being.  I believe also that God gave us freedom of choice and also of ability (which can change over time a we become more skilled at unlocking the secrets of creation).  Because humanity often chooses to act without regard to consequences, I know that God grieves over us.  I firmly believe that God desires our wholeness and happiness, but that God has given us the options in how to achieve that.  By giving us those options, God restricted God's self.  There is nothing, in other words, that God cannot do.  There are, however, because of God's gift of freedom, things that God will not do.

The question, "Where is God when all the killing, destruction, and suffering in and of this world is going on?  How can a merciful God allow such things to happen?"  I don't know the answers to all those questions.  If I did, then my God would be too small.  I am absolutely convinced that God exists right along side of us as we suffer, and God endures with us and inspires us to reach out and put an end to as much of the desecration as we will.  God always hopes that we choose to do the right things.  That we treat one another as we would wish to be treated, because that is the way to true joy, peace and freedom.

If we were to follow this great commandment, there would be no need for man-made laws, and no concern over the natural ones.  The Gulf oil "geyser" (it is certainly no "spill!") disaster would not have occurred through our own selfish choices, and if it had occurred by natural means, then we all would have reached out in such a way as to alleviate the consequences upon all affected (therefore all of us), and channeled all our resources to end and repair the damage.  God gave us the freedom and the equipment to do all these things.  It is our freedom.  It is our choice.  Let us exercise it with responsibility and love.

There is a wonderful musical called "Shenandoah," which was made of  the James Stewart movie.  It takes place during the American Civil War, and concerns the Anderson family of Virginia, which had made the choice to remain out of the war completely, and to concentrate all their energies on their own family and farm.  They have black laborers on their farm, but pay them a living wage, and no slaves.  In spite of their choices, because of the choices and actions of others they are inevitably drawn into the war despite their own wishes.  One of the songs from that musical is called "Freedom."  It is a song sung by one of the Anderson daughters-in-law and a black child, a slave from a neighboring farm.   After hearing of the Emancipation Proclamation, the child inquires of his friend if he is really free, and can he go somewhere else to a place called Freedom?.  Here are the lyrics:

(from "Shenandoah,"  lyrics by Peter Udell)

Freedom ain't a state like Maine or Virginia
Freedom ain't across some county line
Freedom is a flame that burns within ya
Freedom's in the state of mind

(Chorus) Freedom, freedom,
Freedom, freedom
Freedom is a flame that burns within ya
Freedom's in the state of mind

Freedom ain't a boat that's leaving without ya
Freedom ain't a place ya float to find
Freedom's in the how ya think about ya
Freedom's in the state of mind


You can't get to freedom by riding on a train
The only way to freedom is right on through your brain

Freedom is a notion sweeping the nation
Freedom is the right of all mankind
Freedom is a body's imagination
Freedom is a state of mind

Freedom, freedom
Freedom, freedom
Freedom is a notion sweeping the nation
Freedom is a body's imagination
Freedom is a full-time occupation
Freedom's in the state of mind

In the young boy's case, if he wanted somewhere to go, perhaps freedom really was a place, but in truth, the real essence of freedom is available to all of us, no matter where we are; the secret is knowing that the path to freedom is found on the map of love.

Gentle Reader, I wish for you all, enough. . .

Monday, July 26, 2010

You know you're gretting older...

Years ago, my brother Dick and I used to love to read Mad Magazine.  One of the favorite sections to read was the cartoons by Don Martin.  He had a very creative imagination and always came up with things that tickled my funny bone like no other cartoonist could. (Up until Gary Larson and "The Far Side" came along, that is, but they are almost equal in talent!)  For instance, in one issue he had a page of cartoons entitled "You know you've gained weight when. . ."  My favorite of those is one that shows a very large person stepping into a bathtub with about 1" of water in it.  After he gets in, the bathtub overflows! and the sentence completion is . . ."it doesn't take as much water to fill the tub a it used to!"  He also did a very visual cartoon as an issue's end-page, called "One Day at a Short-Order Restaurant." A waiter walks up to the cook's window and puts in his order: "Cold pig on a green sea, dust the roof and no pom-pom." Without even looking up, his hands blurring with speed, the cook assembles the sandwich,  hands it to the waiter, and confirms that it is a "cold pig on a green sea, dust the roof and no pom-pom." Next at the window is a man, obviously not a waiter or employee, who, with a worried and urgent look on his face says:  "Where's the bathroom Mac, hurry up and no foolin'!" Again without looking up, the cook assembles a sandwich rapidly, looks up at the man and hands him the sandwich while confirming his order of  "where's the bathroom Mac, hurry up and no foolin'!"  Still makes me LOL just remembering.  Following are a couple of Wikipedia examples from their article on the great Don Martin (1931-2000):

"Although Martin's contributions invariably featured outrageous events and sometimes outright violations of the laws of space-time, his strips typically had unassuming generic titles such as "A Quiet Day in the Park" or "One Afternoon at the Beach". In one four-panel gag, titled "One Night in the Miami Bus Terminal," a man approaches a machine labeled "Change," inserts a dollar bill, and the machine changes him into a woman. In another gag, a man is flattened by a steamroller but is saved by the timely intervention of a concerned passerby, who folds him into a paper airplane and throws him towards the nearest hospital."

Lately, while passing by a mirror or reflective window, I have often taken pause, asking "Who is that old woman?"  I don't know why this would take me by surprise, but I have recently found myself asking that question a great deal and I really don't recognize that woman, until I stop and stare at the  (cloudy, to these older eyes) reflection!  My husband's favorite remark along those lines, when he sees his own reflection, is "Dad?"  So, I figure that these sorts of questions are a sign that you know you are getting older . . .

There are others.  Such as:  You know you are getting older when . . . the hairs on your chin start to outnumber the ones on your husband's; or . . .you need your glasses in order to repair your glasses; or . . .you have to lean completely forward in order to get your breasts into your bra cups; or. . .you start referring to your Dr. as "Sonny;" or . . .no matter how long or short your walk to the bathroom is, the mere act of walking toward it causes an "accident!"  I'm willing to bet some of you have your own examples, and I invite you to please post them as comments here...we can always use a good laugh - especially upon recognizing ourselves in other peoples' observations.

I must add one last example on my part, to let you know one of the great things about getting older (in addition to my mother's comment which was always "It sure beats the alternative!") and that is:

You know you're getting older when . . .you treasure your life more and more every day!

Looking forward to your own observations on aging!  From this very cloudy mirror (getting cloudier everyday it seems!) to you, my Gentle Reader,

I wish you enough. . .

Friday, July 16, 2010

Celebrating a Life

An interesting and poignant article from NPR on-line has given me some pause this week.  Following is the link, well worth reading:

Here is a clip from one of my favorite movies, "Notting Hill."  (With subtitles in Swedish!) Perhaps you will wonder what one has to do with the other, but any of you who have read my "rants" in the past will get the connection:

How do we chose whom we celebrate, and on what information is the choice based? How well do we listen, and how much do we really know?

In light of the Mel Gibson debacle currently flooding the airwaves, I am wondering once again why what is going on is deemed to be my business - or anybody else's other than those directly involved.  I am also deeply concerned for the child in the middle of this lurid mess.  As Julia Roberts' character says in the above excerpt, what is reported now is filed away in the newspaper's or the web's computer will always be available, and whenever you want to report on someone's life (or anything else, for that matter), the "information" is available to you at the click of a button - no matter how dated, irrelevant, or downright false that info may be.  There is no automatic "reality" or "truth" filter on these archives.  There is no tool that eliminates misinformation or separates fact from fiction.  Once reported, it comes back over and over again in various forms, and virtually none of it with the benefit of hind-sight. The genie is out of the bottle. 

How often have you gone on-line hunting for information on any given subject and come across items dated and lacking in much-needed details?  Have you ever found things that you know for a fact are untrue?  I remember a discussion I had with my brothers after reading my father's obituary in one of the local papers.  My mother was identified as "Peal."  We reflected that in years to come should someone, researching our family's history or ancestry, come across this typo, they would have no way of knowing that "Peal" was indeed a typo, and that her name was in fact, "Pearl." Now of course one would hope that our fictional researcher would use more than once source, and s/he most probably would, but we have no way of knowing which material someone would or will use.

There is not a whole lot left to say on my part.  Basically I'm distressed a bit over our eagerness as the public to hear information of little or no consequence, and our willingness to accept as fact only what we want to hear, and dismiss any other point of view.  I believe we owe it to future generations as well as to ourselves, to listen carefully and judiciously to what we are being told; to not repeat what cannot be verified, and remember that none of us knows the whole story. So many people, celebrities and non-celebrities alike, have found  too late that there is nothing private and nothing sacred in our world of instant information.  And, unfortunately, the information that lives the longest is "mis-information."

There was a saying, regarding personal behavior, when I was growing up that said in effect, "Don't do or say anything today that you wouldn't want your mother to read on the front page of the newspaper tomorrow." It was always meant hypothetically...well, it is no longer hypothetical. Welcome to the future.

One more thing:

Main Entry: in·for·ma·tion
Pronunciation: \ˌin-fər-ˈmā-shən\
Function: noun
Date: 14th century
1 : the communication or reception of knowledge or intelligence
2 a (1) : knowledge obtained from investigation, study, or instruction (2) : intelligence, news (3) : facts, data b : the attribute inherent in and communicated by one of two or more alternative sequences or arrangements of something (as nucleotides in DNA or binary digits in a computer program) that produce specific effects c (1) : a signal or character (as in a communication system or computer) representing data (2) : something (as a message, experimental data, or a picture) which justifies change in a construct (as a plan or theory) that represents physical or mental experience or another construct d : a quantitative measure of the content of information; specifically : a numerical quantity that measures the uncertainty in the outcome of an experiment to be performed
3 : the act of informing against a person
4 : a formal accusation of a crime made by a prosecuting officer as distinguished from an indictment presented by a grand jury
in·for·ma·tion·al \-shnəl, -shə-nəl\ adjective
in·for·ma·tion·al·ly adverb

I wish you all enough... 

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Book and The Ring - Part 2

(From left: Sapphire/diamond pendant from Ashley, Original ring, Carnelian heart from Daddy, Daddy's wedding band, Gold chain from Ashley)

My Dad was a very large-framed and tall man of Swedish ancestry. He had the most beautiful, expressive hands that I have ever seen. I inherited my large frame from my Dad, and my hands resemble his proportionately, though not in beauty.  Daddy's left hand was adorned with the one piece of jewelry he always wore - a simple gold band - his wedding ring.  The beauty and simplicity of that ring only served to make his hands more beautiful, and I had long desired to have a real piece of jewelry, a ring of my own to wear, and perhaps make my own hands more beautiful..

I did not have nor desire a lot of jewelry, but I did want to have a ring.  The only problem was that it was extremely difficult to find any feminine rings that would fit me.  Having rings re-sized or made-to-order were things that I knew were expensive, and I never would have dreamed of asking for something like that.  For a number of years, as I said, Daddy commuted by train to NYC for his job.  Also, as he was a VP of one of the European divisions of his company, it was necessary for him to "commute" to Italy about twice a month. He was away from home a lot during those years, and it was often hard on all of us, and particularly for him. On several of the trips to Italy, my Mom was able to accompany him, and they did some extensive traveling and sight/site-seeing on those occasions.  One of the first times she went with him they spent several days in Firenze (Florence) and did some shopping for gifts and souvenirs to take home to us.  My Mom spotted a ring in the window of a jewelry store, and on seeing it, my Dad decided that would be a perfect ring for me.  They had one in stock that fit him, so he knew it would therefore fit me.  It was beautiful!  Eighteen-karat yellow gold, with an enameled checkerboard design in dark blue layered on it.  I was over the moon about it, and from the day they brought it home to me, it was almost never off my hand. It signified a great deal to me, and was very special.

One day in my 9th grade gym class, we were working on some gymnastic routines/exercises and the ring interfered with one of the stunts, so I took it off (one of the rare occasions) and laid it on the floor next to the mat. As I hardly ever removed it from my hand, I forgot that I had and it was not until that night at home, when feeling for it on my hand - I had a habit of spinning it around - I realized that I no longer had it on.  I panicked.  I did not remember taking it off, and had absolutely no idea where it was.  The house was scoured, and all the steps that I remembered taking were traced over and over again, all to no avail.  Needless to say I was heartbroken. My parents were sad for me as well, and not angry.  It was just one of those things, so I gradually pushed it away from the front of my mind, but never completely out of it.

I went without a ring for about a year. Sometime in my Junior year in high school, on one of Daddy's trips to Italy, he decided to make a stop once again, in Firenze.  He found the jeweler where he purchased my ring and stopped in to inquire whether he might have another ring like the one he had bought before.  The jeweler said that he did not, but would be glad to make another for him if he could describe it. Daddy gave him a perfect description, and once again using his own ring size as a guide, he asked the jeweler to make it for him. When Daddy brought it home to me, I remember I broke into tears.  It was such a kind and loving thing to do, and knowing my remorse at not having looked after the first ring as well as I could have, he was quite certain that, barring a major catastrophe, this one would not be lost.

Catastrophe struck, of course.  About a year later, during the winter of my senior year, my mother picked me up from school just as it was out for the day.  There was some sort of appointment that we had to keep, and we were in a hurry.  In front of the auditorium where I waited for her, there was a broad expanse of lawn bisected by a walkway to the auditorium entrance.  While the walkway had been shoveled of most of the snow, there remained a couple of inches under foot, and the lawn was still covered by almost two feet of snow.  The weather that day was very cold and dry, so when the car pulled up, I immediately jumped into the front passenger seat.  As I reached out to close the door, my ring, loosened by the cold, flew off my finger and disappeared into the snow.  My mother saw it happen and marked the spot visually where she thought it had landed, then pulled up the car to park.  We both got out and went to the spot where it surely was.  It was not.  The ring had apparently flown into a black hole, or slipped into another dimension, because despite a lengthy search on our part, and other students who stopped to help, the ring was not recovered  Once again, I was heartbroken.  This time I did not have to suffer quite as long.

About three months later, and shortly before graduation, I and some other friends decided to make a nostalgia tour of the Jr. High school we had attended, and visit with as many of our teachers as we could find.  It was not my favorite school, by a long shot, but there were a couple of teachers that I remembered fondly.  One of them was Miss Broderick, our gym teacher.  She happened to be in her office when we dropped by, and we were delighted to find that she recognized all of us, and remembered each of our names.  While talking with her, I took a look around the room and saw a glass jar sitting near the corner of the desk.  It was filled with all sorts of bits and pieces of a variety of things, and I asked her what it was.  She said it was her "Lost and Found" jar, and the items were things she had found lying around in the gym or locker rooms that she felt might be of some value, so she kept them in case anyone came looking.  Just then, I noticed at the very bottom of the jar some yellow gold glinting in the light and saw that there was also some blue enamel on parts of it.  It did not resemble a ring, however, because it was almost completely flattened, but I knew immediately that it was my ring - the original.

My jaw dropped, then I shouted out, "MY RING!, MY RING!!"  Miss Broderick saw the look on my face and immediately dumped the items onto her desk, and I retrieved my precious piece of jewelry. I could barely contain myself.  I convinced my group to leave right away, because I could hardly wait to get home and show my parents. In its crushed state, it looked in pretty bad shape, but I just knew that it could be repaired.  Gold is very durable; however, the blue enamel was pretty much a lost cause.  When my Dad saw the ring that evening, he too was delighted, and he took it with him the next day to a local jeweler in hopes of having it reshaped and re-enameled. The jeweler was able to get it back into shape, but he did not have the means to have it re-enameled.  After consulting with me, Dad asked him if he could remove what was left of the enamel without damaging the ring any further.  The jeweler felt he could, and did just that.  The following week, that wonderful gift was back on my finger.

It is still there.  During an extended period of illness I was forced to remove it, so for about a year or two in the past 25 or so, the ring was safely tucked away in my jewelry box, awaiting the time when I could wear it again.  I have worn it ever since.  When my weight fluctuated and it became either too tight or too loose, I put the ring on a gold chain that my husband gave me, and wore it constantly around my neck, until the day came when I could put it back on my hand.

My Daddy died almost 20 years ago.  Every day I feel him with me, and I have only to look at my hand, and see that ring - the first one I had ever worn - and my Dad's handsome, smiling face, and his blue eyes appear before my mind's eye. I was so blessed to have this amazing man as my father.  The material gifts he gave me were all wonderful, and while both the book and the ring serve as beautiful butterfly memories, the gift of his presence, his love, his commitment to and confidence in me - his Fatherhood - are a part of the very fabric of my being, and they are the true treasures, and they will never be lost.

I wish you all enough...

The Book and The Ring - Part 1

( Max Bowers Tohline, 1914-1991, @1987, working at his lathe, photo by John B. Tohline)

I have written a lot about my Mom in the blog, but not so much about my Dad.  This does not mean that my Dad has not had a profound influence on my life, just the opposite!  But it does have to do with how inadequate I feel in representing him through the written word.  My Mom's personality jumped out at you and just gushed from her pores.  She was extraordinary and a unique, gifted woman, and someone I am glad I had the opportunity to learn from throughout her 85 years - and that includes the final ten years that she battled Alzheimer's disease.

My Dad was also a truly unique and extraordinary man.  His life, however, was much more a mystery to me than my Mom's.  I grew up knowing only one grandparent on each side.  My mother's father died before any of her children were born, and my father's mother died before my parents were married.  Mom's mother, my Grandma Brock, I knew intimately, and loved her dearly.  She was filled with stories, and I came to know about my mother's upbringing through those wonderful tales. She lived with us for a significant period during my "growing up" years, and died shortly before I graduated from high school.

My Dad's father was more of an enigma.  We saw him rarely, as he lived several states away from us, but what I remember of him, I loved very much.  He was a quiet, skilled, and I think a rather lonely man.  He remarried shortly after my grandmother died, and his second wife, whom we called "Granny," was very dear, but again, not altogether communicative, though I stress that neither she nor my "G-Daddy" were at all hostile - in fact they were very kind and gentle, though distant people.  Since I know so little about my Dad's parents and about his upbringing, I believe that is why so much of Daddy's life remains a mystery, despite the few stories he told and wrote out for us.  The primary (and most important) thing I do know is that he loved me, and all of us, very much.

My Dad and my two brothers "spoiled me rotten!"  I was the youngest of three children, and the only girl, and if you were to look for a definition of "Daddy's Little Girl" in a dictionary, you would find my picture there as an illustration. Daddy was six and one-half feet tall and strikingly handsome, as well as extremely intelligent and gifted artistically.  I was a sucker for him and vice-versa!  His relationship with my brothers was quite different than mine - naturally - but that is a story they will have to tell.  I wanted to please my Dad and tried to live up to his high estimation (not expectation) of me.  He helped me to believe that I could do anything, and any sense of self-confidence I have today is firmly rooted in the relationship I had with him.

I learned early on that my Dad did not respond well to hidden or subliminal cues from his children (or perhaps even his wife). He lived a very up-front life, and spoke directly to the point, and with very precise (as I have said in previous posts) vocabulary.  If he needed or wanted something, he asked for it, and he expected us to do the same - he didn't ever want to have to guess, intuit, or discern those things from our behavior. That particular character trait was not in his skill-set.  As I learned this about Dad, I also discovered something else:  he was willing to give me anything I asked for (and often did), but with one proviso:  it had to be something that interested him as well, and I learned to tailor many of my interests to fit his own.  So many of the books I read - right into adulthood - were books he got for me, because I had "casually mentioned" to him  my interest in a particular author or subject.  He always wanted to fuel my education, and increasing his own knowledge - in a variety of subjects - was important to him as well.  Our interests frequently meshed, and our mutual interests profited me greatly - both through his material gifts and more importantly his time.

When I was in high school, the movie version of  Boris Pasternak's novel, "Dr. Zhivago," was released.  This sweeping epic tale, beautifully filmed, starring beautiful people, was a very big hit.  I, along with most teenage girls, fell in love with the movie, its stars, and the story.  Since I loved to read, I decided that I wanted to read the original, and other books by Pasternak.  Because of that movie, I developed a keen interest in the great Russian novels/novelists, and wanted to read all that I could.  My Dad commuted by train to his job in New York City each day.  One morning before he left for work, I asked him if he could possibly find, if he had time, a copy of the book "Dr. Zhivago" for me, as I wanted to read it.  He took an early train (6:50 a.m.) most mornings because he liked to get the bulk of his paperwork done before most of the other employees arrived.  That also gave him the opportunity to take an earlier train home (4:40 p.m.), and avoid the train station crush that often occurred after 5 p.m.  This particular morning was very rainy and stormy - not really even nice weather for ducks, as it was too windy.  Dad did not get home at the usual time that evening - around 6:00, and two more trains brought commuters home before my Dad got home.  He walked into the front door and looked rather bedraggled and damp, but he had in his hands a brown paper bag, which he gave to me upon his arrival.  Inside the bag was a paperback copy of Dr. Zhivago.  It turns out that Dad did not have the time during lunch hour to browse area bookstores in search of the book, so he left work a little earlier than usual in order to find a copy to bring to me.  He spent a couple of hours in the pouring rain going from store to store until he found a copy of that book (and I still have it - some 43 years later).  I grinned up at him and thanked him profusely before I even knew the whole story of his search.  He brushed off my thanks, but he was obviously pleased at my own pleasure.  Like I said, I was spoiled rotten - and it is a tradition that my brothers both continue to this day.  (My husband is equally good at it!) 

To be continued, next post.
Until then, Gentle Readers, enough...

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Genius of Ogden Nash

Ogden Nash has been on my mind a lot in recent days.  Not sure why, but because he and his writings have been so present in my mind of late, I thought today I would share some of his insight and his humor with you all.

My Dad enjoyed Nash, and would often quote him at appropriate times. One of the first recitations I ever performed for a school class was a poem by Nash called "The Tale of Custard the Dragon." that my Dad used to read to me. Looking back on it, this poem - all 14 stanzas of it - was quite an undertaking for a 9-year-old to memorize, but I loved it, and find that I can still recite much of it to this very day.  Nash wrote for children - much of it nonsensical verse - as well as for adults, often including equally nonsensical words.

He is famous for his inventive vocabulary - made up to humorously and many times ironically rhyme where needed. Nash loved to rhyme.  "I think in terms of rhyme, and have since I was six years old," he stated in a 1958 interview.  He had a fondness for crafting his own words whenever rhyming words did not exist, though admitting that crafting rhymes was not always the easiest task."   Nash said of his poetry, "My verse represents a handle I can grasp in order not to yield to the centrifugal forces which are trying to throw me off the world."

He had an uncanny ability to comment on the ordinary events and objects of life and in so doing became very popular, not only with the rather elite readership of magazines such as  "The New Yorker,"( the editorial staff of which he joined in 1932, and remained with for many years,) but also with the "man - or woman - on the street."  Most people today have heard or know some of his rhymes without knowing perhaps their authorship:  "Candy is dandy/But liquor is quicker," or "The Lord in His wisdom made the fly/And then forgot to tell us why." 

So, Gentle Reader, for your amusement, I include some of my favorite quips, clips, and rhymes by the inimitable Frederick Ogden Nash.

“There is only one way to achieve happiness on this terrestrial ball, And that is to have either a clear
conscience, or none at all.”

“The bed is a bundle of paradoxes: we go to it with reluctance, yet we quit it with regret; we make up
our minds every night to leave it early, but we make up our bodies every morning to keep it late.”

“The trouble with a kitten is that-
eventually, it becomes a cat.”

“Oh, what a tangled web do parents weave, when they think their children are naïve.”

“Candy/ Is dandy, But liquor/ Is quicker”

“The cow is of the bovine ilk; One end is moo, the other, milk”

“Here is a pen and here is a pencil, here's a typewriter, here's a stencil, here's a list of today's
appointments, and all the flies in all the ointments, the daily woes that a man endures -- take them, George, they're yours!”

“The turtle lives 'twixt plated decks Which practically conceal its sex. I think it clever of the turtle In
such a fix to be so fertile.”

“Sleep is perverse as human nature, Sleep is perverse as a legislature, Sleep is as forward as hives or
goiters, And where it is least desired, it loiters.”

“Some tortures are physical and some are mental, but the one that's both is dental.”

“I do not like to get the news, because there has never been an era when so many things were going so
right for so many of the wrong persons.”

“The Pig, if I am not mistaken, Gives us ham and pork and Bacon. Let others think his heart is big, I
think it stupid of the Pig.”

 “Middle age ends and senescence begins, The day your descendants outnumber your friends”

“Hark to the whimper of the seagull. / He weeps because he's not an ea-gull. / Suppose you were, you
silly seagull. / Could you explain it to your she-gull?”

“I prefer to forget both pairs of glasses and pass my declining years saluting strange women and
grandfather clocks.”

“Tell me, O Octopus, I begs,/ Is those things arms, or is they legs?/ I marvel at thee, Octopus; If I were
thou, I'd call me Us.”

“The camel has a single hump;/ The dromedary, two;/ Or else the other way around./ I'm never sure.
Are you?”

“In real life, it takes only one to make a quarrel.”

“You can take it as understood that your luck changes only if it's good

The Termite
Some primal termite knocked on wood
And tasted it, and found it good!
And that is why your Cousin May
Fell through the parlor floor today.

The Wasp
The wasp and all his numerous family
I look upon as a major calamity.
He throws open his nest with prodigality,
But I distrust his waspitality.

Lines on Facing Forty
I have a bone to pick with fate,
Come here and tell me girly,
Do you think my mind is maturing late,
Or simply rotting early.

Crossing the Border
Senescence begins
And middle age ends
The day your descendents
Outnumber your friends.

The Panther
The panther is like a leopard,
Except it hasn't been peppered.
Should you behold a panther crouch,
Prepare to say Ouch.
Better yet, if called by a panther,
Don't anther.

The Lama
The one-l lama,
He's a priest;
The two-l llama,
He's a beast.
And I will bet
A silk pajama
There isn't any
Three-l lllama

The Eel
I don't mind eels
Except as meals.
And the way they feels.

What's the Use?
Sure, deck your limbs in pants;
Yours are the limbs, my sweeting.
You look divine as you advance --
Have you seen yourself retreating?

A Word to Husbands
To keep your marriage brimming,
With love in the loving cup,
Whenever you're wrong, admit it;
Whenever you're right, shut up.

A child need not be very clever
To learn that "Later, dear" means "Never."

So, I leave you for today, Gentle Reader,  with a smile, a few laughs, and praying for you all, enough...

Sunday, July 4, 2010

An American Citizen's Fourth of July!

Our pastor, Chuck Wilson, has a blog called "Musings From the Mountains," and I wanted to share  with you his post for yesterday.  If any of you are interested in subscribing to his blog, please let me know and I will send you a link that will show you how to log on.  He always has interesting and thought-provoking things to say, and unlike mine - his posts are relatively short!

Here's to everyone having a wonderful celebration of our nation's 234th birthday!  And amidst all the food, fun, and fireworks, please remember to say prayers for all our civic and national leaders, and especially our men and women in the armed services working and living throughout the world. God bless you all!

I was born in Revolution, July 4, 1776, but my revolution was about freedom for all, not just the privileged few. The blood lines of the world run through my veins because I stand for freedom for all - regardless of race, creed or national origin. I am three hundred million souls and each one represents the past, present and future of my freedom. I am Washington at Valley Forge, Paul Revere's ride, Lincoln at Gettysburg, Ike praying on the beach before D-Day, Martin Luther King Jr. preaching from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, and President Bush planting a flag at the World Trade Tower ruins on September 14, 2001. I am computer chips in the Silicon Valley, steel mills in Pittsburg, furniture factories in High Point, textile mills in Spartanburg, Skyscrapers in New York City, and Mom and Pop businesses all across my map providing the very backbone of my free enterprise system. I am sandlot baseball games in Ohio, playground basketball in Harlem and kids shooting marbles in Elba, Alabama. I am children enjoying Disney World in Orlando, Universal Studios in Hollywood, and ThunderRoad at Carrowinds. I am Hank Aaron, Turner Field, the World Series, volleyball on Carolina beaches, High School football in Texas, tennis at Forest Hills, and golf at Augusta National. But I'm also T-ballers in ballparks all across the land, dreaming of "hitting it out" for the first time. I am Jay Leno, David Letterman, Jon Stewart, and funny stories being woven around crossroad country stores to remind us not to take ourselves too seriously. I am Mark Twain and the mighty Mississippi, kayakers on the Nantahala, a fly fisherman on a trout stream in Montana and Sunday rafters on the Tuckaseegee. I am the Ballot Box, the Bill of Rights, the bald eagle, the voting machine, the City Council, the Mayor, the Governor, the Congress, the President of my 50 states seeking to implement government of the people, and printed on my currency is my motto, "In God We Trust." I am America. It's my birthday, celebrate it today at your house of worship or wherever you may be. Reclaim my roots, that you may give an even better future to your children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. I belong to you.  

Knowing that I have some readers who are not US citizens, I want to close with the following verse written by Georgia Harkness:

My country's skies are bluer than the ocean,
And sunlight beams on cloverleaf and pine!
But other lands have sunlight too, and clover,
And skies are everywhere as blue as mine!
This is my prayer, oh God of all the nations -
A prayer of peace, for their land, and for mine.

I pray for you all, enough... 

Thursday, July 1, 2010

What you have all been waiting for...

A post without (too many) words!  Got this idea from a fellow blogger, Agrigirl, this morning, and decided to dispense with my usual wordy ruminations and favor you all with a sample of my new-found-hobby product - photographs. The ones I'm posting here were all taken within a mile (and most in my backyard) of our house in Western North Carolina (Waynesville), except for the one of Sunrise on the Outer Banks of NC (in Duck - a beautiful and favorite little town).  Enjoy - and once again, please leave a comment if you drop by...better yet - send me some of your own photos!  I'll be happy to post them as well!

As always, Gentle Reader (and Viewer), I wish you all enough...
Click here to see photos

This will take you to a link that will say the "photos are not available."  Click on "View PTCalhoun's gallery."  When there, click on album, "What you have been waiting for."  If you have difficulty viewing slide show, please notify me via comments section below!  Thanks!