Saturday, May 21, 2011

Conversations On the Road

My sister, Barb, our mom, and my adult niece, Whitney went on a road trip to visit family members in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.  We also planned to visit our brother Mike in Seattle.  Then we would take Mom to the town that once pretended to be Cicely, Alaska in the filming of “Northern Exposure.”  It was actually Roslyn, Washington.  “Northern Exposure” is still her all-time favorite TV show.

Along the way we had quite a few “Family discussions.”  As a matter of fact, after an exchange of less-than-polite words while in Seattle things got icily quiet.  Our brother broke the tension by asking cheerfully, “Anyone want to sing show tunes?”  I told you before that my family is strange.

I shall share a couple of our conversations while on the road:

Whitney (who is driving on a very curvy mountain road)  “Look at this guy in front of us.  He crosses the yellow lines on every curve and he’s going so slow!”
Barb “He’s a veggie man, selling tomatoes and corn.”
Me  “It’s God.”
Them “God.”
Me  “He’s saving us.  He’s keeping us behind Him and won’t let us pass because He knows we’ll be killed if he doesn’t.”
Whitney “Well, wouldn’t you think God would have a better truck?”
Me  “He doesn’t need a better truck.”
Barbie “You’d think God wouldn’t drive a truck with smelly exhaust.  Look at how He’s crossing over into the oncoming lane!”
Me “God doesn’t want us to pass Him.”
Whit  “I’m not going to pass Him.  I don’t want to pass Him.  If you say it’s God, I believe you.  I’m backing away because I don’t want to be in the wreck when He gets hit head on while Saving Us.”
Barbie  “Yeah, back away because His truck stinks.”
Me  “It’s not His truck.  He’s just borrowing it.
Barbie   “God doesn’t drive very good.”

After we make it down the mountain, the truck pulls off the road and we consider asking Him for some tomatoes and corn, but decide it’s a bit much after He’s saved us, and all.


Me  “Shouldn’t we stop here and find a place to stay?”
Barbie  (who is now driving and therefore has all the
             POWER) “It’s still early.  Let’s go on to the next
Me  “OK, but it’s not early.”
Barb “Well, it’s quite a while until sunset.”
Me  “If I have to sleep in this car, it’s your ass.”
Barb  “We won’t have to sleep in the car. Hummmm
         There’s nothing here either.  Let’s go on to the next  
Me  “tsssss.”
Barb  “Just down the road a bit.”
Me “tssssss”
Barb “We’ll get a place.  Don’t worry
Me  “You are acting just like Richard. ‘Just the next town’
        ‘just the next town’  ‘just the next town’ and then we
        finally stop at a town and there are no rooms at the inn
         and we have to sleep in the car at some scary road
          side rest stop and I DON’T WANT TO SLEEP IN
           THIS CAR!!!!”
Barb (in her I’m-calmer-than-you-are voice) “We won’t
        sleep in the car.”
Me “Says You.”
Whitney “Did you really have to sleep in the car?  When?”
Me “Just every time we ever drove between California and
        Oklahoma, that’s all.  Every time.  Even on our
        Honeymoon, remember Mom?  He kept putting off
         stopping until 7:00 the next morning!”
Mom  “I remember you called.”
Me  “He kept on ‘One more towning’ me until there were
           no rooms.  Oh, and then when we moved back to
           California from Tulsa, we were in a U-Haul with a
      Two-year old and my big belly, containing Rob, and we
      slept on the side of the road.  He slept on the hood of
      the truck and the three of us slept on the seat while
     dodging the gearshift and steering wheel.”
Barb  “We are not going to sleep in the car.  See? Here’s a
       town.  Ex-cept…there doesn’t seem to be much of a
         town here.  Eeuuww we do NOT want to stay here.
         Let’s go on.”
Me  (Under my breath) “I knew it.”
Barb  “We’ll get a place.  I didn’t know we would be on
         such a winding little road.  We are in serious         mountains.”

Me  “nexttownnexttownnexttown.  I got dibs on the hood.”

Barb  “At least we have the road to ourselves”.

Me  “That’s because everyone else is already in
          their hotel rooms for the night.”

Barb  “I knew you were going to say that.” (In her I’m the
           only rational person in this car voice.) …and finally,
          “Look here’s a Best Western.
Me “If they don’t have two Non-Smoking rooms, It’s your ass.”

Amazingly enough, we all still love each other!


How Not to Win the Chile Cook-Off

Paula Dean, She’s Not
(Even though she sounds like her.)

It is well known that I am not a cook.  I know how to make food and some of it is even good, but as far as being a cook? no.  As I have said before, Williams Sonoma is a store full of chores, and it gives me a rash to go into one.  Many of their wares look like medieval torture tools.  I wouldn’t have the slightest idea how to use them. 

When I was teaching school, our PTA had a carnival each spring.  They always had a silent auction for lovely themed baskets that we made up class by class.  One year there was a cooking basket and they asked us for our favorite recipes.  Mine was:
    Campbells Chicken and Stars. 
     Mrs. Guinn
Open can. pour into cup and add a little water,
Drink on the way to school.
 (The stars are less likely than noodles to end up on the front of your shirt, but I’m not promising anything.)

The Cook Basket people were not amused.

It is with this in mind I give you my secret recipe that I used when I entered the Whitmore School Chili Cook-off.

      How to Not Win the Chili Cook-Off

Put chunks of stew meat from Costco into large pan.
Pour one Modelo dark beer over it.
Add one-half of a diet 7-up for depth of liquid.
Cook for 15 minutes, covered.
Open lid to stir.
Discover that the “meat diaper” somehow got into the pan.
Begin picking it out.
Find that it is a bigger mess than you thought.
Remove meat from pan, dropping a piece on the floor.
Dump liquid mixture into sink and rinse pan
Replace meat into pan, dropping another chunk upon floor.
Discuss whether having dogs negates the 5 second rule with person who sees the dropped meat on the floor.
Rinse dropped meat and add to pan not noticing that a chunk fell into the fire.
Find Coca-Cola in fridge and pour on meat.
Add other half of 7-up for depth of liquid.
Sprinkle random spices on mixture, not using any spices with Italian sounding names.
Cover and simmer.
Hear that danged smoke alarm go off (the one that always signals that you are cooking) and run back into kitchen and put out fire under pan.
Cook for as long as it takes you to shower and blow your hair dry.
4 cans of chile beans
2 cans of chopped tomatoes
1 can of tomato paste
While attempting to stir, realize that you need to divide the mixture into two pots because you made way too much for the pan you chose.
Add more random seasonings, again, none of which sound Italian.
Simmer until it is time to take it to schoolhouse. 
Eat other people’s chili.
Follow these simple steps and you won’t even come in 4th.

I can’t wait till next year!  Y’all are coming, aren’t you?

Next time I’ll tell you about the cake I made for the cakewalk.

Butler. Lost and Found

    Early last spring Butler, the over-bred, half-feral, half crazy, (but 100% love), miniature Australian Shepherd went roaming and didn’t come home to sleep in Rob’s bed as he always did.   Rob, my son, was in Utah on business.  Jenny, Rob’s fiancĂ©e, called for Butler and looked for him frantically. 
The next day Richard and I joined the search for him.  We drove up and down Whitmore Road, checking the ditches on each side.  Jenny made flyers and put them on all of the mailboxes on Whitmore Road and on the bulletin board at the General Store.
I called the near-by veterinarians’ offices and told them if someone brought him in wounded to call us and to do whatever they needed to keep him alive.  Our vet’s receptionist said, “Is that the one that no one can get near?” 
Yes, that would be Butler. 
He was skittish, to say the least. 
I called the wonderful, loving neighbors, who came to our sides when we lost Leigh, my daughter-in-law.  They, like Richard and I, couldn’t stand the idea of Rob having to deal with another loss and promised to do what they could do to find the little guy.
Butler was suspicious of almost all humans.  He didn’t allow anyone to pet him except the two people who raised him.  After he lost his “mommy,” he slowly began to let a few people get closer to him.  He came to me, across three pastures, when he heard the gunshots of hunters and skeet shooters.  He would cower in my arms and vibrate in fear.  Recently when he sensed that he was destined for a bath, he ran to me for salvation.
  When Jenny came to live with him he easily trusted her.  And when Whitney came to work with Rob, she found herself doing much of her work on the computer with Butler in her lap.  Perhaps he was trying all of the females in his world to see if any of us could replace Leigh.
As the days passed we began to give up hope. 
It snowed. 
We almost hoped he was dead so he wouldn’t be out there in the freezing snow all lost and afraid and hungry and cold.  We knew he would never let anyone catch him.  We knew he would not go to anyone else’s home.
 It snowed again. 
We would not be seeing him any more.  Something got him.  We saw a mountain lion one Sunday evening.  It was down by the creek.  They say there are a lot of those around here.  Butler thought he was big.  He chased anything that ran.  No, we would not see him again.

We thought.

Late one warm spring afternoon, Jenny and her son Jordan were in the garden preparing it for planting.  They heard a bark from far away.  They knew it was Butler.  They looked at the hill across the creek and called Butler’s name.  Another bark!  Jenny thought she saw the white fur on his throat and chest.
“Jordan!  Go get the binoculars!”  Jenny said, as she kept her eyes on the tiny spot of white.
She looked through the binoculars and saw Butler.  They ran to the bridge that crosses Cow Creek, and started up the mountain.  Jenny sent Jordan back to call us.  She had the foresight to grab a flash light, and she reasoned that if she became lost in the woods across the creek, she would shine the light to let us know where she was. 
She had on sandals and cropped pants, but she knew she was not coming back without Butler.  She climbed through the brush even though it was slashing her bare calves.  At one point a limb stuck in her eye, leaving a red gash on her eyeball.  She kept climbing.  The girl is a hero.
By the time Richard and I found her, she and Jordan were coming down Whitmore Road on the ATV, and she had Butler in her arms.  We wept at the sight.
He was a skeleton covered with fur and ticks, but he was alive.  He had been gone for fifteen days. 
We called our veterinarian, Dr. Prestley, and he said he’d wait for us at the clinic, where Butler spent the night getting nourished, pampered, and checked for any permanent abnormalities.  Rob got a flight home immediately. 
Butler, the Bionic Dog, is as good as new now, but he doesn’t wander the way he did before. 
Heck, he doesn’t let Rob out of his sight.

Butler and the Fake Baby

It’s a rainy, gloomy day.
A perfect day for reading in my cushy, reading loveseat, or, I don’t know, maybe it’s an extra large cushy, reading chair.
Did I mention it was cushy?
I read – nap – read, with “Law and Order” reruns making up the background noise.  Did you know that one can watch “Law and Order” reruns 24-7?  This makes Rich quite happy.
I am reading Teacher Man by Frank McCourt, you know, the guy who wrote Angela’s Ashes.  It’s good, as you would expect.
Suddenly, Butler, Rob’s crazy miniature Australian Shepherd shows up at the door, in a frenzy and decidedly muddy.  (The “frenzy” part means nothing, as Butler lives his life in a frenzy.)
I call Rob to let him know that Butler is here.  Rob sees my name on the phone as it rings at his house, and answers, not with,  “Hello” but with, “Don’t let him in!”
It seems that Rob, seeing Butler’s muddy condition, had decided to give him a bath.
 Now, how do dogs know that they are targeted to have a bath?  What signal do we, as humans, give out when we are preparing to bathe a dog?  Do we emit some sort of dog bathing pheromone? 
Whatever it is, Butler caught a whiff and ran to the person who usually saves him from scary things like baths and gunshot sounds.  Me.
Within minutes, Rob arrives riding on the front of his ATV, which is being driven by my soon to be grandson, Jordan.  Rob is carefully holding, -what?  I can’t quite tell… a baby? Yes, it’s a baby.
 The “baby” is one of those computerized babies, designed to convince young people that they aren’t in any way ready to own one.  It cries at night and has a mouth that must be fed, and so forth.  Rob and Jordan have it dressed in a specially designed garbage bag raincoat.  Her name is Stephanie. 
Stephanie’s head is wet.  I dry it off, and then give her a “kootchie-koo” in the tummy.  Now Jordan must document the “kootchie-koo” because Stephanie records everything that touches her little vinyl body.  I am pretty sure that had Stephanie been a real baby she would have objected loudly at a ride on an ATV in the rain.
At any rate, there is nothing like a visit from a baby to brighten up a gloomy, rainy day.

Bridge Climb

Bridge Climb

There is a monumental bridge in Sydney, Australia, that spans the harbor.  While cruising under it one day we noticed these little “ant people” crawling over the upper girders.  This looked like something we should investigate!  We discovered that for a price we could climb up there also.

Being members of the lunatic fringe, my sister and brother-in-law, (Barbie and John), and I took a taxi to the bridge. 

Rancher Richie, not being a member of the lunatic fringe, decided he’d rather take a nap.

Oh, I am starting to get nervous just writing these words.  We entered the office and signed waivers that said we promised not to sue them if we should happen to fall off and manage, somehow, to live through it.  While waiting to don the required attire, (ugly gray jumpsuits), I looked at the wall of celebrities who have participated in this activity and lived.  Bruce Springsteen and the Olsen twins were pictured, but I didn’t get to notice others because I had to go put everything on my person into a locker because even something as small as a quarter could kill a person underneath, should the coin happen to escape out of one’s pocket.  If any of us needed to wear glasses, they had to be strapped on. Then we had to hook this belt contraption around our waists that included a thin little chain that was attached to a little ball.   This little ball was supposed to keep us attached to the bridge.

“There’s your boyfriend.” My ever-alert sister whispered in my ear.  We always play the “There’s Your Boyfriend” game.
He was a doozey!  He had several missing teeth and didn’t look too “with it” if you know what I mean.  His ugly gray jump suit was twisted around him so he looked like a two year old who had dressed himself for the first time.  I decided he should be my new best friend.

I couldn’t leave Barbie without a boyfriend, so I found her one.  He had a carpet of hair growing out of his ears.  I would have found John a girlfriend, but Barb and I were the only good candidates for that honor.

Then we took off to climb the bridge.

Our intuitive guide Jason positioned Barbie and I, (along with my boyfriend) in front of the line.  We got the feeling he always kept the Goonies close to him so he could watch out for them.  We were the Goonies.

We began our three-and-a-half-hour adventure.  When we were still on step one, I looked down.  We were already so high up that the people below looked like dollhouse people.  I felt as if I might barf, and I wondered if the little people underneath me would appreciate that.
Let me say here, that I am not afraid of heights.  I am just afraid of falling off high places, and I constantly picture of myself plummeting from them.  With that said you would understand why I spent the first one hundred steps with my eyes closed while humming a light little dirge.  Since I couldn’t see, I had to feel my way with each step, which took a little longer but I felt it was worth it. 

As I became a bit braver, I opened my eyes but I kept them looking upward, sort of like Bernadette Peters did when Steve Martin told her not to look at her plate because there were snails on it, in the movie, “The Jerk.”

I still had to feel my way with my feet, and test for solid iron works before adding my weight.  We were about a zillion feet high.

Our patient guide kept asking me if     I was all right, as if I were a 58 year old pregnant woman.  I began to get slightly more embarrassed than scared, so I decided to “watch where I was going” like my mother always said just after I stepped on a baby’s fingers or ran into an unsuspecting old lady.

Just as I was starting to get used to walking a mile up in the air on erector set walkways we came to several flights of, well, ladders, actually.  They were arranged like a staircase in a building except that when we went from one staircase (or ladder-case?) to another, there was nothing beneath us. 
Nothing.  But.  Air.
(And quite a bit if it.)

So, when we got to the top of one ladder, we had to hover out over Nothing and turn to get to the bottom of the next ladder.
Did I mention there was Nothing beneath us?

I was completely traumatized by this part, and just when I thought it couldn’t get worse, a commuter train rumbled across the bridge causing the ladders to shake like a seven-point-oh earthquake.  I could see post-traumatic stress syndrome in my future.
I remember poking my head up through a trap door in the floor of the bridge and seeing cars and trucks whizzing by, but that’s about all I recall until we were standing at the apex, looking down on the majestic Sydney Opera House.  The view was spectacular, and I was happily congratulating myself for finishing the adventure.   Ta-Da!  I was on top of the world!

Then I realized we had to get back down to the ground. 

And those ladders were still there.

Fixing up Ugly Boots

    Everyone around here wears these ugly black rubber boots that you can buy at the feed store for a whopping $10.00.  They are seen in the grocery store and oh, just everywhere. 
It was very wet last spring.
We had just finished moving in on May 5th when we heard it was already the wettest May in all recorded history.  By the 18th, I was wondering how many cubits an ark is supposed to be, and what exactly IS a cubit anyway?  Everything was soggy, even on the rare event when the rain wasn’t coming down.  Eventually, I caved in and I got myself a pair of those lovely boots.
    Being the person I am, I decided that MY boots needed a little something.  I went to Michaels and bought feathers, charms, leather strips, and fuzzy ribbon to jazz mine up a bit.
    I went right to work, poking holes around the tops of the boots and stringing the leather and ribbons through and tying on the charms and feathers.  The fringe hung down in various lengths.  The look was Native American meets plumber.  They were stunning.  I immediately went out for a slog down to the creek wearing my latest fashion statement. 
    Right away, I noticed a slight impracticality.  As I took each step and the boots passed by each other, the dangling charms and feathers grabbed on to each other and tangled up.  I had two choices.  I could walk with my legs spread reeeaally far apart or I could take little one-inch steps because my boots insisted upon tying themselves together.  Walking with ones legs far apart is not sensible anywhere, and absurd when walking on a rocky terrain.  When I returned from my walk, I gave my boots a haircut and saved the feathers and charms for something else.  (My hair?)
    I’m thinking puffy paint?

Bobby's Story

The Oklahoma City Fire Department had to come and get him down from his stranded perch, up high in an oak tree when he was six years old.  That gave us ten more years with him.
Mom gave birth to six of us.  I was first and he was two-and-a-half years behind me.  Mom had us in twos, a boy and a girl in each duo.  I don’t know how she managed that, but she did.

My earliest memories are about his birth and homecoming, so in  my mind there was never a time when he wasn’t there.  He was my partner and we cavorted through our childhood together.   

         And I do mean cavorted.

I protected Bobby and taught him everything I knew. I taught him how to walk, how to “write” secret messages on the underside of the dining room table, and then how to “read” them.
“Bussa, bussa bussa!”  I would say with great expression, as I “read” my cursive scribbling. 

I taught him to ride his bicycle by riding on the back of it with him peddling furiously.  It took me a while to convince him that he could do it without me because I was not touching the ground or holding him up in any way.

When I was seven we moved into a duplex at the end of a road. After the road ended there was a wide gully and then a great expanse of land.  Behind the house were a steep hill, a rock wall that stood over twice as tall as we were, and an empty field.  The aforementioned gigantic climbing tree was in that field.

Mama said,
“Don’t EVER go in that gully!  Bad people hide in there!  Some bank robbers blew up a safe in there recently and a little girl drowned in the stream down there last year!  And see that big cement pipe under the dirt road?”
(It was so big that I could stand in it and put my arms up and stand on my tippy-toes and I couldn’t reach the top.) 
“Well now and then, without any warning what so ever, a huge wall of water will wash through there and drown you in the blink of an eye!”
Bobby and I looked at each other with our eyebrows raised high, and our mouths in the shape of an O, barely able to contain our excitement.  All of this and there was a little door that allowed us to crawl under the house!   What magical place have we chanced upon!

We couldn’t wait to go in that gully!  We crept down there that very day.    It opened up new ways to have daring adventures. At first we hovered on the edges of the little stream that trickled out of the big cement pipe, waiting anxiously for a wall of water to spontaneously come whooshing out.  We stared in amazement and awe at the stream, imagining the body of the little girl.  After a few days Bobby dared me to run through to the other side of the big pipe.  I ran in about five feet and then ran screaming back out, my heart pounding.
We got braver each day and soon were running all the way through, and yeah, even sitting in it when it was dry.
It was the same with the gully.  Each day we ventured farther into the tangle of brush.  Once we found a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. This caused us to giggle uncontrollably at the prospect of someone naked in our gully. There was a rumor that a gun was found, but we figured our mother started that. 
We soon had a fort/camping site built deep in the trees and bushes.  It was heaven!  The fact that our sister, Barbie, was born that year gave us the prolonged freedom that only a too busy mother can give.

The steep hill at the end of our driveway that led down to the field was an adventure in itself.  I recall a time when I dared Bobby to ride our homemade scooter down the hill.  He was afraid (or smarter than I) so I said, “OK, you sissy, I’ll ride it down!”  I still have the scar from that ride.
Because of our hill, snow was both welcomed (for sledding) and dreaded. (We had to conquer it in order to get to school and then back home again.)  In all weather, we had to go down this hill, cross the field, go up a small incline to a rutted dirt path, that went over the gully, to get to school.  Bobby and I always walked together.  It would have been scary without him.

The gully years offered up an escaped leopard, a rabid dog, and a suspected child snatcher, along with it’s smattering of small-time criminals.  What more could two reckless cavorters ask for!

As we grew older, our interests began to deploy in different directions.  However, we still slept together on Christmas Eve, snuggled under the covers listening to carols on the radio.  There are certain times when one just needs a brother.

Later came the coming of age years when we alternately teased, argued with, and tried to ignore each other.  At least I tried to ignore him.

One summer he and his friend built a radio station out in the washhouse behind the garage.  Bobby sneaked upstairs to my bedroom where I was sleeping and tuned my radio in to their station and tippy-toed back down to the washhouse. 

A gregarious radio voice soon brought me from a dead sleep to my feet.
“It’s a beautiful summer morning here in Ada, Oklahoma!  You’re listening to WLXT.  Here is a request for my sister, Lynn!”  And “Twist and Shout” began to play.  I thought I had slipped into some parallel universe.

That was the year that Bobby grew tall and handsome.  I can still see him standing at the ironing board struggling to press his “wheat jeans.”   Mom had just given birth to our brother, Mikey.  Bobby couldn’t believe his good fortune to have this tiny baby to carry around and cuddle and kiss.  He adored Mikey.  He gravitated to him as soon as he walked in the door from school.  They had serious “talks.”

I started college.  Our president was soon to be assassinated.  Our comfort in the sureness of life was shaken.  But not as shattered as it soon would be.

That spring on the day before Easter, Bobby and his friend Dennis drove to Lake Texoma Lodge to apply for jobs for the coming summer.  On their way home they were hit by a southbound Frisco freight train at an unguarded crossing.  I am sure they were happy and had the radio turned up nice and loud.  They got the jobs.

Two weeks later his new driver’s license came in the mail.  He had lived for sixteen years and nineteen days.

Getting There Is Half the Fun - Austrailia

    On the 18th day of June, in the year of 2003, Richard and I, along with sister Barbie and favorite brother-in-law John went on a journey to Sydney, Australia.  Of course we had read everything we could find about the country.  We learned all sorts of exciting facts about Australia, including how many lethal spiders live there.  No worries.  We were brave.  
Somewhere during the planning of this trip, I realized something even worse than deadly spiders was threatening me.  I was about to be trapped in a chair on a plane for fourteen hours.  Some events, such as giving birth, having a root canal, and sitting still for fourteen hours, just call for medication.  I am glad my doctor agreed. I was prepared. 

We met up with some of our travel mates in a holding area at LAX.  We had about two hours to wait.  We people-watched and tried to decide which ones were in our tour group. 
I gave some thought to the identity that I might try on when we met the others.  I don’t know what it is about those “Tell us your name and a little about yourself” occasions that gives me such an urge to be a part of the lunatic fringe.
 “Hi, my name is Tallulah Funnypants and I was born in a Tijuana jail. My mother was a tightrope walker and my father was a con artist.  I grew up in the circus and…what?
Oh. O.K.
I’m a retired teacher, and I grew up in a small town and have been married to the same guy for forty years.”
I found Barb’s boyfriend.  (You know that game?  The one where you find an unfortunate-looking or funny-acting person and be the first one to say, “There’s your boyfriend!”) He was pacing back and forth with his hands poked in the back of his trousers.  He had painted little simple objects all over his luggage and backpack with sparkly, pastel, puffy paint. I assumed that was so he would be able to locate them on the luggage carrousel, but a grown man with flowers, trees and houses puffed all over his luggage is just asking for it as far as I’m concerned. 
Barb soon found my boyfriend.  He looked sort of like Alfred E. Newman with Henry Kissinger overtones.  He had so much ear hair that he seemed to be wearing mink earplugs.  His elastic-waist pants were twisted like a toddler’s who was just learning to go potty alone.  Guess that made me the boyfriend winner.
We finally boarded and were served dinner for the second time that night.  They gave us something with lots of pokey spikes sticking out all over them.  I was leery, thinking about those spiders I had read about.  Also, the main course looked suspiciously like kangaroo meat.  I took my travel medication, and knew nothing until two days later, according to the calendar, (It’s that Date Line thing), and the cabin attendants were serving more strange things for breakfast.
We got off the plane in Sydney.  Our group leader, Tim, was waiting for us with a Grand Circle Tours sign.  He was a comforting sight.  I overheard people talking about how we have only three more hours to go... 
Um, what? Excuse me?
 Aren't we here? 
Sometimes it's a good thing to be unaware and dependent upon others to get you to each destination, because if I had known I had to get back on another plane when we just got there, I might have gotten cranky. I knew we were going to Cairns; I just wasn't prepared for it to be immediately.
As we waited for our flight to Cairns, (pronounced Cahn, so why they don't just spell it that way, I do not know.)  I sat on the floor and recharged my camera battery.  I had made the first of many, hour-long videos of the inside of my camera case. It’s a mystery to me why I am trusted with the historian duties. 
While waiting for our flight, I heard a voice on the P.A. system calling stragglers to gate 11 to board flight 19 to the Gold Coast. 
A minute later, "Flight 19 is in its final boarding process.  Board the plane NOW!"
A minute later, even more emphatically, "Final boarding call for flight 19 to the Gold Coast!  If you aren't on the plane, you aren't going!’ they threaten,  “The flight is closed!"
Thirty seconds later,  "Will Mr. Ralph Soandso PUH-LEEZE go to Gate 11!  Your flight is getting ready to leave!"
YES!! This is my kind of country!  In the States, if you are late for your flight, they just leave your sorry ass.  Here, they give you a personal page.  I need this type of service, as I have been known to miss calls for flights.  I have found my place!

The second flight was only three hours long. A piece of cake, unless those three hours are the hours numbered 15, 16, and 17!  Barb threatened to run up and down the aisle screaming at about the beginning of hour number sixteen.  That sounded like it would be entertaining, so I encouraged her to do it, but we came into very bad weather at about that time.  The pilot told the stewards to sit down and buckle up.  It was 1,221 miles of the bumpiest ride I’d ever had.  I could see the wings outside the window, and they were actually flapping!   If I hadn’t been holding the plane up by my tray table, we never would have made it.  Everyone should have thanked me.  I was exhausted.
We finally stumbled off the plane, disheveled and feeling grimy with airplane gradoo.  As I passed a couple of young guys, I swear I heard one say to the other,  “There’s your girlfriend.”

Austrailia Report

              Journey to the Land Down Under

    On the 18th day of June, Richard and I, along with sister Barbie and favorite brother-in-law John, and four other couples who are friends of ours, from WSD went on a wonderful journey that began at LAX.  Martie drove us, and the Colliers, and all of our luggage, to the airport.  Tucked safely inside my bag are my newly acquired “REI” pants with the eight handy pockets and the zip-off legs.  I love them!  I look like such a stud in them.  Our destination was Sydney, Australia. 

In the airport, Barb is bored.  We have walked the airport.  We have been to the Marriott to eat salads and to drink martinis with olives.  John-o has been here to give her his video camera. She is ready to record some action.  So far, there is no action.

 We make a video record of members of our group eating stuff and killing time.   I realize that I left my container of adult beverages at home, along with my little bitty cheeses wrapped in red wax.  Damn.

We meet up with some of our travel mates.  I find Barb’s boyfriend.  (You know that game?  The one where you find an unfortunate-looking or acting person and be the first one to say, “That’s your boyfriend!”) He is pacing back and forth with his hands poked in the back of his trousers.  He has painted flowers and palm trees on his luggage and backpack with pastel puffy paint, so he will be able to locate them on the luggage carrousel.  He turns out to be a very nice guy, but at this point we are not sure. 

Somewhere during the planning of this trip, I realized that I would be trapped in the plane for 14 hours.  In a chair.  Some events, like giving birth and sitting for 14 hours in an airplane seat, just call for drugs.  I am glad my doctor agreed.  I have tested them out to make sure I do not die when I take them with adult beverages and they passed.  How embarrassing to die on an airplane that didn’t crash.  Not to mention inconvenient.  But it’s too early for the travel drugs.  So we pass the time making light, gentle fun of people, as if we were in junior high.  We go into the ladies room and pass the vodka that we have in a flask under the stall.  My toilet automatically flushes twice before I even sit down.  This causes us to giggle uncontrollably.
We finally board and eat dinner again.  I take my travel pills, and know nothing until two days later, according to the calendar, and the cabin attendants are serving breakfast.  Why didn’t I think of travel drugs before?!

We get off the plane in Sydney.  Wow!  We are here safely, but John's bag is, well, …not. Our group leader, Tim, is waiting for us with a GC sign.  He is a comforting sight.  I overhear people talking about how we have only three more hours to go...  Um, what?
 Aren't we here? 
Sometimes it's a good thing to be unaware and dependent upon others to get you to each destination, because if I had known I had to get back on another plane when we just got here, I might have gotten cranky. I knew we were going to Cairns, I just wasn't prepared for it to be immediately.
As we wait for our flight to Cairns, (pronounced Cans, so why they don't just spell it this way, I don't know.  Actually, it's pronounced, "Cans" the way one would say it if one were in England or better yet, New England.) I sit on the floor and charge my camera battery.  I left it on in my camera case for the first of many times. 
While waiting for our flight, I hear a voice on the P.A. system call stragglers to gate 11 to board flight 19 to the Gold Coast. 
A minute later, "Flight 19 is in its final boarding process.  Board the plane NOW!"
A minute later, even more emphatically, "Final boarding call for flight 19 to the Gold Coast!  If you aren't on the plane, you aren't going!  The flight is closed!"
Thirty seconds later,  "Will Mr. Ralph Soandso PUH-LEEZE go to Gate 11!  Your flight is getting ready to leave!"
YES!! This is my kind of country!  In the States, if you are late for your flight, they just leave your sorry ass.  Here, they give you a personal page.  I need this type of service, as I have been known to miss calls for flights.  I have found my place!

The second flight was only three hours. A piece of cake, unless those three hours are the hours numbered 15, 16, and 17!  Barb threatens to run up and down the aisle screaming at about the beginning of hour number sixteen.  That should be entertaining, so I encourage her to do it.  She doesn’t. 
  We travel from the airport to our hotel in Cairns by tour bus.  Barb comments on the fact that she is 50 years old,
 and the fact that she is getting on a tour bus,
 and the fact that she is wearing a coordinated jogging suit.  (With no intention of jogging.)
 She’s having an age crises, I think.
 It is beautifully lush here.  The weather is perfect.  Our hotel, The Clarion, is perfect.  It appears to be situated in a rainforest.  We are actually in Palm Cove, a lovely little resort town with a climate rather like Southern California.  Other than the fact that we are out of wack time-wise, I feel at home.
We head for the Bottle Store, our first Ausi colloquialism.  After acquiring provisions, we set out to explore our surroundings.  Keeping in mind that, according to Bill Bryson there are 3 trillion things that can kill you while in Australia, we poke about carefully.   We photograph several wicked looking spiders.  We eat take-out while safely ensconced within our compound at Palm Cove.  Wimps.

We sleep lying flat.  Heaven. 

We awake on day "four" and have a wonderful breakfast that includes little spiney items that no one seems to be able to identify.  We are delighted with them and take several on our plates to photograph, taste, and exclaim over.  We secretly wonder if they are among the things that can kill you in Australia.  We later learn that they are thingies.  We also learn that vegemite, as in the song, "The Land Down Under," is a buttery, soy-sauce-type goo.  I cannot imagine eating a vegemite sandwich.   When we return to our rooms, John's bag is there. 

After our breakfast adventure, we meet with our leader, Tim, and have one of those introduce-yourselves-type-events.  I don't know why I always have a powerful urge to make up an extraordinarily bazaar life for myself when I find myself in these events.  It's all I can do not to put myself on the lunatic fringe of the group by saying that my mother was a hooker and my brother is a mass murderer, and, perhaps you've heard of my Great Aunt, Lizzie Borden.  Since there were three of my ordinary family members and several friends who have known me for quite a while with us in the group, I had to say that I was a retired teacher, ho-hum. 

Let them find out for themselves that I am a member of the Lunatic Fringe.

As it turns out there are many retired educators on this tour.  We meld together well and end up as a friendly, supportive group.  Harv and Richard begin the "Who is the Goofiest Dude" contest.  Richard is not my fault and I need a t-shirt that says so.

We get on the bus to go to the Rainforest Habitat.  They divide us into two groups, the Kangaroos and the Koalas, just like a field trip.  I begin to get a rash, as I do whenever I’m reminded of school things.  I find myself lost from my group, almost immediately.  I was just taking photos of stuff and everyone left me.   I walk on, and to my unending delight I come upon a friendly wallaby.  Fortunately, Cherrille and Duane appear with something that looks like Quaker Oats.  They are separated from their group as well.  We feed, take pictures of, and are enchanted by the little critters. 
The rainforest preserve is excellent.  They have many species. Most are roaming free.  Even a bad-tempered Emu, who comes quite close to me, with a grouchy look on her face.  She leans toward me and opens her mouth, and I have to practice my method of running hysterically while trying to keep that calm, “I’m not even slightly afraid of you” look.  It’s that same style of running from bees that I used to employ when my children were little and I didn’t want to give them my crippling fear of bees.  Picture a funeral director running.  You know how they have that way of not moving any body part other than their feet when they walk?  Well, it worked on the emu. 
Sadly, however it didn’t work on my children.  They don’t care for bees either.  Perhaps it was that time when we were coming home from the beach and one flew into the car while we were stopped at a stoplight.  I flung the door open and jumped out into the traffic.  When I took my foot off the clutch, the car leapt forward into the bumper of the car in front of us.  My daughter was in junior high so she was mortally embarrassed.  There was her mother squealing and jumping around in her bathing suit and the guy in front of us was letting me know that he was not pleased.  Furthermore, he had no sympathy for the fact that there was a bee in my car.
Where was I?  Oh, yes, Australia.
 In a rainforest.
 Running from a surly emu.
I hopped on a wooden bridge-like pathway and the bird, which I saw eye-to-eye with, I might add, decided not to follow me.  This wooden pathway took me through all four of the levels of the forest and even a little above. 
Little did I know that I would later travel again through the layers of a rainforest and even above.  Way above. 

First, we have a few moments of civilization in the form of Port Douglas.  There are souvenirs and beer.  Ever the tourist, I buy a mini boomerang and some rhythm sticks.  We re-board the bus (Barb continues to state her age and comment upon her attire when getting on the bus) and head for parts unknown.  We end up at a one hundred year old hotel/pub out in the middle of nowhere.  The people who were involved in the filming of Survivors of the Australian Outback stayed there.  Ah.  Well, then.  The crew should have been paid extra for roughing it.  Our other sister, a Survivor fan will be a jealous wreck when she hears about this. 

We end up at a working ranch called Whetherby Station.  The person who runs the ranch is a perky gal named Jenny, who isn’t over 5 feet tall or over 100 pounds.  I couldn't help but think of a heroine of a bad romance novel.  Except that her hair wasn't a wild tangle of curls and her eyes weren't a deep azure blue, and there was no gorgeous stud there, (without four legs) to my knowledge.  But don't those types of novels usually take place on an isolated ranch somewhere where the brave, but stubborn protagonist is in voluntary exile because some man has broken her heart into infinitesimal pieces, and…

Once again, I digress.  Whetherby Station is run for tourists, as well as for sheep and cattle.  Jenny and her talented dog, demonstrate how easily they can separate cattle or sheep out of the herd.  Her horse is very well trained, too.  They are a great trio, and I am quite impressed with the dog.

After spending about an hour and a half with the animals, they took us into the farmhouse and served us a delicious barbeque dinner including steaks, lamb, and chicken.  I had the chicken.  I find it impossible to eat a species I have just visited.  After dinner, Pete played his guitar and sang Aussie campfire-type songs.  I did not know that “Sixteen Tons” was an Aussie campfire song!  On the way home we saw a great video about kangaroos called, "Faces in the Mob".

The following morning we have breakfast in the unbelievable gardens of the Hotel Clarion.  I take my seasick pills, as we are going on a boat trip today.  We are headed for the Great Barrier Reef. 
We meet in front of the hotel and board the bus.  Barb is still fifty but she has traded her jogging suit for shorts.  The bus driver tells us that we may well have used up all of our luck today on the weather.  Indeed, it is beautiful. 

From the Cairns Marina, we head for Trinity Warf, and then on to Fitzroy Island, and the reef.  There is unexpected entertainment on the boat!  The sea is quite choppy and watching people walk is fall-down-hysterically funny.  Those who forgot to take their seasick pills, redecorate their outfits for the day. 

There is a glass-bottom boat and a glass-sided boat to ride about the reef on.  We preview the depths via this method.  We have a lovely buffet.  Now Barb and I don our snorkeling gear and prepare to go into the sea.  John is a diver, so he gets ready to scuba. 

Snorkel.  It’s a perfect word for it.  We snorkeled when we got in the water.  We snorkeled when we saw little fish near us.  We snorkeled when we lifted our heads to have our pictures taken.  (Perhaps it was because when we lifted our heads, our snorkel tube went into the water.)  At any rate we definitely snorkeled!

While in the water, my sister and I squeal so loudly and so much, that people on the boat can hear us even though the squeaks are coming out of our little snorkely tubes.   We spot John and begin to swim after him, squealing and thrashing, and snorkeling even more.  We spy a four-foot eel and, well, we just get out of the water quickly and quietly in a lady-like way.  Not. 

Although the diving and snorkeling area is cordoned off to keep us safely gathered in, and there is a rescue helicopter waiting on a floating dock close-by, and the multitudinous crew members are ever on guard, we feel that we have just survived a great adventure.

Day six takes us to an Aboriginal cultural center called Tjapuki.  (Pronounced Ja-bu-ki) It was great!  We went to a show where these Maori guys are dressed in their native garb and painted in white patterns the way they were” way back when” and they danced and played the didgeridoo.  They were excellent as well as funny, making references to microwaves and DVD players, while imparting Aboriginal history, culture lessons, and legends. 
Next we had the opportunity to throw boomerangs and chuck spears.  It is a good thing that we don’t have to rely on our skills at either of those activities.  We would starve.
From the Tjapukai Center, we boarded a sky-rail to take us up to the top of a huge, mountainous rainforest.  We weren’t expecting it to be so high or so long!  It was eight kilometers, (whatever that means), and we were in the clouds and higher than a jet at one point.  To be fair, I think the jet may have been on its descent into landing, but STILL!  I can’t begin to imagine how they built a sky gondola ride that long and high.  We got off about half-way up for a brief walk-about, and found a spider as big as my fist.  I’ll bet that he was one of the three trillion things that can kill you in Australia. 
      At the top of the sky-ride was a town called Kuranda.  We had a delicious lunch from a street vendor, (Were we brave, or what!?) and shopped for souvenirs.  I bought a t-shirt that turned out to match my REI stud pants exactly.
     That evening was dining-experience-in-a-real-Aussi-home night.  We broke up into groups and went to homes “nearby.”  Our dinner home was in BFE, and was a small step up from a trailer.   The woman was a single mum who wanted to send her son to private school.  Her son was precocious and funny.  The food was chicken tenders from Costco.
    When we reconvened at the hotel, we compared experiences.  Barb and John went to a home full of Japanese exchange students and they did the dinner thing so they could practice English.  They said the home was out of Better Homes and Gardens.  Ours was out of Sordid Lives.  At least we didn’t get the guy who put the cooked chicken back on the platter with the raw chicken juice that another group got.    
    The next day it is June 24th and that means it is both Barbie & John and Richard & Lynn’s anniversary.  After breakfast, we head for the Royal Flying Doctors Headquarters.  This is a group of doctors who fly to people in the outback who would have no health care otherwise.  They explained to us that each group or village gets an outline of a human body with numbered areas so they can tell the doctors what area number hurts.  The gals who were giving the presentation were perky and funny.  One of them began to tell a story of two men in the outback and one of them got bitten on the tallywacker by a poisonous snake.  (About this time we recognized it as one of our favorite jokes.) Anyway she gets to the part where the one who had gone for help and was told by the flying doctor that he was to cut an X on the bite and suck out the poison returned, Richard yelled out, “The doctor says you’re gonna die!!”  He ruined her joke.  I was so embarrassed.  Again. I had to say, “He’s not my fault.”
    With that we went to the Cairns Airport and got on flight QF 925 to Sydney.  It was 1,221 miles of the bumpiest ride I’d ever had.  I could see the wings outside and they were flapping!  If I hadn’t been holding the plane up by my tray table, we never would have made it.
We safely arrived at the Grace Hotel, a lovely, ritzy, old hotel with lots of crown molding and fancy lighting in downtown Sydney.  I loved it at first sight.  After settling in we head out on foot for the Circular Quay(“key”), and Darling Harbor for our first glimpse of the opera house.  We ate outside by the water, with the lights of the city and the bridge surrounding us and reflecting off the water of the famous Darling Harbor.  It was glorious. 
Something I learned; Tia Maria makes a good dessert if one isn’t on a diet.  What an anniversary!
OK, the next day is our anniversary too, because it’s the 24th back at home.  After breakfast we boarded another bus, (yes, Barb is still 50) and go for a tour.  We went around a hilly neighborhood of typical Sydney homes.  Our tour guide gave us the approximate cost of most of the property.  We saw Nicole Kidman’s house where she grew up, where she went to school, and where she lives now.  They are proud of her.

 We then, went to Bondi (Bond-eye) Beach.  Since it is winter, there were no bathers.  Ha, It was colder than…well, it was cold.  Then we went to the CBD Museum and saw a demonstration of Aboriginal music (irrikki) and some more history.  I like the dotty art of the Aborigine people.  My favorite was the display of the shoes that had been dotted.  There were children on a field trip there.  I got a rash.  I do not know what CBD stands for, but I enjoyed the museum. 
We then went to tour the Opera House.  Well. What can I say that hasn’t been said about it?  Briefly, there was this contest to see who had the best design and some Swedish guy won.  He worked on it for a while, abandoned it, and another guy finished it.  Inside, it is a normal performing arts building.  It just has sails on the outside.  
Somewhere in there we went to see Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair.  Mr. Macquarie must have been important, but I’ve forgotten why.  Mrs. Macquarie’s chair did not look very comfortable, but she could sit in it and watch the happenings in Darling Harbor.  The harbor is not named the Darling Harbor because it’s cute.  It is named after a man named Mr. Darling.  How embarrassing.
For our anniversary that night, everybody in our group went to dinner at Nick’s Bar and Grill.  Actually we would have all eaten there even if it had not been our anniversary.  After dinner, Barb and I bought “No Worries” T-shirts.
After breakfast the next morning we got in our lovely bus once more and headed for “The Rocks.”  John wasn’t on the bus when it was time to go so we left him.  Apparently they won’t let anyone get left behind in an airport, but if you aren’t on the bus, you’re walking.  John didn’t have any trouble finding us since he had been to Australia before.
The Rocks.  This is Old Sydney.  It is appropriately called The Rocks because it is literally carved out in the sandstone of Sydney.  We learned a bunch of stuff about the criminals who started the new colony from our guide whose great, great, great grandmother was one of them.  She was in jail for stealing a hankie.  We visited the Darling house and an archeological dig.  We learned that a “Larrikins” is a troublemaker.  I know many of them.  I’m married to one.
Later, we went on the best harbor cruise.  Darling Harbor is beautiful.  It has many bays and inlets within it, a wonderful bridge over it, and one very small opening to the South Pacific.  The guide pointed out Nicole Kidman’s house from the boat.  Yes, they are quite proud of her.

After our morning tours of great icons, we went back downtown and to a deli for lunch.  When we went in the door the proprietor greeted John by name.  He’s a busy boy.  It’s called the Manhattan Deli, and the food was delicious.  I recommend the Penne Pesto, and the Risotto, followed by a nap.
Later, we walked for two hours, signed up for the Harbor Bridge Climb, and then walked some more to a Thai food restaurant.  We took a taxi back to the hotel.  Unfortunately the taxi driver didn’t know the way.  Fortunately John did. 
Just so you know, if one wants a beer, it’s a “cannie.”  While I thinking about it, I might as well give you a few more Aussie words that I found either delightful or funny.
Boofhead            Idiot
Choof off            Go away
Dag    or Daggy        Idiot, Geek, or Dufus
Chuck a spaz            Be angry
Chuck a mental        Be angry
Drongo                Idiot
Nong                Idiot
Kark it!                Die
Narky                Upset, Moody
Winge                Complain
And don’t think the Aussie people are grouchy!  No, there are ways to say that’s great, too.
Crash Hot            The best, Great!
Onya                Good for you
Good on ya             Good for you
Half your luck        Congratulations
Chooky                Sweetie-Pie
Fair Dinkum            Fair, Honest
And many useful terms.
Sickie                Day off
U-ie                    U-turn
Rug Up                Dress for cold
Crook                Ill
I noticed they “Chuck” a lot of things.  In addition to chucking spazs, they also might “Chuck a u-ie” if they are making a u-turn.  If, say, someone in the land of Oz plans to call in sick the next day, he will tell his mates that he is going to chuck a sickie tomorrow.  I like that.  If I weren’t retired, I’d chuck a sickie tomorrow.
The next morning after breakfast, we went to a shopping mall called the Queen’s Mall.  It had large, animated historical dioramas everywhere.  It also had giant stained glass windows and ornate ironworks.  There was a stained glass domed ceiling that rivaled St. Paul’s Church.  It had a Gap and Nordstrom.  I bought a tiny “roo” for my car shrine.
(OK.  My car shrine is a small triptych with holy cards of saints and angels.  I cut out faces of my children and grandchildren and pasted them on the faces of the saints and angels.  I put my face on the biggest angel.  Then I hanged some old dangly earrings and feathers on it.  On the floor of it, I placed tiny items that are me, like a watering pitcher and gardening tools, some seashells, etc.  I also have a Buddha, a statue of the pope, I think, and a Star of David, and of course a pair of tap shoes.)
After lunch Barbie, John, and I took a taxi to the Sydney Harbor Bridge.  Oh, I’m starting to get nervous just writing these words.  We sign waivers that we won’t sue them if we fall and happen to live through it.  We put on ugly gray jumpsuits.  We have to put everything we brought with us into a locker, because as they said, if we happened to drop a quarter from that height it would kill someone on the ground, or in a passing boat.  If we needed to wear glasses, they had to be strapped on.  Then we had to hook this belt and ball thing on our waist and practice using it on a raised platform. 
While doing this activity, I hear, “There’s your boyfriend!” in my ear.  The ever-alert Barbie found my boyfriend in our group.  He was a doozey.  He had at least three teeth to call his own and didn’t look too “with it,” if you know what I mean.  I found hers.  He had a carpet of hair growing out of his ears.  He looked like he was wearing little mink earplugs.  I doubt he could hear a thing.  I think I made the best boyfriend find.
Then we took off to climb the bridge for the next three hours.  Oh, my.
Our intuitive guide, Jason, put Barbie and I in the front of the line, along with my boyfriend.  We can tell he always puts the goonies close to him so he can watch out for them.  We were the goonies.  We begin and when we are still on step one, I look down and we are already so high up the people below us  look quite small.
 I feel as if I am going to barf and I wonder if those little people down below us will appreciate that    Let me say that I am not afraid of heights, I am just afraid of falling off of high places and I constantly picture myself plummeting down from them.  With that said, you will understand why I spent the first one hundred steps with my eyes closed and humming a light little dirge. Since I could not see, I had to feel my way with each step, which took a little longer but I felt it was worth it.
As I begin to get a little braver, I open my eyes, but I keep them looking straight up, sort of like Bernadette Peters did when Steve Martin told her not to look at her plate because there were snails on it, in the movie, “The Jerk.”  I still have to feel my way with my feet, which I’m sure you will agree one must be very careful when you are a zillion feet off the ground.  You don’t want to be putting any weight on that foot until you are sure that all of it is on solid ironworks.
Our patient guide keeps asking me of I’m alright and looking at me as if I were a fifty-eight year old pregnant lady.  I begin to get slightly more embarrassed than I am nervous, so I start “looking where I’m going.”  Just like Mama always said to.  Just as I’m beginning to get a little cocky, we come to several flights of, well, ladders, actually.  They are arranged like a staircase in a building is, except that when you go from one staircase, or ladder-case, as it were, there is nothing underneath you.  Nothing.  So when you have climbed to the top of one ladder you must hover out over Nothing and turn to get to the bottom of the next ladder.  Did I mention that there is nothing under us?  I am completely traumatized by this and think it cannot get any worse, when a commuter train rumbles by, shaking these ladders to the tune of a seven-point-oh earthquake.
Somehow we make it to the top and Jason arranges us for some photos for us to purchase when we get back down.  I am just happy to be halfway home!  I think we are ready for the easy part until I think of the ladders going down.




The Feeder

    As my chili simmered on the stove, I mixed the kitty’s formula.  It looks just like Similac and it’s for weaning time.  The dogs were at my feet. (One, shaking because the stove was in operation, and she didn’t appreciate the “tick tick tick FOOM!” that the lighting procedure entailed.) They were looking hopefully up at me because the kitties bowls look exactly like theirs.  I have been mixing scrambled egg in their food lately trying to get Tink to take her meds, so they think that’s what is happening as I stir the kitty mixture.
     I had a carrot on the counter to take to the horse so she won’t like only Richard and not me.
There was a pan of sugar water cooling on the stove for the humming birds that I must feed because they get all mad and dive bomb my head if their feeders are empty.
 I suddenly remembered a story I was assigned to read in high school or college.  As a lit major, I read a LOT of stories, so I’m not sure what the title was but I feel pretty sure that it was Jack London who wrote it as it featured snow and wolves, and somebody freezing to death.  He was all in to that type of thing.
In the story, a woman is the feeder of everything around her.  As I recall she gave of herself unselfishly and the men and animals depended on her. 
One day she is out of food and so she heads out to the local Safeway, no really, she heads out on a long journey, on foot, to get food, because she is the only one savvy enough to go get food and without her everyone would just starve to death. 
While she is on her way home with the meat, there was a blizzard and she froze to death and the wolves ate her, thus she remained a feeder even in death.
And you thought I didn’t retain any part of my education.

I left off the 20-plus hummingbirds that I feed!  That’s actually the species that made me feel most like the feeder woman in the story.  I have five feeders for them and they drink it so fast that I can’t keep up with them.  Furthermore, they buzz my head when I run behind.  (It makes me think of Tom Cruise in Top Gun.)  I am making boiled sugar water everyday.

They are fun to watch, though, and they aren’t a bit afraid of people.  I can sit on my deck, 18 inches away from them.  They bicker at one another and chase each other away from “their” feeder.  I have two hanging outside my bedroom window and I can watch them in the morning while I contemplate getting out of bed.  Funny.  The things that please me now!

    Kitty Cats, too!  They are so much fun to watch that Richard and I have chairs set up to watch them play and pounce on one another.  They practice being Big.  They get up on their hind legs and put their hands in the air and spread their fingers apart, and leap on anything; a toy, a piece of string, a blade of grass, any imagined enemy they can find.  We only let them out of the garage when we are out to watch them, as they look like a delicious owl snack.

Abnormal Family

Although my family appears to be normal we do not fit anywhere near that category.
When we were together for Thanksgiving (No children for the first time we could remember!) I cut strips of paper for us to write upon what we were thankful for.  I wrote the first one. “I am thankful for my sweet daughter-in-law,” curled it up, and placed it in a bowl.  Everyone followed my lead with the curling and such.  Then at dinner we passed the bowl around, drew one out and read it to the group and then everyone guessed who wrote it.  Doesn’t that sound sweet?
I cannot even repeat many of the writings here.  This family is too wisecracking and irreverent to be allowed in public.  Every occasion is a roast.  Clearly we all think we are comedians.
  This makes Christmas shopping a bit out of the ordinary.  What this means is that the Whitmore General Store may not carry the items that I might need to purchase for them.  I may need to make a trip to some big city.
The motivation for Christmas gifts around here is more of the “Will this make everybody laugh” type rather than the “Mom needs a new robe, and I think she’ll like this pink fuzzy one” idea.
For a simple example, if someone is decorating their new bathroom in the Yellow Rubber Ducky motif, they will receive red ducks with devil horns, or worse.
My sister, Barbie, has opened several obnoxious Barbie doll items, as you might expect.  The best one was the Christmas following a sibling houseboat trip at Lake Shasta several years ago.  One night on the boat, we decided to decorate ourselves and each other with glow in the dark paint and dance around with reckless abandon.  Adult beverages were involved, naturally.  (There is a video of this event somewhere, but no one will admit to having it.)  The next morning, Barb had permanent day-glo pink dots all over her legs.  It took several days of swimming and soapy showers to remove them.  Her Christmas Barbie, you guessed it, had pink dots up and down her long Barbie Doll legs.  This sent all of us into uproarious laughter.
On a Christmas spent in San Francisco, well first I’d better let you in on a family fact.  We are football fans.  Rabid football fans.  Unlike most closely knit families everyone here cheers for different teams.  Rob loves the Forty- Niners, Pegi loves the Dallas Cowboys, Martie loves the Green Bay Packers, to name a few.  Whenever any combination of these teams is playing the phone calls go back and forth delivering creative sarcastic remarks.  (A $5.00 bet was once paid off with five hundred pennies dumped all over the floor.
  One year, Rob took Pegi’s action figure of Troy Aikman off of her rear view mirror and bought it a tiny pink tutu and a feather boa and hung it on the tree.  On another Christmas, he bought a Forty-Niner cheerleading outfit for Martie’s four year old daughter and taught her to say, “Brett Favre is a pill-popping, crybaby monkey.”  Rob always wins the Sarcasm Award.  I taught him everything I know.
Martie received a practical gift one year after she had a slight altercation with our neighbors in “Darn Near Mexico” (Southern California).  See, these neighbors ran a swimming school in their back yard and sometimes they had reluctant students who sounded as if they were being pinched, bitten, and then drowned.  One morning Martie wasn’t in the mood for this, due to a slight case of PMS, and let them have some of their own medicine right back in the form of a radio station that specialized in Rap.
 This occurrence prompted Barb to find the perfect gift for her.  It was a CD with a wide variety of obnoxious noises for the purpose of annoying one’s neighbor.  It contained crying babies, arguing adults, and thunderous snoring and the like.  The best was two people engaging in a bit of noisy, amorous passion.  Upon hearing it, my three-year-old grandson said, “I know what they’re doing!”  Our surprised, gasping faces turned to him and he confidently said, “Pooping!”
Now what did I do with that catalog, “Gifts For The Inappropriate?”

Adult ADHD

Today I went to my little situation room to get my hammer to hang a great new piece of art that my friend, Duane sent.  My computer called me to it and I checked my email and then went to check the laundry.  I took the clothes out of the dryer so I could put the sheets into it.  I carried the load into the bedroom and folded a shirt.  I decided that I was hungry so I left the laundry and went to the kitchen and got out the cottage cheese.  Yes, I am, thank you.
 I opened the lid. Went to the cabinet to get myself a plate, noticed that some trim on a bowl I have been working on didn’t look right so I put the plate down and began to manipulate the stuff on the bowl.  A few minutes later I heard a plane in the distance and knowing it was about time for Rob to return from Half Moon Bay, where he went to get fresh crab, I went outside on the deck to look for him.  After a minute or so of watching the sky, I looked down and saw the container, in which I catch rainwater, for watering the plants and rinsing my hair.  I scooped up a bit and headed for my plants. 
The first one I came to had the bugs-that-make-the–white-cottony-looking-stuff-disease, so I headed for the bathroom to get alcohol and cotton to get them off.  While heading for the plant with the alcohol and cotton, I saw the laundry on the bed, which reminded me that I didn’t put the sheets in the dryer yet, and one thing that can turn Richard into a little whiney-pest boy is to not have the bed ready when he wants to get into it, so I put the sheets in the dryer, leaving the alcohol and cotton beside the hammer in the laundry room.  I went looking for my water when I found the cottage cheese sitting on the counter.
I am not making a word of this up.  It didn’t end there!  I’m just getting tired of reliving it!  I know someone has passed something familiar around on the Internet, but to me? It wasn’t funny.  This is my life.  Everyday.

Letter From Shasta College

A few days ago a Shasta College catalog came in the mail. 
Coincidentally I had been pondering the possibility of taking a class in pottery making.  I checked the catalog and found a beginning ceramics class.  What luck!
    I went to my computer to fill out the application form, thinking,
“My oh my!  The Internet has made so many things easier-for most people.”
On the school’s website, I got a questionnaire with multiple-choice answers.
My first choice to make was:

Am I still in high school?  Or
Have I attended college classes before? Or
Is this my first time to enroll in Shasta College?

OK, well, I am definitely not still in high school, and I have taken college classes before, but I am enrolling in this college for the first time.
Eenie meenie miney me, I think I’ll take choice number three.

Unfortunately, this choice generated instructions for me to attend orientation and matriculation.  (Matriculation?)  Then I needed to be assessed in math and English. 
Oh, no I don’t.
I ignored that part.
Next instruction: 
        Send high school transcript.
Since my high school was torn down about thirty years ago, I think I’ll ignore that part, too.

Next they requested that I write letters asking for any college transcripts I might have accumulated.   
This was getting confusing.  That’s too many letters to write for a fun class.
I skipped that part as well.
Next came the level of education question.  Didn’t I already answer this?  My choices were:
__Finished high school (Yes, During the Kennedy administration!)
__GED (Didn’t know this was an option at the time.)
__Some College (Yes, about 300 units!)
Since the technology wouldn’t let me elaborate, I chose the latter.

Now I found questions (still multiple choice) about my reasons for attempting to enroll in college.  My choices were something like:
__To further my career
__To learn new skills so I can leave my sorry job
__For professional growth
__I just got out of high school and don’t know what else to do.

No, I don’t want to do any of the above!  I only want to take the one class, just for fun!
As it turned out, after name and address none of the questions were answerable.

I needed a real person.
I called and got to speak to a sweet young voice that assured me that I could take the pottery class for fun.  I just needed to get a “Webadvisor” account on line.

So, I spent the next half-hour arguing with my computer screen and pounding on my keyboard, attempting to accidentally establish a webadvisor connection.

 (Let me interject here, that everything I accomplish on my computer, I do so by accident.)
Somewhere during my inexpedient floundering, I got an email from a guy at the school asking me if I needed help.  He was very polite.  He didn’t say, “What in heck are you trying to do, you cretinous schmendrick?” as I am sure he was thinking.

I dashed off the following return email.

Hi there,
What I want to do is enroll in Beginning Ceramics S2598.
What I did was attempt to apply for a webadvisor account.

Lynn Guinn & lguinn are taken, (Imagine! There’s another Lynn Guinn in these parts!) so I added #947 (my favorite flight, to Cancun, where I was wishing I could immediately be transported.), and the account was set.  When I tried to access this account to enroll in said ceramics class I got back that lguinn947 is not a valid user name.

I tried several times with several capitalization configurations, and
sometimes it liked my username but not my password, and sometimes it liked my password and not my user name!

I am sure it is I, who is bungling here, because computers never make mistakes.

Perhaps the system is annoyed with me because I do not want to follow all of the directions and send for the appropriate transcripts, but I am a 61 year old retired public school teacher with a masters degree and this procedure would require more letter writing and red tape than I wish to participate in.  I don't want to further my career; I don't want credit, or even a grade.  I simply want to play with clay.
Thank you for your help,
Lynn Guinn,
Confirmation number 1631-02006S-4-01085007-099634441-0745276358
(Quite an epic number, wouldn’t you say?)

The helpful guy gave me the tools I needed to enroll.  When I finally got through, I found that the twenty spaces in the class were filled and there were twenty-five more wishful artists on the waiting list.
I couldn’t help but think that when I began the process of enrollment there was plenty of room for me in the class, but by the time I actually applied, alas, the spaces were all filled.

I hope that by the fall semester the people at the college have realized they need more classes in clay.  I certainly hope I don’t forget my confirmation number.

The Memphis Library Caper

 I have previously written about my sister, Barbie, (or Barbara, as she is known to everyone else in the world.)  We couldn’t be more different.  She dresses like Barbara Walters.  I dress like Janis Joplin.  She likes beige.  I like sparkly, colorful, feather boa-type attire. While I am always a bubble off center, she is dead on.  She is acutely aware of everything going on around her and I am witlessly oblivious to my surroundings and therefore spend most of my life lost.
We do share a few things, though.  First there is this weird family we have the privilege to be members of.  We also share the same profession, and more importantly a love for adventure and travel.
 The summer before Katrina, we went to “Nawlins.” After we wore Bourbon Street out, we rented a car and drove up to Memphis.  We took with us a note from our Mama detailing the information that she needed for the book she is writing.  Her book is fiction, but she wants it to be historically accurate.

Her story revolves around our great grandfather, Patrick Egan who was a pressman for the Commercial Appeal Newspaper there in Memphis.  He invented the process to make colored funnies.  It was the process that was used until the eighties or early 90's. (You probably recall the way it colored the funnies just slightly out of the lines--not quite straight.)  We had heard the story about him and just wanted to see it in print.

   One of the things Mom wanted to know had to do with moving day of the Commercial Appeal immediately after the Civil War.  Specifically, what was the old building like?  Did it have a basement?  How many floors did it have? And so forth.

    Barb and I selected the microfilm from the appropriate drawer, labeled by date, and took it to the machine for viewing.  Neither of us had any experience with this sort of thing. We soon found Patrick's obituary.  It actually made my hair stand on end.  He was only 48 when he died in the flu epidemic of 1918.  The obit reported that he indeed invented the process for colorizing the Sunday funnies.  

    After we finished reading, we pushed the rewind button and the machine instantly went from zero to eighty and the reel flew off of the spindle and shot across the room. We have laughed at events far less funny than that, so naturally we began to giggle and snort.  If we hadn't been in a quiet environment we could have gotten ourselves under control easier, but, alas, we were hopelessly lost.  To us, the “laughter factor” is in direct ratio to the “solemn/quiet factor” of any given occasion.

We didn’t want to get kicked out without Mom’s info so we quit looking at each other and got the broken, leftover microfilm off the spindle and put it back in the box before we got caught.

Next we needed to find his death certificate because we wanted to learn his parents’ names.  A story about them had been told until it had become part of the family lore and we were anxious to put names to the story.  See, Patrick’s mama fell in love with a “shanty-boat-Irish man” whom her daddy deemed to be beneath her.  Daddy put her into a convent, but after midnight one night she climbed over the wall and ran off to America with the guy.  Barb and I blame her for most of our shenanigans.  We had her genes. We needed her name!

  The machine refused to cooperate with us now, so I waved for some assistance. 
Just as the librarian began walking toward us I glanced at Barbie, and drew in my breath!  There was a piece of the microfilm static clinging to the back of her arm evidencing that we had broken the film!   I whispered harshly out of the side of my mouth,
“Barb, Barb, Barb, Your arm!”  She grabbed it off and once more, we were rendered stupid.  I waved the helpful assistance away and told him we had figured it out. 

 When we were under control again we spent another blind quarter of an hour before we finally found out what we came for.
 It was Andrew and Mary who had the baby named Patrick. They were somewhere near Yazoo, Mississippi, still on the boat that was bringing them from Ireland to America. The boat had slipped in from the Gulf of Mexico and was heading up the Mississippi River. They weren’t to be married until they reached Memphis.

    When we were safely out of the library, the ever-alert Barbie told me that there were two women behind us talking about us in an unkind manner. 
One of them had said, "Wouldn't you like to go up there and just smack them?"  Then they had a little conversation about us being PROBABLY from the NORTH! 
They called us Yankees!!

Well, It's a good thing I didn't hear them!  They would have found out we were from a much worse place than Up North.

Barbie was holding her breath, hoping to get out of there without some sort of confrontation.  She hates a “scene.”  Although she rolls her eyes at the bubble I roll around in, she appreciates it for keeping us out of any hostile standoffs and possibly jail.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Vietnamese Children'sStories

“NO!” He said with a look of horror on his face. “Because then I think maybe I eat my aunt!”

My eleven-year-old student had just been telling me that he had caught a shark while fishing from the Huntington Beach pier the evening before.  I had asked him if he ate it for dinner.  I continued to look at him, his eyes wide and far away at the same time. 

“Do you want to tell me about this?”  I knew that many of the Vietnamese children had endured nightmarish events during their escape from their homeland after it had been taken over by communists.

“We are on boat.  Other boat come.  We think is good people but is bad people.  They take everybody watch and ring and necklace. Then take all lady and girl over to their boat.  They doing very bad thing.”  he said in a soft voice, now looking down at his toes.  “My aunt, she too much pride. She jump in water. Go down. Never come up.  I think a shark eat her.”
 Terrible things for a child to see.

The children told me many stories of their journeys out of their war–torn homeland.  Some were funny but most were horrifying.  The dignitaries were flown to safety in the United States, but the rest of the people were left to their own escape plans.  Many had to leave a family member imprisoned by the communists.  Pirates often assaulted the refugees in their inadequate boats on the open sea.  All of their stories had the element of waiting months and months in camps on various islands in the Pacific.
The following are a few of the conversations I had with my new little Americans.

“Mrs. Guinn, in Vietnam I have cow in my kitchen.”
My face registers surprise. 
“NO, no. It OK. We have hole in floor. Pour water on.  Everything go out.”

“You know how to catch monkey, Mrs. Guinn?”
“No, Sweetie, I don’t believe I do know how to catch a monkey.  Tell me.”
“OK. First you dig hole. Very deep. Then put stick and leaf on top.  Wait very quiet.  Monkey fall in. You put long stick in.  Monkey hold stick.  You catch.”
“I see. Then what do you do with the monkey after you catch it?”
“You cook. Eat. Is very good.”

“Mrs. Guinn, there are some word same in Vietnamese and English, too!
“Really!  What words are you talking about?”

“Pepsi!  Hotdog! Same in Vietnam!”

“One night we see lights and think is lands so we go to it, but it big Russian cargo ship!  It hit our boat and broke it, but Russian men all sleeping so they don’t get us and take us to prison.”

Later the broken boat limped into a Malaysian harbor.
“The people say we can’t stay, but they will take us to other place.  They tie rope on front of boat and pull us.  We happy because our boat motor can’t turn on.  They take us to middle of ocean and cut the rope.  They go away fast.”
“Oh my goodness!  Then what happened?” I asked.
“I can’t tell you, Mrs. Guinn.  It very bad.”

One sweet little girl told me that her boat came apart and she held on to a board and floated alone in the ocean for three nights before some men on a fishing boat rescued her.  She thinks she was five or six when it happened. 
She was taken to a relocation camp and five whole months later she miraculously found her mother alive, and in the same camp. 
“We run together.  We hug and hug and cry.”  she told me with tears in her eyes. 

“One night on the boat is very stormy.  All my rice come out.”

“I go with my uncle. Our boat go down and we have to go on other boat.  The man on other boat take us to Thailand.  We live there three month.  Then they take us to Philippines and we live there six month.  Finally I am in United State.  I hope my mother and sister can come.  My father is in the prison.”

“We are on plane and they give us orange.  We never have orange before.  My father say, ‘Watch the American. See how to eat it.’  Then we know, don’t eat the skins.”

“I see the lady on the airplane.  She have white arm and brown leg.  That the first time I see pantyhose.”

One morning a little girl named Mai (pronounced “My”) came to me and whispered shyly, “Yesterday, I became a citizen of United States.  My new American name is Cindy.”  I congratulated her and began to call her Mai Cindy to ease everyone into the midyear name change.  A few weeks later, I held up a sweater and asked the class, “Whose is this?”

An answer came from the back, “That’s your Cindy’s sweater!”
 I should have sent this story to the Reader’s Digest.

Teaching the English Language

Vietnamese Teaching Experience

Not long after the fall of Saigon I started my teaching career.  I had my credential and planned to substitute for a few years until I got my two children through junior high.  Like most plans go, mine changed sort of on their own.

It wasn’t long before I was drawn into a classroom full of sixth graders to go along with my sixth grade and eighth grade children at home.

Within two years I was scuttled over to a school smack in the middle of a settlement of newly relocated Vietnamese families.  That’s what happens to new teachers.  They get scuttled.  I started that new year with trepidation.

I knew nothing about these people and was given a crash course about their customs and their language, and tossed into the classroom.

Those. Children. Were. Brilliant.  They spoke haltingly, but they spoke English.  They had the most beautiful cursive handwriting.  They had stories.

Remember that iconic scene where people were being taken from a Vietnamese rooftop, into a helicopter?  Judging from one little guy’s story, he was one of those people. Let me tell you, I had trouble keeping up with those delightful little “Einsteins,” that year!

They were constantly teaching me about their country and how to say things in that impossible tonal language.  They would giggle at my every attempt.

They brought photographs to show me.  I stared at every detail in them.  Once I asked, “Who is this?” and pointed to a man in a picture. 
“Oh, that just a man my daddy work with.”

It was General Westmoreland.

I had to learn algebra all over again that year.  And Geometry!  How did I manage to get all the way through college without taking geometry?  I was one page ahead of them the whole year.

One fateful day a student wrote a spelling sentence about a right whale.  The spelling word was “right” and I was completely ignorant in whale-ology. 
“What do you mean right whale?” I said, thinking this was a language thing.
When he insisted that there was a right whale, I asked, stupidly digging myself further into my self made trap of ignorance,
 “Oh, and is there a Left Whale, too?”  Then not appearing stupid enough, I vowed that I’d eat my hat if there were actually a Right Whale.

The next day I brought in a cake made in the shape of a straw hat with a sassy plaid band around the brim.  We all ate my hat.  Mine tasted like crow. 

There is one more thing I learned during the years I spent teaching in this community.  English is a helter-skelter, carelessly thrown-together language. 

Oh, it is colorful, and there are a plethora of words that mean almost the same thing, for one to choose from in order to precisely convey the feeling you are attempting to portray, but seriously, People, someone needs to clean it up a bit.

Vietnamese has no tenses.  It has no plurals.  They simply say, “Yesterday we go… or tomorrow we go…”
They say, “One tree, Two tree, or Three tree.”  Simple. Concise. Efficient.

Imagine how many conversations (arguments) I had to have concerning each of these subjects. 
“Well yes, you do add ‘ed’ to make it past tense, but not ‘Putted.’  You just say, ‘I put it there before recess,’ not ‘I putted it there before recess.’ These are called irregular verbs because they are, well…, not regular.”
Each of these aberrations had to be thoroughly debated, probably due to the trust level over the Right Whale Debacle.

Then there was the “add ‘s’ to make it plural.”  Except for a whole bunch of other times when you don’t!  You’ll need to add “es” or “ies,” to some words.  And then there are deer and fish to deal with. 

I was afraid to bring up, “feet and teeth!”

They also wanted precise spelling rules.  Well, in a language where “sh” can be spelled nine different ways, there is no hope for precise.

(Oh, yes it can. There’s sugar, mission, anxious, ocean, motion luxury, tension, conscious, and machine-and probably more!)
Think about the “oo” sound in moon, and look.
Comb and bomb should rhyme, shouldn’t they?

I finally made up a story to explain how English got so messed up:

See, there were these old monks wearing wool robes tied with ropes, even when the weather was really hot.  These grouchy old monks hated children, and wanted to do something to make their lives miserable in a way that wouldn’t get them into trouble, their being monks and all. 

So they decided, as they were transcribing things into the English language, that they would make the spelling so convoluted that no kid would ever be able to figure words out on their own.

Then waving my arms about dramatically, I acted out how they said things like, “I know!  Let’s spell Christmas with a Ch instead of a K like it sounds!   Bwahhahahahah!”  And, “Let’s spell exact with an‘x’ instead of EGG-zact like it sounds!  Hah!  That will get them!”

I told this story for twenty-five years.  Year after year when we’d come to why tomb and bomb didn’t sound alike, and why there was no ‘j’ in soldier the kids would say, “It was those monks, huh.”

Coming next:  Stories (told to me by Vietnamese children over the years) that will make your hair stand on end.
    “What are you thankful for, Mrs. Guinn?” Asked the roving reporter for the school newspaper.
“June, July, and August.” I quickly replied.

Imagine my chagrin when the Thanksgiving edition of the paper came out and I found that all of my co-workers had the foresight to answer in a more teacherly way with sanctimonious answers such as,

“I’m thankful for my wonderful class filled with perfect students who always do their homework and never get in trouble on the playground for chasing squealing girls around with a dog poop covered twig.”

With that in mind, I present my list of;

 Things I Am Thankful For:
OK, of course I am thankful for my family and friends.  Isn’t everyone?  Oh, wait a minute.  I do know a couple of people who aren’t that thankful for their families, but, well, we won’t go into that.  It’s the holiday season after all.

I’m thankful for TiVo, having the ways and means to travel, show tunes, the commercials during the Superbowl, daffodils, hardware stores, the songs of Leonard Cohen, home grown tomatoes, feather boas, puppies and babies, (in that order), digital everything, spinach salad, John Irving’s books, choirs singing, caller ID, changing seasons, convertibles, (although I crashed mine and had to get a sensible car), loopity-loop roller coasters, tap-dancing, (The sound of someone saying “5, 6, 7, 8!” Just gets me going.), butter,, and my computer, which allows me to accidentally do so many things.  (As I have stated before, everything new I do on a computer is by accident.)

Even though a husband comes under the heading of family, mine needs a special paragraph when it comes to the thankful agenda.
I am thankful that he takes care of me, and as we all know, I definitely need taking care of.  I have noticed that when couples are on cruises, while waiting in the holding center for off-ship excursions, the one holding the tickets is the caretaker of the duo.  I NEVER hold the tickets.  I wonder what happens if two people who need watching after get married.  Do they wander in some foreign country, lost, and wondering where their passports went?
 I am thankful for the financial decisions that he made over my protests.  We don’t have to depend solely on our teacher’s retirement because he didn’t listen to me.  (I didn’t think I was ever going to be this old.) 
(Actually, I still don’t think I am.)
I am thankful that he has always given me things I ask for.  I am also thankful that he doesn’t ask me why I never practice playing that guitar that I wanted and he got for me.  
I am thankful that he always reminds me to bring a jacket, wear the right shoes, and not to leave my purse anywhere, even though it sounds as if he’s being such a father.  He’s a good man.
I’m thankful that he always has my ticket.