On Dasher! On Dancer!

3:45 pm, Ridgecrest Walmart

Gayla (Casually fingering a cream colored sweater decorated with a metallic fingernail moon and a Santa in his sleigh, with the reindeer taking flight, all in black silhouette):  This is kinda classy, for a Christmas sweater.

Laura:  I hope you never wear that.

Without missing a beat Gayla and Laura keep walking and exit the store. 

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Stipulated Snippets

Recently I was nonplussed to find out that the word nonplussed does not mean what I always and forever thought it meant. I used it in a blog post, and had a nagging feeling in the back of my mind that I should look it up. I went ahead and published my post and let it be. A day or two later I thought I’d better go ahead and look it up, and lo and behold!  It does not mean unruffled, calm, unagitated–it’s almost the opposite!  It means perplexed, disconcerted, puzzled.

This discovery led to another discovery–the hot word, the dictionary.com blog:  “What’s the Mistake That Gave Turkey the Bird The Same Name As Turkey The Nation?”  and “Is ‘Ironic’ the Most Abused Word In The English Language?”

That same day encouragement came from the most unexpected place.  Tori said, “Gayla, The Charlie Daniels Band posted this on their facebook page (I did not know that Tori likes The Charlie Daniels Band or that he was fb friends with them; as far as I can remember, we have never in all the years we have been married had a conversation about them):  ‘My soul finds its rest in God alone; my salvation comes from Him.   He alone is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will never by shaken.’  Psalm 62:  1-2.”   Exactly what I needed at that moment.

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Ridgecrest Diaries #3

There is one Taco Bell in Ridgecrest.  It is near the edge of town at the north end of the main drag.  If you are coming into town from the north, it is the first fast food establishment you will see.  Two things stand out in my mind about this place:  the architecture and landscaping, and the service.

This is the largest and the most modern Taco Bell I have ever seen.  Gone is the small Spanish style place reminiscent of a California Mission, arches and all.  Well, ok, Taco Bells haven’t looked like that since I was in high school and ditched school for a Taco Bell run and Chinese fire drills.  Anyway, this Taco Bell is huge (as far as a fast food restaurant goes) with a spacious parking lot and impeccable desert landscaping.  It is all very pleasing to the eye.  Landscaping!  This place actually has landscaping, with indigenous plants that require very little water, and none of them look like cactus.

The service today was outstanding.  The woman who took our money was personable and genuinely friendly.  Tori warned her before he gave her our money that there was a LOT of change, and she was unruffled and gracious.  The woman who handed Tori my taco and creme fruitista was equally friendly.  I thought back to the summer, when it was triple digit heat, and it seemed like everyone in town had the same idea–lunch at Taco Bell.  The young man who waited on me went the extra mile –I don’t remember exactly what it was, but I remember how hot and crowded it was and that he went out of his way for me.  Hmm. . .

I like this place.  And the frozen strawberry lemonade as well.

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Gayle and Gayla

Approximately 4:00 pm, November 13, 2012

Gayle: There is a pair of glasses here I think you might want.

Gayla: (Had been squinting at the computer screen for about an hour) You’re a genius!

Gayle: I was born that way.

Gayla: All Swingrovers are born that way, aren’t they?

Gayle: Yeah they are. Just ask them.

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Ridgecrest Diaries #2

Every day for the first two weeks in Ridgecrest I would wake up early, put on my glasses, wrap a blanket around me and go sit outside for awhile. Gayle and Euva’s place faces east, and I would sit just outside the front door facing the morning sky.  There are no buildings for miles in that direction, just desert scrub brush.

I understand, now, why photographers and painters love to work in the early morning light.  It’s fresh and new and beautiful.  The miles of desert stretching out before me, the clear, crisp desert sky, and the mountains circling the desert . . . the morning light. . . all are refreshment to my soul.

It is silent and blessedly quiet, allowing me to hear what is going on.  There are doves cooing.  There is a rooster in the neighborhood who never quite finishes crowing.  Every day I wait for him to finish, but he never does.  There are cotton tail rabbits who haven’t yet left the yard.  There are crows and sparrows and many other varieties of birds.  Who knows how many?  They are all so busy in the morning!  There are peacocks across the road and down aways, who make such a strange noise.  One day I heard a turkey! (Whose presence in the neighborhood has since been corroborated.) There are desert chipmunks who are the exact color of the sandy ground.  (I think they are called ground squirrels, but desert chipmunks is much more picturesque).  They like to hang out in the tangle of old, dried out cactus and leaves near the fence, and occasionally they’ll run across to the  pistachio orchard across the road to the south. 

It is amazing what you can hear in the silence.

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Brain Fog, Carrot Cake, and A Notebook

Yesterday I had a mild case of brain fog.  Wikipedia describes it as “a subjective sensation of mental clouding described as feeling ‘foggy’.”  That’s exactly what it is.  Fortunately, not a lot was required of me yesterday.

Two days before was Tori’s birthday.  I had volunteered to make him a carrot cake, and he happily accepted my offer.  This is the Queen of Carrot Cakes–the recipe published in The Silver Palate Cookbook by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins.  People have been known to accept dinner invitations just because they know this cake will be served for dessert.  Instead of raw, grated carrots this calls for freshly cooked, pureed carrots.  Then everything  good that can possibly go into a carrot cake goes into it as well.  The frosting is equally as exquisite.  Because I love Tori, I made the cake with regular all-purpose flour (warning!  Contains gluten!)

When it was time to serve the cake, I was tired, and my resolve was weak. That cake was right under my nose, and it was calling to me.  I have been diligent in abstaining from gluten, so I have been doing well.  I forgot that in addition to fibromyalgia pain, for me gluten also causes sleepiness and mental fogginess.  What was I thinking??  I ate a piece.  I may or  may not have eaten a piece the next day.  I enjoyed every bite.  I cannot tell a lie.  

That evening, no pain.  I would not have admitted it, even if there had been pain. (I was prepared, baby.  Stoic.  That was going to be me.)  The next day, no pain.

However, yesterday morning I noticed I was not real sharp, mentally speaking.  By early afternoon I knew I was not destined to  do anything that required a sharp mental focus.  I did, however, remember to ask Tori to pick up one of those composition notebooks for me at the dollar store.   In my mildly foggy state this seemed like a minor win.    Before we went to bed I happened to ask Tori what our new congressional district is.  Within a matter of minutes I not only had the congressional district, I had the names of our congressman, state assembly person and district, state senator and district, and county supervisor and district.  I even had the presence of mind to grab a pen and write all of this down in the notebook.  When I am ready to contact them it will be easy to find contact information.  I am surprised and thankful that I remembered to 1) ask for the notebook, and 2) get the names and actually write them down.

All of this was a reminder, in the words of our old friend Han Solo:  “Don’t get complacent, kid!”  Oh, wait. . .


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Of Thee I Sing

The past few years the topic of American Exceptionalism has been tossed around quite a bit. So much so, and in so many different ways, that I began to wonder: exactly what is American Exceptionalism? (Eighth grade constitition class was a long time ago, after all.)  Is it “I love me, I think I’m grand, at the show I hold my hand”?  I was pretty sure that wasn’t it. 

I don’t know how , or what it was that caused the light bulb to go on, but it finally clicked in my brain.  It goes all the way back to the Declaration of Independence:  “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.  That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”  That’s it right there.

Dictionary.com defines unalienable as:  not transferable to another or capable of being repudiated.  Synonyms are: invioable, absolute, unassailable, inherent.  These rights can never be taken away from us, nor can we give them up.  They are not bestowed upon us by other men or any human institution.  They come directly from our Creator.

A slogan of the Revolutionary War  was “We recognize no Sovereign but God and no King but Jesus.”  There was to be no soverereign nation or monarch over our nation or government.  The war was fought so that we would not be beholden to any earthly power, and to place political power in the hands of the people.  This is what was so revolutionary.

James Spalding, PhD., in Why Is America Exceptional?  (Heritage.org) puts it like this:  “Working from the principle of equality, the American Founders asserted that men could govern themselves according to common beliefs and the rule of law. Throughout history, political power was—and still is—often held by the strongest. But if all are equal and have the same rights, then no one is fit by nature to rule or to be ruled.”

Harry Truman , Oct. 26, 1948:  “Being an American is more than a matter of where you or your parents came from. It is a belief that all men are created free and equal.”

It is because of these principles that America has the ability to self-correct.  It is why, throughout our history, we have asked God to bless America–so that we could continue to live in a country that has allowed Americans to be as ordinary or as exceptional as we choose to be.

God bless America.

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That Magical Place

What was it that made my parent’s house so magical to their grandchildren?  I remember being there once when Jenny was around six months old.  Jenny was a beautiful baby, and that day she was wearing a pretty, pastel baby overalls outfit.  In my Mom’s family was a small, white, wooden baby bed on wheels that was passed around to whoever currently needed it, and my Mom had it for Vanessa and now for Jenny.  It was only big enough for babies up to about 6-9 months.  It was in the living room.  Jenny was fussy, and I really didn’t know what to do.  My Mom very calmly put Jenny down in that bed, gently patted her on the back and Jenny went right to sleep!  I was astonished. 

Another time, when Louis was about 4, my Dad bought a scooter, just Louis’ size, at a garage sale for a pittance.  However, Daddy ended up having to spend quite a bit more money in order to make it rideable.  I was dismayed; the whole point was that it had not cost very much.  I remember Daddy, with such a contented and happy look on his face, said “sometimes you can’t put a price on things.”

I remember Louis rescuing my Aunt Mart, my Mom’s beloved only sister (and my beloved Aunt).  Aunt Mart was 11 years older than my Mother.  Her skin was paper thin.  She fell in the kitchen, and Louis was there immediately to help her up.  When he saw that her arm was bleeding, he went and got a band-aid and put it on her arm with such care and tenderness.  Louis could not have been more than 10?  From then on, Louis was a hero to Aunt Mart.  She was so impressed with the way he responded to her fall.

I remember Laura, at one year old, wearing one of Louis’ polo shirts like a dress, being caught in the bathroom having unrolled almost an entire roll of toilet paper.  She had unrolled it and was standing in the middle of the room when she was discovered, as if she was planning on making her exit with it.  We have a picture of this somewhere.  She is wearing the exact same expression as me in one of my one year pictures at MY grandma’s house.  Except that I was wearing a dress and sitting on an overstuffed chair.

I remember all three children loving those Dr. Seuss books, and insisting on reading them before they went to sleep.  These weren’t learn to read Dr. Seuss books; they were a boxed set with real stories.  There were waffles, made to order, for breakfast, with fruit flavored yogurt to spread on top or syrup if that was preferred.

I remember Jenny playfully making small, sharp marks with crayons all over the picture she was drawing.  It must have been a holiday, because Chris was there, and he asked her, “What are you drawing?”  Jenny happily answered, “Dohchies and dornies!” 

There were cousins to play with, doting aunts and uncles and occasionally equally doting great aunts and uncles.  In and around and undergirding all of this was kindness, grace, and genuine nurturing.  Oh yeah, and a lot of common sense.

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Leaving On A Jet Plane

Tonight on The Amazing Race there was a glimpse of the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, then the camera panned the spice market.  Wow.  I’ve never particularly wanted to go to Turkey, but seeing these places on TV tonight made me want to go there.  It was such a strong reaction that it took me by surprise.  Then my thoughts jumped to the few minutes of a PBS travel show on London I saw last week.  I have always wanted to go to London, and this refreshed and strengthened that desire.  Then there’s Hawaii. . .easily accessible, no passport required.  There’s a reason Hawaii is sometimes referred to as paradise.

However, on September 15, 2009, my world was forever changed.  If  I could get on a plane tomorrow  and go anywhere in the world, I would go see Soren and B.

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Today’s writing prompt at The One Minute Writer (oneminutewriter.blogspot.com) is wind. I immediately thought of the two pine trees in front of Gayle and Euva’s place, as well as the pine tree for which our current residence, Leaning Pine, is named.  In the 70’s it was popular to buy a live tree to decorate at Christmas. The desert town of Ridgecrest is now graced with lit’rilly hundreds of pine trees.

Years ago Gayle and Euva had a Winnebago motor home.  Jenny, Louis and Laura thought the Winnebago was simnply the coolest vehicle ever.  (The Winnebago retained this distinction until they were allowed to ride the quad atvs.  Poor Winnebago.)  Once all five of us went with Gayle and Euva and the Winnebago to the mountains for a picnic.  I don’t  remember the location or the year.  My guess is that Laura was about 4, which would mean that Jenny was around 11 and Louis was 7 or 8.  When we settled down for our picnic, all three children ran off to play.  Jenny and Louis were happily playing in the clear, cool, creek, walking and skipping on the large stones that lined the bottom of the shallow creekbed.  Laura ran back to the adults, took me aside and got right in my face:  “What’s that noise?”  I listened carefully.  “Laura, that is the sound of the wind in the trees.  We don’t hear that sound at home.”  Satisfied, Laura ran off to play with her sister and brother.

Euva’s live Christmas trees have grown to immense proportions.  The desert is windy.  It took writing this blog post up to this point for me to realize–if it weren’t for the obnoxious desert wind, we would not get to hear that unique, lovely, noise.

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