Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Perfect weather, wonderful zoo: Part One

I've been dying to see the new polar bear exhibit at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. Named Polar Frontier, the exhibit contains twin-sister polar bears, Alaska brown bears (who were moved from the North America section of the zoo) and Arctic foxes.

One of two Alaska brown bears, named Brutus and Buckeye. They were orphaned as young cubs when a farmer mistakenly shot their mother after being threatened by her. He felt so badly that he searched the area until he rescued the cubs and brought them to the nearest rescue facility.

The Arctic foxes were such a blur of motion, playing and chasing each other, that all I got was a blur!

Anana, the pretty


The polar bears' new home includes a 1.32-acre yard with two pools, smell ports, dig pits and shelters. A 167,000-gallon pool allows visitors to view the bears from above, at eye-level, and below. The other pool is a surge pool with a tidal effect, providing enrichment with various depths and moving water. The zoo spared no expense in building this exhibit, costing 20 million dollars. Judging from the crowds they've been experiencing since the opening in early May, they should see a return on their investment very soon! Zoo officials hope to add a male bear in the future. Keeping my fingers crossed for polar bear cubs!

These girls, Anana (an Inuit word meaning "pretty") and Aurora (named for the aurora borealis), are only three years old. They were born at the Toledo Zoo and housed for two years at the Pittsburgh Zoo. They came to live in their new environment in late February.

Although we had to view them from behind glass, it didn't take away from their awesome beauty.

There is also an interpretive center which focuses on conservation and the global climate change that has resulted in a loss of habitat for these wonderful animals. There are lots of hands-on activities for children and adults alike. The building is designed to resemble a rustic Alaska town.

Thomas Alva Edison was promoting conservation and solar energy in his day. Why didn't we listen to him then? 

"I'd put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don't have to wait till oil and coal run out before we tackle that."

We all know that glaciers around the world are disappearing at an alarming rate due to global climate change. This photo illustrates the dramatic difference.

Tomorrow, Part Two: What's happening elsewhere at the Columbus Zoo.

This post has been featured as a Travel Gem on Uptake.

Monday, June 28, 2010

You go for it, Girl!

It's been a while since I participated in The Bumbles' Monday Movie Meme. This week's theme is take-charge movie heroines...the ones who save the day, who change what's wrong into something very right. I loves me some powerful women, especially when the characters are based on the real thing. These ladies are the real thing.

Meryl Streep as Karen Silkwood in Silkwood (1983). This movie was based on the true story of Karen Silkwood, a metallurgist in a plutonium factory, who was purposely contaminated with radioactive material, psychologically tortured and most likely killed, to prevent her from exposing blatant worker safety violations. It was nominated for five Oscars and five Golden Globes. Cher won a best supporting actress Golden Globe for her portrayal as Karen's friend Dolly. Kurt Russell also starred. Co-written by Nora Ephron and directed by Mike Nichols.

The decontamination shower scene gets me every time.

Julia Roberts as Erin Brockovich (2000). Also based on a true story. Erin Brockovich stumbles into a legal assistant position at a going-broke law firm run by Ed Masry (an excellent Albert Finney). She also stumbles onto incriminating information that a large California power company is polluting the city's water supply and ultimately brings the company to its knees. The film was nominated for a slew of awards (42), both in the U.S. and abroad. Julia Roberts won an Oscar and a Golden Globe for best actress. Steven Soderbergh directed. Little known fact: Danny deVito was Executive Producer.

Sally Field as Norma Rae (1979)Sally Field won seven best actress awards, including an Oscar, a Golden Globe and the Cannes Film Festival, for her portrayal of Norma Rae. Norma was an operator in a southern textile mill, working in deplorable conditions under hostile management, hostile mill owners, and even some of her co-workers who didn't want to lose their jobs. When a union organizer (Ron Leibman) comes to town, Norma sees an opportunity to do something worthwhile with her life and joins up with him.

Honorable mention: fictional characters.

Renee Zelwegger as Ruby Thewes in Cold Mountain (2003)
Jane Fonda as Kimberly Welles in The China Syndrome (1979)
Jodie Foster in Flightplan (2005), Panic Room (2002), The Brave One (2007)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Six Word Sunday

In the tradition of Ernest Hemingway, who was once challenged to write a short story in six words.
His six-word story was:  "For sale: baby shoes, never worn."

Each week I will choose a theme. It is your mission, if you choose to accept it, to meet that challenge in six words; no more, no less.
If you like, you may illustrate with a photo, or not.
Punctuation will be your biggest ally.

If you decide to play, please link back to this post, and leave the link to your post in comments here.
If you don't want to create your own post, you can write your six word story in my comments.

The Theme:
The Gulf Oil Spill

Pristine beaches decimated for greed. Damn.

Thank you for playing.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

I have a surprise for you

Starting tomorrow, I will be featuring a weekly challenge to be posted at 12:01 a.m.  Tune in and have some fun with it.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

From my garden

I just finished picking green beans from my garden. My preference is the Tenderette variety. It's an old-fashioned one that seems to have gone out of fashion in recent years. Most of the gardeners in my family prefer half-runners or Kentucky wonders or pole beans. All I can say to that is strings, strings, and more strings. Tenderettes are a stringless bush variety, and they are truly stringless and truly tender, even when they are a little overgrown. It happens. You pick and then you go back in a couple of days to pick some more and realize by the 8-inch-long bean that you missed that one, and that one over there. Why can't beans be a different color than the leaves and stems? They're so hard to see.

Picking beans is a back-breaking job, but it's worth it when you put that first forkful of tender, tasty beanness in your mouth. The tenderettes cook quickly, too, so you don't have to wait long to take a bite. They're also very easy to clean. Just snap off the stem end and break to your desired length, or not at all, if that's the way you like to serve them.

Here's a hint for picking:  don't just pull the bean off willy-nilly. It's best to use two hands, using one to hold the stem and the other to break off the bean right above the stem end or cap. If you leave part of the bean behind, it will keep on growing and the nutrients from the soil will be diverted from the whole unfinished beans. The main stems are also very brittle and break easily. It makes me so mad when I break part of one with new little beans just starting to grow.

This year I'm keeping a daily tally of how much produce I've harvested and will add it all up at the end of the growing season. I was inspired by an article in Mother Earth News about growing $700 worth of food in a 100-square-foot space. I had never kept a log of our produce, and we're hoping for a larger yield this year because of the added raised beds and improved soil. I have everything down and will report at summer's end. So far, I've harvested 3 1/4 pounds green beans (among other things) in two pickings. In my part of the country, we call one picking a "mess". As in, I picked me a mess of green beans today. That there is country talkin', my friends.

To the right of the green beans in the picture is sage. If you have never grown sage, then stick some in the ground, because it is virtually foolproof. It will grow in the poorest soil, but, of course, it will grow better in amended soil. I grow it because there is nothing like homegrown, dried sage in your Thanksgiving dressing (stuffing for you cityfolk). I also grow it because my mom always had a big patch of it in her garden. She passed away in 1987 and I still have the last jar she gave me. I couldn't bear to use it all.

Now, I will make an offer that you can't resist. If anyone who isn't growing their own sage would like enough to season your holiday stuffing this year, just let me know in comments, and I will send you some after it's dried.

This picture is one "mess" of Swiss chard that I've grown this year. It has been bountiful in a space about 4 ft. by 4-ft.  I've harvested approximately 4 pounds and there is probably another pound to pick, but it's getting pretty buggy and the heat is starting to affect the taste.

We love chard. It is so easy to prepare. First, you must wash it thoroughly, changing the water a couple of times. (And don't waste that water...use it water your outdoor plants!)  Then all you need to do is rough-chop it horizontally, stems and all, and throw it in a large pan with a little water, minced garlic (optional), olive oil and salt and cover and steam until tender. Its taste is earthy, like a cross between kale and spinach. And like those two vegetables, it cooks waaaaay down. You start out with what you think is a vast amount, and it ends up with two people fighting over the little dish full. So always cook a lot more than you think you can use. I was excited about my crop this year, because it included yellow-stems among the red ones. It doesn't take much to get me excited about good food.

And finally, something I will be adding on a regular basis.


Too small for a post...too good to pass up.

I want to tell you how much I love my new office chair, but first I have to tell you about the old, nay, ancient one that was a castoff from friends departing for southern climes. It was old when we gladly received it five years ago. It finally fell completely apart a couple of weeks ago, literally, while I was sitting in it. Then I have to tell you that the first chair I brought home gave me no love whatsoever. I chose a fabric one, because I didn't want more leather for the cats to de-leatherize, and the helpful salesboy swore that he had the very same one at home and loved, loved, loved it. And I was trying to cheap out with a 20% discount on the one that someone had returned just a few days earlier. It was already assembled and Husband was out of town.

I soon found out why said person had returned it. The seat felt as if it were tilted slightly forward, just enough to make me feel like I was falling out of it, the arms were not adjustable (which I need for the carpal tunnel) and the fabric felt as if it were burning acid into my bare legs when I was wearing shorts, which is my uniform in the summer. The store has a 30-day, no-questions-asked return policy, so after a week of being uncomfortable and with the ad that came out in Sunday's paper proclaiming that the chair I should have bought was now on sale for $70 less in my hand, I dragged the thing back to the store. (I'm sure there were some syntax rules broken in that sentence.)

After receiving my refund slip, I headed to the back of the store straight to my new chair, sat in it, and fell in love all over again. How do I love it? Let me count the ways:

1. The seat height adjusts really high. (I have my computer in a former entertainment center, so looking up at the monitor with my bifocally lenses was giving me headaches and a crick in my neck.

2. The seat back adjusts for lumbar support, angle and height. Awesome.

3. It's nice and big for my big butt that's getting bigger, because of sitting in front of the computer for hours writing posts. But at least now I'm comfortably fat.

4. As you can see in the picture, the feet have nice little texturized rubber things on which I can rest my bare feet without them sliding off every second.

5. The arms adjust up and down and back and forth.

6. And, last but not least, memory foam...need I say more?

Enough about the chair. I'll leave you with a really sweet picture of Sassy and Frankie showing each other some sleepy love.

If you want to see Frankie's identical twin, go to Natalie's Chicken Blog in the backlink below (or just click on the name here).

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Susan's Helpful Hints

Having lived 57 years and being married for almost 38 of those years, I've learned a few things about things around the house.

  1. Do your top sheets pull loose during the night from all that tossing and turning you do?  I like to tuck only the corners of my top sheets so my toesies can feel a little freedom and yet my hubby can't steal all the covers. To keep them tucked, tie a knot in both bottom corners and then tuck. Just don't forget to untie before you wash them. They don't dry very well in knots!
  2. Are you plagued with ticks as we are? One morning my white cat Frankie came into the house with a total of nine ticks on him! Needless to say, I went straight to the pet store and purchased enough Frontline to send their stock up about three digits! I still find them hitching a ride on the cats and the dog and I'll find them crawling up a wall or on a piece of furniture. The easiest way to pick them up is a piece of tape. Just stick it on the tick and wrap it up like a little package and the nasty tick dies a slow death, which, in my opinion, is well-deserved.
  3. Does your large carton of yogurt or sour cream weep and cry with the indignity of having a spoon thrust into its innards, leaving huge craters behind? Well, weep no more, sweet yogurt! Just tell those thoughtless users to take that spoon and smooth the top just like a baby's bottom and your whey will no longer separate from your curd. Where's that Miss Muffet when you need her?
  4. Are you lucky enough to own a salad spinner? I have an Oxo brand one that is indispensable in my kitchen. If you don't have one, and have no plans for a future purchase, here's a handy-dandy little trick. You know those nice net bags in which lemons come packaged? Save those little beauties, and do what I did before I bought the spinner. Put your freshly cut and rinsed greens into one, step outside and whirl your arm like a ferris wheel a few times. Not only do you spin the water out of your romaine, but you also get a little exercise and entertain the neighbors who are relaxing on their patios and just hoping for a distraction from the ho-hum of their day.
  5. When you bring that bag of uncut greens home from the grocery, don't just put it away in the bowels of the fridge to be discovered a week later, limp and dreary. Take a few seconds to remove it from its original packaging or produce bag and give it a quick rinse. Then wrap it in a large muslin or linen tea towel and return it to the produce bag for storing in the fridge. It stays fresh much longer, and will be nice and crisp when you bring it out in a day or two.
  6. If you're like a lot of people who are trying to use vinegar to replace toxic cleaning chemicals in their homes, here's a tidbit you may not know. Some white vinegars are made from petroleum (crude oil)! Yikes! Be sure to check the label to see if it is made from corn and not petroleum.
  7. Speaking of vinegar, did you know that apple cider vinegar is one of the best treatments for a bad sunburn. Pour about a gallon into the bathtub and add tepid water. Climb in (you might want to wear noseclips for this step) and just start sponging that vinegary solution onto the red skin parts over and over until you turn good and pruney. It really is a cheap, effective sunburn remedy.
  8. When it comes to burns in the kitchen, there's always ice and there's aloe, but did you know that honey also soothes first-degree burns? Plus, you can lick your fingers afterwards.
  9. Ouch! I was walking home to show my little bumblebee to my mommy and I just up and decided to squish it up in my hands...and you know what, that bumblebee stung me! And you know what my mommy did? She made a paste out of meat tenderizer (unseasoned) and a drop or two of water and rubbed and rubbed that into my sting and the pain just went away in a few minutes. Isn't my mommy smart? Next time, though, I think I'll just bring her some pretty flowers...but first I'll check for bees.
That's all for today, friends. Did you know any of these? Kudos if you did!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Where in the world is Susan?

I'll bet someone back east is going, "Now why don't (s)he write?"  (from Dances with Wolves when Timmons sees the skeleton alongside the wagon trail)

Where the heck have I been? Well, friends, I've been busier than a one-armed paperhanger with the itch. That last post nearly did me in with editing and rewrites...I felt as if I were writing the Great American Novel. Then there was a guest for a couple of days, so there was the cleaning and cooking in preparation for that.
Mark, David, Rene', and Pam...cowpokes extraordinaire!

My guest was hubby's cousin Rene', who is a year older than I am. She and David and her sister Pam, and brother Mark were really close when they were growing up. David was like their big brother. We hadn't really talked in years and, honestly, she and I didn't know a thing about each other except what we knew from other family members. And a lot of what we knew was incorrect.

We found out we had a ton of things in common, and we talked and laughed nonstop the first afternoon and evening for about ten hours! As soon as Rene' came downstairs the next morning, the first words that popped out of her mouth were, "Where did we leave off?"  So, we talked for another four or five hours until she had to leave for home. Thankfully, she and her husband only live a couple of hours away and we're planning on many more visits.

Lunchtime with the Cubbies

As soon as Rene' left, I plunged into Cub Scout Day Camp, helping herd vast numbers (well, it seemed like it) of six, seven, and eight-year-old boys through the rigors of such activities as cornhole games, whiffle ball, BB and bow and arrow target shooting, obstacle courses, craft-making, baking oatmeal cookies in an aluminum-foil-lined box in the sun (it really works!), etc. I only participated for two of the four days, but it felt like ten! Poor Nathan was so exhausted from traipsing around camp in the summer sun from 8:30 until 3:30 for three days that he missed the last day. I knew exactly how he felt. Of course, there's always cleanup duty, so today I went back to help load the enormous amount of gear and supplies that it takes to run such an event. I never knew you could get that much stuff into one van!

Nathan at lunch

Gaige shooting the bow and racing to the finish in the foam boat regatta.

While I was there, Michelle (the Cubmaster) convinced me to take on the task of being the Trail's End popcorn sales coordinator for next year. I'm sure you've all been accosted at some point in your life by a cherub-faced Cubbie asking you to buy some popcorn. It is the only Cub Scout fund-raising event for the entire year. It is a worthwhile cause, and it helps make a lot of little boys happy by paying for such things as day camps and overnight camps and field trips, awards and patches for their achievements.

Then there is the gardening which is now becoming very time-consuming, as it usually is this time of year. The weeds are sprouting and growing like crazy, and we're starting to harvest a few things. I've pulled up all my garlic and got quite a bit for such a small space. I'm drying it for a few days before I braid it together for storage. There is nothing like garlic that you grow yourself. Today I also harvested turnips, onions, a few beans and peas and some herbs. I'm going to have a LOT of green beans to pick on Monday. A few days ago, I finally got tired of fighting the cabbage worms and picked my cabbages, even though they weren't yet full size. Better small than not at all, I suppose. 

 I used to think those little cabbage white butterflies were so pretty...not any more! Now they're my sworn enemies!!!

Along with the activities listed, I managed to squeeze in an overnight with a couple of grandkids, and several hours here and there of watching the other ones.

My writing and photography brain just isn't up to speed when I'm extra busy, and something has to suffer, so in this case it was my blog. I've also neglected a few of you and have not left comments as often as I would like, and I am sorry for that. But now that things are mostly back to normal, hopefully I will think of something interesting to write about in the coming weeks and be back to visiting all my friends and exchanging witty repartee with each and every one of you.  

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Calling all.....

....Debs, Debbies, Deborahs, Debras. Wowza! There are a lot of you out there in my little blog-o-sphere! You know who you are. There's the one who was displaced from one coast to another....oh, yeah, and she also has another one. There's the one who lives in a sweet little cottage. There's one who looks out her window and tells us about her world. There's the one who lives her life in two different countries. And the newest one to join my bloglist is this one who lives in the next county and writes about food and her little five-acre farm. Debbie Reynolds must have inspired a lot of mothers-to-be in the fifties and sixties. Or it could have been Deborah in the Book of Judges, The Holy Bible. I hope I have remembered all of you, dear friends.


There is one Debbie that I can never forget, and that is my niece, the eldest offspring of my full siblings. Mostly she goes by that name. Her husband Rick calls her Deb. Some of her cousins call her Debbie Jo (because there's also a Debbie Jean). My mom, her grandmother, called her Debra Jo when she was in trouble, which I usually caused. No matter what name she is called, she can always answer to the title of strong, thoughtful, sentimental, loving, honest, straightforward, and loyal woman, friend, mother and wife.

I was four years old when my oldest sister Jane, at seventeen, delivered into our midst the cutest, sweetest little roly-poly baby girl. She was my baby doll and the adults had to watch me carefully or I would try to pick her up and carry her around like one. I was allowed the grand honor of holding her while she drank her bottles. They lived with us for quite a while, because Debbie's dad was in the military and was stationed in Okinawa. Unfortunately, the marriage didn't survive the first year, and my sister became a single mother, while also finishing her senior year in high school.

Debbie was always a little lady. When she was not much older than a toddler, she would be concerned whether her "undergirt" was showing from beneath her dress, and her hair had to be fixed just right, and she really hated getting her hands dirty.  We called her "Miss Priss".

(Debbie held by my dad...I'm in front of Mom)

Debbie's growing-up years were fraught with stress. My sister remarried to a man who was very nice when he was sober, but not very nice when he was drinking...and he drank a lot. He had deep-seated emotional issues that he self-medicated with alcohol. He was physically abusive to my sister for ten years (he was never mean to Debbie or her little sister and of his few redeeming qualities). People nowadays wonder why a woman wouldn't just leave an abusive husband. Things were a lot different then. There were very few laws protecting women. You could call the police and they would come and slap him on the back and laugh with him and would only throw him in jail if he was "disorderly" or the wife pressed charges against him, which usually were dismissed. There was nowhere to run and nowhere to hide with little money and fewer resources. What woman in her right mind would press charges against a man who threatens to kill her if she does, and knows the next time he's drinking that she'll get it even worse than the time before. And there's always a next time. Did you ever watch the movie "The Burning Bed"? That was my sister's life. The ending was different. My sister didn't set fire to him in his bed. She finally decided enough was enough when she woke up in the middle of the kitchen floor with a gash in her temple and her only thought was, "If I could get to the butcher knife in the drawer, I would kill him."  She soon filed for divorce.

(Debbie, at age 9, with her sister Jamie and her brother Jimmy)

I don't tell you all this to make you feel sorry for our family. I'm telling you because it helped shape the woman that Debbie is today. And it also explains why Debbie often stayed with us for weeks at a time. She was more my little sister than my niece. I also spent a large amount of time staying at their house. My sister Jane was like my second mom.

As you can probably guess, Debbie and I were very close as we were growing up. We giggled over boys and TV shows, and we fought like sisters as well. Once we had a fight over a new jar of peanut butter. We both wanted to be the first one to stick the knife in the fresh surface. Well, I did it and she got mad and smeared peanut butter all over my leg. Mom gave her a couple of swats on her bottom while I smiled devilishly from behind Mom's back. Debbie has never let me forget that one!

That same summer, I think I was 13 and she was 9, we were allowed to stay at home alone one evening while my mom and stepdad went to visit some of his family. We had plotted and schemed all day that while they were gone we would ride my bike half a mile down the road to the old-fashioned general store and buy a Chef-Boy-Ar-Dee pizza and bake it. Problem number one--we had no money. So I, being a consummate petty thief (ha), was to steal seventy-five cents from mom's purse while Debbie made sure she was distracted. Okay, we pulled that off without a hitch.

As soon as the car left the driveway, we were on that bicycle heading to the store. Nonchalantly, we chose the cheese-pizza-in-a-box and paid for it with the purloined coins. As we pulled into the driveway, I think I slid in the gravel, Debbie fell off the bike and I ran over her head. Okay, it's not quite as bad as it sounds. I think I mostly ran over her hair and caught a little scalp in with it. She cried and I cried and begged her forgiveness and we went inside and baked the pizza. That was one delicious cheese pizza! We cleaned up the mess, and with innocent looks on our faces, sat down to watch television as we heard them pull into the driveway.

Problem number two occurred when my stealthy mother with a great sense of smell sniffed out the evidence. DUH! Have you ever smelled one of those things when you're not eating it? She walked over and looked into the trash can and poked under the cover-up we thought had been so clever. Mother was a little unhappy with us. Not because we made a pizza, but for lying and stealing money from her purse.

(Me, age 15. Debbie, age 11.)

Debbie's life was peaceful for only a short while after her mother and stepfather were divorced. My sister hooked up with an old boyfriend from her early teen years, a career Army recruiter who was returning from overseas. They were quickly married and he moved them all to Florida for his next job assignment. Far away from everything and almost everyone who Debbie knew and loved. He turned out to be a miserable sonofabitch full of sweet talk and promises and he was also an alcoholic....who later on became physically abusive to my sister (it seems she was destined to choose the same kind of man more than once). He hated Debbie because she saw right through him from the beginning. Debbie's stay in Florida didn't last long, only a few months. She came back to Ohio to live with her real father, who until then had not been a big presence in her life. She was thirteen and became the oldest sister to three younger siblings by her dad's second wife, a wonderful stepmother named Mary.

Things were okay at her dad's, but the house was small and crowded and Debbie didn't like him telling her what she could and couldn't do. And she missed her mother terribly. She and Debbie had always been extremely close, and then it was almost like she no longer had a mother because my brother-in-law effectively shut off communication between them (and all of us who loved her). He knew a troublemaker when he saw one.

Debbie was just sixteen when she was married. Only seventeen when her first son was born nine months and four days after the ink dried on the marriage license. She was born to be a mother. For all intents and purposes, she had been mothering her sisters and brothers practically her whole life. It must have seemed perfectly natural to mother her own little one.
Nobody has ever handed Debbie anything. She has worked hard her whole life. Although she didn't graduate high school, when her sons were young, she studied and got her GED. She didn't want them to be ashamed of her for not having a diploma. That is only one of her many accomplishments. She has always striven to make a good life for her family.

Debbie's and my kids grew up together. They are very close in age. Her oldest son Ricky is ten months older than my oldest, Jaye. Then came my Josh, then her James, then my Aimee. We lived three miles apart. The kids all went to the same elementary and middle schools. That is when our next "excellent adventure" began. We took over were elected as officers of the PTO. She was president; I was treasurer; and our friend Jean was secretary. We did that for five or six years. Burned us both out on volunteering for a long time. We put together elaborate Fall Festivals and Christmas dinners with (sometimes questionable) entertainment. We raised money to buy computers, playground equipment, etc. We were great collaborators, and Debbie was always the brains of the outfit. There was never a challenge too big for her to tackle. We spent hours and hours on the phone discussing the next big event. We even managed to lose my two youngest children and our friend Jean's daughter while we were busy getting set up for the next day's Fall Festival one year. That was a very frightening experience!

Debbie was also a successful direct sales representative for not just one, but three different companies. One of them for over thirty years! Then, because her husband became disabled and she no longer had insurance, she went to work as a cook in the same school district where our children attended. She loves her work there, but she wasn't satisfied with just that. Oh no, not our little workaholic! She decided a few years ago, after her youngest son opened his own barber shop, that she wanted to be a barber, too. So, while she was still working as a cook, she attended barber school for the required 1,800 hours and became a barber at the age of 50! She said it nearly killed her, but she never quits when she has a goal. I couldn't have been more proud of her if she had attained a medical degree. She joined her son in his barber shop, and they're still working out who is the real boss. :)

When we suddenly lost my mother, Debbie's beloved Grandma who helped raise her, twenty-three years ago, there was none among us who was more heartbroken than Debbie. It left a huge hole in her heart and in her life, as it did all of us. Debbie worshipped her then and she does to this day. We clung to each other and to my sister Judy to help us get through that time.  And they were both there for me when I needed them the most. We survived another loss three years ago, when we lost Debbie's mom, my sister Jane, to cancer. Once again we sought each other out for comfort that only close family can provide.

After being separated from her mother for twenty years and after my sister's divorce from the evil one  her third husband, they had finally been able to heal old wounds and have some happy times together for quite a few years before her mom passed away. I know Debbie is very thankful for the time she was able to spend with her, reminiscing about the good times, because there were some very good times to remember.

Family is everything to Debbie. That is, and will always be, her credo. It is what drives her to be everything she can be. She is the matriarch of her family of a husband, two successful sons, two beautiful daughters-in-law, three lovely granddaughters, and a cute and mischievous little grandson. They look to her for the way to go, because they know that she will always steer them in the right direction. She may be small, but she is the strong one.

This is what Debbie wrote about mothering on Mother's Day this year:

"I was a "MEAN MOM"... I loved my children enough to ask where they were going, with whom, and what time they would be back.. I loved them enough to make them clean their rooms in MY house.. I loved them enough that doing well in school was not rewarded but expected and you were to respect your teachers...I loved them enough they had to eat whatever was on the dinner table...I loved them enough they actually had to ride the bus..I loved them enough to insist on knowing every detail about their friends...I loved them enough to buy their first car,but the insurance and gas was at their expense and they could only have 1 friend at a time in the car...I loved them enough that YES they actually got their mouth smacked if they talked back...I loved them enough that I BROKE CHILD LABOR LAWS, they had to wash dishes,take out garbage,mow the yard, wash cars, vacuum the house, cook... I loved them enough when they fought with each other, they had to kiss and make up...I loved them enough to insist they be honest, you may still get in trouble, but not near the trouble if you lie to me...I loved them enough they could not date until they were 16... I loved them enough they did not always have the best of everything, they had the best I could afford..I loved them enough to say NO more than YES...I loved them enough to set a curfew and ground them if it was broken....I loved them enough to let them see anger, disappointment and tears in my eyes... Because I was a "MEAN MOM" I have 2 sons that have never been arrested for shoplifting, vandalism, drugs, or any other crime. Best of all, they are now "MEAN DADS"...I guess its true what the experts say, things and lifestyles are carried through generations, my Mom was mean, I was mean, now my sons are mean parents..........I wouldn't want it any other way."
And they wouldn't want you any other way, Debbie. Happy, happy birthday!

Love you always,
your Auntsisterfriend

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The hills where I call home

I was born and raised in the hills of southern Ohio, namely Ironton, which was named for its rich iron ore deposits. I'm proud to call myself a "hillbilly". To some people that name conjures up images of ignorant rednecks with missing teeth gathered 'round a moonshine still and shootin' their guns into the sky and I suppose there is some truth to that. My family has lived on the homestead that my great-grandfather Schaffer built in 1883 since that time. And in the era of Prohibition, my grandfather Charles Hart built and ran a moonshine still in the holler behind the barn and made good corn whiskey to sell to the local residents....that is until the "revenuers" found him out and busted it up. He was a scoundrel, my Grandpa Hart. But the majority of the people there are honest, God-fearing citizens who would give you the shirt off their backs if they knew you were in need. They value home and family and giving folks a fair shake in life. For the most part, they are educated and knowledgeable, and they love to have a good time.

Down there we call hollows "hollers" and children are "young-uns". Some people still say "worsh" for wash, but they don't worsh their clothes in the "crick" or the creek either.  There are colorful names for some of those hollers. There's Possum and Painter and Sawmill Hollers. Some of the names for roads would "peel your ears"...Hell's Creek and Pig's Trough (although some call it something worse...just replace that g and the apostrophe with an s). There are interesting names for the ridges that run along the tops of hills...Greasy Ridge and Tick Ridge. The villages in the surrounding area have names that suggest the founders might have been interested in foreign travel...Rome (where the Rome Beauty apple was developed), Arabia, Waterloo. One of the places where I called home for a few years was Aid, which was originally called Marion, but there was already a Marion, so they had to change it. Aid? Really? And, of course, some smart-aleck kid would always write "Kool" above it on the signs (usually my friend Sue Ann's brother Billy).

This Memorial Day marked the 142nd annual Ironton, Ohio, Memorial Day Parade, the nation's longest, continuously running Memorial Day parade. It began in 1868, only three years after the Civil War ended and the same year that the last day in May was set aside to honor veterans from that war. Of course, Memorial Day now honors all veterans from all the wars in which the United States has played a part. I can remember attending the parade when Ironton's last remaining World War I hero, Colonel William Lambert, marched in it.

(Ironton High School's Marching Band)

The parade is a very big deal in my hometown. It's a matter of civic pride and patriotism, and although the town now has a population of around 10,000 people, on Memorial Day the parade draws in an estimated 30,000 people from all over the state of Ohio and the surrounding tri-state area, which includes Huntington, WV and Ashland, KY. People start lining the parade route with lawn chairs at 6:00 a.m. that morning, even though the parade doesn't begin until 10:00. You are very fortunate if you happen to have a relative who lives on the parade route. Those lucky people who live there often find relatives who they didn't even know they had!

It's candy heaven for kids. Every volunteer fire department, city fire department, every police department throws candy from their vehicles. There are high school bands, cheerleaders, majorettes, prom queens, pageant winners, 4-H Clubs, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, horse clubs, dance schools, local dignitaries and county and city officials.

(My nephew Rick and his daughter, Madison. Taken by Melissa Koster Campbell.)

Long time participants are the Ashland, KY, El Hasa Shriners. You know about the Shriners, don't you? They dress up in fezes and Alladin and Pharaoh costumes and do funny dances with swords. They drive jalopies and beat-up hillbilly cars and wear hillbilly costumes with blacked-out teeth and funny hats and carry fake guns. They like to make fun of themselves, but they do a lot of serious business in fundraising for Shriner's Hospitals for Children which provide totally free care for children with orthopedic problems and severe burns. Two of my nephews, Rick and James Stamper, are members of this worthy organization and participate in the parade in the Hillbilly Kool Bus.

(My nephew James and his son Nicklaus. Taken by Melissa Koster Campbell.)

We didn't attend the parade this year even though we were home visiting my in-laws. We were pulling an open trailer and had our dog, Lucy, with us and didn't fancy trying to find a parking place and a shady spot for Lucy. We also weren't too keen on the idea of a three-hour long parade and another hour getting out of town on our way back home to Marysville. So, some of the pictures were borrowed from my almost-niece Missy and from a local newspaper, The Herald-Dispatch. But we did attend a few years ago. This picture collage is from ones taken in 1986.

Top left, Jaye's baseball team with his cousin Rick in the front right of the photo.
Top right, Jaye's Boy Scout troop with whom he chose to march. He's the one with his hand raised.
Bottom left, David's cousin Judy and her family with their team of draft horses.
Bottom right, Aimee and me.

Here's a video from YouTube, for your viewing pleasure.