Posts Tagged With: Nebraska

Collecting Coffee Mugs

I’ve decided to collect coffee mugs. The other day, I was standing in line to purchase a coffee mug and some other merchandise from the Choose901 pop-up shop in Memphis when I decided that I am going to start collecting coffee mugs.

901 mug

Choose901 in Memphis

My mother collected coffee mugs. She had a make shift shelf where she displayed them at one end of the kitchen in the old house.

“The old house.” My siblings may have other names for the beloved, big house in Stanton, but that’s what I call it: the old house. It was almost a hundred years old when we moved into it. It was over a hundred years old when the folks moved out of it. It was well over a hundred years old when a June tornado swept it away.

I call it “the old house” because the house that the folks eventually moved into seemed like their new house; although, it was neither new nor a house when they moved into it.  I call it “the old house” because it’s where I grew up. I spent all but one year of my childhood there, all of my adolescence, and quite a few years of my adulthood living there. A lot of years drinking coffee in the kitchen of that old house.

My mother’s kitchen was rectangular. At one end, a window opened to the neighbor lady’s massive flower garden that, I like to think, my mother enjoyed, wishing she had the time and the energy to cultivate one of her own. She had too many children, too much to do to spend her time whiling away in a flower garden. My mother was practical like that.

At the other end of the kitchen was the make-shift coffee mug shelf where a door used to lead into a bedroom. When my father made the extra bedroom into a over-sized bathroom, he closed the door in from the other side with a piece of faux blue marble wood paneling. When in the kitchen, the door frame was left, but the opening was covered by the drab brown back of the paneling. My mother had Dad nail some left over 2x4s horizontally, making the doorway into a pocketed shelf to display her mugs. It wasn’t pretty, but it was useful.

I miss that kitchen. It wasn’t pretty, but it was more than useful. Life happened there. Sistering happened there.

Sisters around table

From left to right: #5, #8, #4, and me, #10. #7 isn’t pictured.

During family gatherings, usually Thanksgiving and Christmas, my sisters and I gathered around the brown, formica table drinking coffee or tea and talking about inappropriate things. From the looks of shock on my face and our body positions, #4 must have said something uproariously inappropriate for which I punched her in the shoulder. #8 is amused but keeping it to herself (no doubt a little later in the day one will be able to find the two of us sitting in a corner of the house discussing this exact moment) as #5 enjoys the moment.

The door directly behind #4 and me eventually was made into the pocketed shelf, but for this moment it is just a door. And we are just sisters.

It’s interesting what time will do. A door turns into a pocketed display shelf that one day disappears and is only now a memory.

We, the sisters, have changed with time, too. In this picture, we are younger versions of ourselves, some with husbands and kids, some without, connecting through advice, opinion, laughter, and coffee.

But soon, over time, the living of life changes relationships. There aren’t many pictures of this time. Advice is not sought. Opinions hurt. Laughter fades. Coffee cups are left empty. Pain is the tie that binds. We remain just sisters.

Then time does what time does best. It marches on. Each of us has to learn individual lessons about ourselves and about each other. Each of us has to learn how to reconnect with one another; how to let by-gones be by-gones and to let love be love. We can do it for others, so we learn to do it for each other.

This past Thanksgiving, we came together again over coffee around #4’s round oak table, my mother’s formica table long since lost but not forgotten. We are all a little nervous, but soon fall into an old familiar routine of chatting about inappropriate things, giving advice, offering opinions, and much missed laughter.

sisters 2015

Thanksgiving 2015                                                                                                        From left to right: Me (#10, #7, #4, #8, and #5)


It’s much easier now, being sisters. We have settled into our lives, dreams met, dreams deferred, perspectives solidified, perspectives changed. We have settled into knowing and accepting each other, understanding rather than judging and forcing change.  We have settled into relationship with one another, choosing it rather than just being born into it.

This circle of coffee ushered in a new phase in our sistering, a more mature, satisfying relationship. A relationship based on respect, honor, and love, not treading on areas where uninvited. I like this phase of sistering. It took us awhile, and many times I mourned it, believing that we would never have it. But now it is here.

Now, we are sisters.


Categories: Family, Holidays | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

A Weekend to Remember: Part 2

Attention: This the second part of a series. To read the first part of the story, please click here.

Day-after photo

Day-after photo

The day after my car had the unfortunate pleasure of running into a deer, I began the arduous task of dealing with the insurance company and making plans to get back to Tennessee.


I called the insurance company, filed a claim, ordered a rental, called the body shop for an estimate, and waited for the inevitable pronouncement of “your car is totaled” from the insurance company.

It all seems so easy, except it wouldn’t be a good story if things went easily.

Rising Action: further complication add to the main character’s struggle 

Our policy only covers $20 a day for a rental car. The agent happily informed me that would cover a Kia Rio, and for $6 a day (out of pocket) I could rent a Nissan Versa. Apparently, they didn’t know that I have was supposed to bring home a 5 foot long picture that my sister bought for me a month ago. It won’t fit in a Rio, nor could we and all our luggage.

For $6 extra, I actually got a sweet little Chrysler 200s that had keyless entry, pushbutton start, and a knob for a gearshift (I nicknamed it Sweet Little Thing). But there was one stipulation: the car was not a one-way rental. It had to be returned to the Nebraska location. This complected matters. If my car was deemed fixable, then I could drive Sweet Little Thing home and then return once my car is fixed. If my car turned out to be a total loss, then I was stuck driving Sweet Little Thing back to Tennessee, only to drive it back to Nebraska once I bought a new car in Tennessee.

The claims agent sent the rental request to Enterprise in Memphis instead of the Norfolk, NE. No wonder no one called me within the hour.

Our insurance carrier doesn’t have an adjuster in Northeast Nebraska, so I was given the task of getting an estimate from a body shop I trusted. Good thing I was in the town I spent the first 40 years of my life in, or that would be a difficult task.

Both Z and I got head colds. Snotty, coughy, droopy headcolds. Yay!

Saturday afternoon we attended my niece’s wedding. It was a beautiful ceremony in a beautiful church on a beautiful summer day. My kids I visited with grown ups and other kids we hadn’t seen for a few years. My sister who I was co-cake cutting with had been smart enough to call and reserve a room a few weeks before I had, and took the kids to The Lodge’s pool to go swimming. Two of my other sister’s and their grandkids joined them later in the evening and had a swimming party until midnight.

wedding 2wedding 1

Everyone slept in Sunday morning and then met for an early lunch. It was relaxing and enjoyable 3-hour lunch with lots of sister chatting and smatterings of children interrupting. We left each other after giving hugs, sending our love, and speaking safe travels to each other.

When the kids and I headed back to Uncle Ed’s and Aunt B’s to transfer our belongings from the Scion to the rental. In the middle of doing just that, I sent Effy to the kitchen to get a plastic sack. She came back looking very forlorn and apprehensive.

After a few moments of her insisting that I was going to be mad and me insisting that if she doesn’t just tell me what was wrong or I was most certainly going to be mad, she finally told me what was wrong. Actually, she had to show me. She took me to the Chrysler’s driver’s side windshield, and I looked to where she pointed.  A softball-size spider web of cracks stared back at me. It was smack dab in the middle of the driver’s side with one long crackly leg reaching midway across the windshield.

“What. Did. You. Do?” came out of me in a deep, serious tone. My kids know that the slower (my attempt at self control) and deeper (my overcompensation when trying not to scream) I speak the angrier I am.

Apparently, my ADHD baby saw a bug on the Chrysler’s windshield and decided at that moment it must be erradicated from the earth by slamming it between the windshield and the heel of her hand. Really hard. Twice.

I didn’t know I was the mother of Hulk-tress, but it looks as though I am. Good gracious.

Amidst her insisting I was mad, I continuously repeated, “No I’m not. I’m frustrated. It’s fine” until I got into the house where I burst into tears and cried to my sister, “What else can go wrong?!”

Don’t ever say that. From me to you, you’re just inviting more trouble.

That evening, to give Effy and myself something positive to think about, the three of us went to Jurassic World with Aunt B and Uncle Ed. Nothing like watching an island being ripped apart by wild, angry dinosaurs after having your car torn apart by wild and (assuming) angry monstro-deer, or maybe it was a pterodac-deer – after hitting us, it just flew away. It would explain why it seemed to just disappear.

About 10 a.m. Monday morning, I returned Pretty Little Thing to Enterprise, explained what happened, and exchanged it for another car. I was held responsible for the damage done to Pretty Little Thing. It cost me $185 to replace the windshield, but the good news is the replacement car is a one-way rental.  At this point, I just wanted to be home, so I didn’t argue the fact that the windshield must have been faulty if my 11-year-old daughter could break it – with her hand – and fained a smile and said “great” to being able to drop the car in Memphis if need be. I just didn’t care. They gave me a Ford Focus (which was a wordless scolding equivalent to “you can’t take care of nice things, you won’t be given nice things”), and off I went.

I then called Bob, the body shop owner, to arrange for my car to sit on his lot until the insurance determined it was fixable or totaled. He informed me of the estimated amount it would take to fix the damage, and I really thought it would be totaled. So did Bob.  If it was fixable (which both of us highly doubted), I would return to Tennessee until the repairs were made at which time I would return drive back to Nebraska to collect my Scion. If it was totaled (which both of us thought it was), i would arrange for the insurance company to pick it up there.

With smoke rolling off the engine, I hobbled the Scion to Bob’s and then walked back to my sisters to begin packing the Ford Focus. Halfway through loading the car, I realized that I had left all of our belongings from the Scion in the trunk of Pretty Little Thing which was now tucked away somewhere in the Enterprise parking lot.

Crapolio, I thought. I just want to go home.

Around 1 p.m. on Monday, we finished loading the car and getting our snacks and all the odds and ends into the car and set off to retrieve our belongs from Enterprise. We stuff the extra cargo into the trunk of the Focus, grab a bite to eat at Runza, and head East on Hwy 275. The kids’ conversation quickly turns to debating the pros and cons of driving back to Nebraska to pick up the Scion.

“Only if it’s fixable,” I quickly add. “The insurance company hasn’t called back, so I don’t know what’s going to happen.” I was starting to hope that they would just total the car. That would be the easiest thing to do

The insurance company didn’t call back for another 4 hours. We were just outside of Kansas City, MO (sounds like the beginning of a Western) and had gotten back into our traveling groove – me listening to my Audible book, and the kids playing games and watching shows on their Kindles – when the claims adjuster called. I got this hopeful smile on my face when I heard it was the adjuster with his determination. “After examining the estimate and running the numbers,” my smile got bigger in anticipation to his ending the sentence. “Our preliminary decision is that it is financially feasible to fix your car.” The smile left my face, quickly.

“You’re going to fix it?” This was a question mixed with astonishment, so “fix it” came out about two octaves higher than the first part of the sentence. “Yes, ma’am,” he said. “Your car is fixable.”


















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Categories: Bad Decisions, Family, Vacation | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Weekend to be Remembered: Part 1

The weekend of June 13th, my great-niece married the love of her life, and the kids and I attended the lovely ceremony. It was held on a beautiful summer’s day in a quaint, pre-1900, Catholic church in a tiny town in Northeast Nebraska.

St. Mary's Catholic Church, Osmond, NE Photo courtesy of Monica Hessner

St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Osmond, NE
Photo courtesy of Monica Hessner

It was supposed to be a quiet trip, but it wasn’t. Murphy’s Law – or Nincompoopery – ensued shortly after trip planning began. This trip played out in a perfect elemental plot fashion.

Exposition: Introduction of characters, establishing setting, and main problem

In April, my great-niece, Ali, had asked me and one of my sisters to attend the cake table at her wedding. Although I didn’t like the idea of being old enough to be considered the aunt that cuts the cake, I was excited to have family and friends all in the same building, so I could get to visit with everyone at least for a few minutes.

Although I had said yes, I waited until 5 days before the wedding to book the room. This is northeast Nebraska I was travelling to, not Omaha or Lincoln. County fairs are the only major happenings in that part of the state. Those do not begin until late July and are finished by the end of August, so I thought I was pretty safe waiting until a week before the wedding. I wasn’t safe. The Lodge (and all area hotels) was booked solid by the time I tried to make reservations.  The Christian Cross Festival has grown to a two-day, free event that apparently attracts people from afar who inevitably need lodging. Even with ample free tent camping at the lake, every available room was booked. Luckily, I have family in the area that still like me. My kids and I were to bunk at my sisters.

I had downloaded some new books onto my Audible app, and the kids loaded their Kindles with movies, music, and shows. The plan was to leave no later than 10 a.m. Thursday morning. We were an hour and a half late leaving our house in Tennessee, putting our arrival time to my sister’s house at a little past midnight.

Even with the late departure, the trip was going so smoothly: the kids were watching movies on their Kindles, and I was listening to either the radio or to Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle on my Audible app. We were each in our own little worlds and traveling a route we knew like the back of our hands.  It was quite a peaceful seven-hour journey across Missouri.

We were in Omaha by 11 p.m, and once Effy and Z spotted the big train engines at Kenefick Park that welcomes visitors crossing the bridge from Council Bluffs, IA. the kids fell asleep by the time we reach Boys Town.

I had driven another peaceful hour when my travels were rudely interrupted by a deer the size of a horse trying to play chicken with me in the middle of the dark highway. Nebraska deer are so rude! and huge!

In an instant, Monstro-deer (or rhino-deer or Jurassic-deer as my friends have now taken to calling it) was challenging me to a 70 mph, head-on collision: I was going 70 mph; he was standing still, shocked, as if I had been the one to appear out of nowhere.  I slammed on my breaks and yelled, “NO!” hoping that he’d regain his wits and, with a harrowing leap, jump to safety. It wasn’t to be. Instantly after yelling, I felt the deep thud of impact, and my car stopped dead in it’s tracks.

I don’t remember closing my eyes, but I must have because I remember opening them only to see the entire front end of my car smashed in to windshield.


 Rising Action: Main character battles crisis

Z woke screaming “What did we hit? What did we hit?” which woke Effy, who wondered what we were doing stopped in the middle of the road. She had slept right through the whole thing. Bluntly, I said, “We hit a deer,” and then began to audibly walk myself through the next steps:

“Are there any cars around? Check my mirrors. Look over my shoulder. Nope, no cars.”

“Car is still running. Car is still in gear. Pull it off to the side of the road.”

Pulled car to the shoulder of the road.

“Turn car off.”

Effy begins to ask questions Gatling-gun style.

“I don’t know. I don’t know. I DO NOT KNOOOWAH! I can’t answer any questions right now. Sit there and be quiet, so I can think.”

The car is silent for 15 seconds.

“And I need to think out loud. Who do I call first? 911? Dad? Road-side assistance? Claims?”

“911 and then Road-side assistance.”

While I waited for the deputy sheriff to find me in the dark at a not-so-certain point on Hwy 275, I got out of the car to inspect the damages. It was bad. And the deer ran off.


I then called Roadside Assistance. The young man on the other end of the line tried to be helpful, but stranded out in the middle of nowhere, the closest tow truck was 45 minutes away, and then I wasn’t guaranteed a place to stay or a replacement car to be able to continue on to my sisters that night. My husband was 10 hours away and asleep in Tennessee, and I couldn’t think of anyone near my wreckage that would be able to tow a car.

While I was talking to Roadside Assistance, the county deputy sheriff arrived. He looked over the car, noted that the deer had run, or limped, off, and that the car was not to be driven. He could have called the tow truck but confirmed that it would take 45 minutes for them to arrive. He did say that he was able to stay with me until someone came to help or until he had another pressing matter.

I decided to call my brother-in-law, who was sound asleep, warm and cozy in his bed an hour away from me. Within the time a tow truck could arrive, so could my brother-in-law with the added bonus of delivering me to my destination. So I called him, and like the good guy he is, he came to our rescue.


The passenger-side hood shot from above.

The deputy, Ed, and I decided I would hobble my car 8 miles to the gas station in next town. Ed would pick us up there.

Nebraska in June is not the same as Tennessee in June. It is cold and windy in Nebraska. The kids and I were dressed for Tennessee’s hot and muggy. When Ed arrived, I stood out in the cold wind shivering like I hadn’t spent the first 40 years of my life there, trying to assist him with tethering my Scion to the car trailer.

We drove the hour back to his house, unloaded my crumpled car, drug our suitcases into the house, and went to bed.

The next morning I call the insurance company, filed a claim, ordered a rental, called the body shop for an estimate, and waited for the inevitable pronouncement of “totaled” from the insurance company.

It all seems so easy, except it wouldn’t be a good story if things went easily.

To be continued…

Categories: Bad Decisions, Family, Vacation | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment


Early Saturday morning, my husband and I packed suitcases in the back of the car and kids in the backseat and headed out on a thirteen hour road-trip back to our hometown in Nebraska (normally a ten-hour trip, but with kids and peeing and eating… well, you know) for my husband’s Aunt Betty’s funeral.

Her’s was an unexpected death, so there wasn’t much time to plan or prepare. Tim quickly put in for bereavement days. , I excused the kids out of school after a house and dog sitter was found, and we took off.

Northeast Nebraska in late April.

Northeast Nebraska in late April.

It was a quick trip. Driving all day on Saturday. Church and visitation on Sunday. Funeral on Monday. Drive home on Tuesday.

One doesn’t think too much can happen.

One would be wrong.

In the time we were gone, a wasp bit our oldest dog, the leash got jacked up, and our cable/internet was disconnected.

Our house/dog sitter texted late Monday night to let me know that Daisy’s eye was looking raw and wondered what we wanted her to do. There really wasn’t anything she could do. She wasn’t available during the vet’s normal business hours, so we told her to keep an eye on it and we would be home Tuesday evening.

This is what we found Tuesday evening when we got home:


Sweet, gentle Daisy Mae

As it swelled, Daisy rubbed and scratched it until it was raw. Poor thing.

Wednesday morning, I took her to the vet where he determined it was probably a wasp bite that she irritated by scratching.  She is now on antibiotics and steroids.

Once we returned home and Daisy medicated, I grabbed the leash to take Queen Sophie for a walk and this is what I found:


It was old and creaky, so I wasn’t sad to see it go.

The retractable leash was jammed with the cord fully extended. I couldn’t resist publicly teasing our dog sitter via Instagram™ with the above two photos and statements wondering if she secretly hated us. She doesn’t, and we still love her. Poor girl, everything seem to go wrong when she walked in the door.

On the bright side, I found this on the kitchen counter amid the mound of mail our house sitter collected over the three days we were gone.


It wasn’t supposed to arrive for another week, but I was so happy to find the dog training kit I ordered after the nipping incident (click for part one and part two).  I watched the first couple of episodes Wednesday afternoon and started the training straight away.

Once finished with Queen Sophie’s first training lesson, I sat down to fold some laundry and watch an afternoon movie. That’s when I found out that the cable and internet had been disconnected while we were gone. I meant to pay it on our way out of town Saturday morning, but forgot. Then I was going to pay when we returned home, but forgot.

So there I was with no cable and no Nexflix, so I took a nap. I was exhausted.

On our way to church Wednesday night, I dropped the cable/internet payment off and took the kids to Dairy Queen to eat. We needed something pleasant to change the tone of the day, or at least I needed something pleasant. It helped for about an hour.

At church, I found out Queen Sophie tried to attack a dog in the middle of the street while its human was walking it. Did I mention the human had a cast on his arm? Yeah. The training videos definitely came none too soon.

I fell exhausted into bed that night, ready for the day to be over and praying the morning would bring something a little more pleasant.


I can’t get enough of Sedaris!

My prayers were answered Thursday morning. The kids were ready for school early. Queen Sophie responded very well to training. But the most delightful happening was when the mailman brought me three wonderful packages: two David Sedaris books, a wonderfully soft linen set, and The Emotion Thesaurus.


How many ways can you describe excitement? Why 158 according to this book.

I guess life is back to normal.

That makes me happy (or should I say ‘that makes me desirous to spread joy and make others feel good’).

Categories: Bad Decisions, Books!, Family, Humor, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Random Thoughts Friday #25

Random Thoughts

I am so glad the month of March is almost over. I don’t usually wish time away, but this month has worn me out.  Tomorrow my family and I will take off for the last of four trips for this month.

With all this traveling, one thing I have had is time to think. And it is amazing the thoughts one can have when you have time to think. Sadly, none of my thoughts were earth-shakingly brilliant.

1. My husband was right about the seats in my car. They make your butt hurt.

2. There is no way that I will admit that to him. Ever.

3. As many times as I have traveled I-70 across Missouri, I should know exactly where all the good exits are located. I don’t, so I scan the “Food” road signs at each exit wondering all the while whether that would be the last exit that has decent food.

4. I should start a travel blog. If it is anything like my thoughts after I started Random Thoughts Friday, all my traveling will come to an abrupt end.

5. Most people do not like black licorice, but I do. Twizzler is usually my go to licorice for road trips, but that

has changed. Now Darrell Lea’s Soft Eating Liquorice is my traveling companion. It is smooth, chewy and down right delicious. Yummmm-O!

6. When you travel, most people will assume that it is for fun. Only one of the four trips I have taken this month was for fun.

7. My #1 rule when packing: you can always buy what you forget.

8. There is no way out of getting fat when in a car most of the month.

9. Absence must make the heart grow fonder. #9 and his wife, #8 and her husband and I were eating supper at Whiskey Creek the night before I left to drive back to Tennessee. As we left the table, I decided to surprise #9 with a hug once we were outside the restaurant. I didn’t even get a chance to get outside! #9 walked up to me while we were leaving, put his arm around me, gave me a squeeze and told me that he was glad we got together and to have a safe trip home. I was stunned. That may have been the only time he’s ever hugged me. That made my trip.

Me and Dave

10. Something big must be about to happen. My brothers are acting lovey dovey.  #6 made a surprise visit this fall, and we spent the day at Graceland. We talked more in that 24 hours than we had in all my life. He not only gave me a big hug, but also took a picture with me – something he doesn’t normally do without coaxing.  Then #9, who usually doesn’t care whether I’m in town, requests to have supper with me before I return to Tennessee, and he hugs me! Their actions might be normal for most brothers, but for mine, these behaviors are  most certainly unusual and lovey dovey. All this attention has left me wondering if some great cataclysmic occurrence is imminent!

Have a happy weekend, and I’m always interested in hearing your thoughts.

So what have you been thinking?

Categories: Family, Random Thought Friday, Recommendations | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Morning Poetry

I’m feeling a little nostalgic today, and that calls for poetry.

Ted Kooser was happy to oblige.

So This Is Nebraska photo credit:

The gravel road rides with a slow gallop

over the fields, the telephone lines

streaming behind, its billow of dust

full of the sparks of redwing blackbirds.


On either side, those dear old ladies,

the loosening barns, their little windows

dulled by cataracts of hay and cobwebs

hide broken tractors under their skirts.


So this is Nebraska. A Sunday

afternoon; July. Driving along

with your hand out squeezing the air,

a meadowlark waiting on every post.


Behind a shelterbelt of cedars,

top-deep in hollyhocks, pollen and bees,

a pickup kicks its fenders off

and settles back to read the clouds.


You feel like that; you feel like letting

your tires go flat, like letting the mice

build a nest in your muffler, like being

no more than a truck in the weeds,


clucking with chickens or sticky with honey

or holding a skinny old man in your lap

while he watches the road, waiting

for someone to wave to. You feel like


waving. You feel like stopping the car

and dancing around on the road. You wave

instead and leave your hand out gliding

larklike over the wheat, over the houses.

Now for some Kuzma and Kloefkorn.

Categories: Books!, Family, Monday Morning Coffee, Personal, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Random Thoughts Friday #2

1. Why do teenagers still giggle when you say “Number 2”?

2. (See, now you’re doing it) Why is it so easy to do the wrong thing and so difficult to the right thing?  (I think I thought of this while trying to talk myself out of bed to go running.)

3. It irritates me when Christians post pictures like the one to the right. It is both untrue and illogical (don’t get me started on the capitalization errors). Students can read the Bible and pray in school. It is their right under the constitution. Furthermore, people do not go to prison because they did not read the Bible in school.  They go to prison because they commit a crime.

4. Some weeds are pretty.

5. Is it normal for an entire family to have gas at the same time? It seems to happen at the Mandlsham on a regular basis.

6. On that note, is car exhaust basically a car fart? It smells just as nasty. (This was my 17-year-old daughter’s thought. It is akin to #1. Wanted to make that clear.)

7. Most of the time I feel like I’m chasing my tail.

8. If one of my kids brought home a friend like the red-head chick on Nickelodeon’s Victorious, well… I would have questions.  Lots and lots of questions.  

9. I wish Runzas were available outside of Nebraska.  Two blocks away from my house would be nice.

10. I would make the video link smaller, but I don’t know how and Tommy moved.

11. The eleventh item always seems superfluous.

Categories: Faith, Parenting, Random Thought Friday | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Reflecting on a Day of Substitute Teaching

I was working on another topic that was supposed to be posted yesterday, but a storm system rolled in and what started as a sinus headache turned into a migraine. The draft is unfinished, and because substitute teaching at an area high school today left me with little time to finish the post, I decided to share my day with you instead.

I usually come away from a day of subbing with some sort of lesson learned. My favorite lesson learned to date is that going to the bathroom is not a constitutional right, but that was learned in the late ’90s.  I’m in need of a new favorite lesson.  A typical day of subbing offers up one or two lessons that later find their way into conversations, but today offered a few more than expected.  Here is what I learned (I slapped this on the page without properly editing it, so disregard any glaring grammatical errors that spell/grammar check didn’t catch) :

1. Southern mommas are endued with superhuman clout.

After introducing myself to one class, I read word for word the directions the teacher had left for the class.  After groaning about the amount of work given, they got into groups to “work together.” Every sub knows this is code for “chatting while doing as little as possible.”  I then added, “Ms. ___________ also says that she will be collecting and grading the assignment during your next class, so make sure you have it finished by then.”  A girl quipped, “And what will happen if I don’t have it done?”  I responded, “You will probably have points removed from your grade.”  The girl proclaimed, “Well.  I’ll just have my momma talk to her.”  I laughed inside.  Really?  Your momma?  So I showed her the written directions and stated, “Make sure you tell your momma this, too,” pointing out the specific sentence that read “Tell them that I will be collecting and grading the assignment next class period.”

A little later in the same class, a female student was called to the office only to return and announce that her iPhone, which was confiscated earlier in the week because she was caught texting in school, was stolen from the front office.  She, understandably, was furious.  She said with great certainty that her momma was going to make the school pay for it because her momma was going to tell them what for and who with and kick the principal and slap the secretary.  That got the six girls who were “working together” on the other side of the room outraged, and they started saying if it was them, they’d tell their momma and she’d go to the school board and she’d tell them what for and who with, and there is no way their mommas would leave without being reimbursed for the cost of a replacement.  When the level-headed girl sitting in the middle of the room tried to tell the angry mob that the school and the school board could not be held liable for an item the girl wasn’t supposed to have on school property in the first place, all seven girls responded as one booming voice, “My momma will sue!”

Apparently there’s no stopping a Southern momma.

2. It’s better late than never

During second period after introductions and delivery of the day’s assignment, I was sitting at the teacher’s desk at the back of the room reading When You are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris when a self-deprecating chatty young lady sitting at the desk to my left enthusiastically told the young man in the desk to my right that his teeth looked wonderful and asked if he had his braces taken off recently.  Looking a little confused, he flatly responded, “No. I haven’t had braces recently.”  This made me laugh.  I wasn’t laughing at her as much as the absurdity of the moment, and the fact that I tend to get myself into the same situations, thinking someone has changed something that hasn’t changed at all, like asking someone if they dyed their hair red just to find out that they were born with red hair, or commenting on lovely wall color they chose for their livingroom when it has been the color of winter wheat the entire length of your friendship.

Toward the end of the class, another young lady, sitting in the front row to my left, turned around and told the same young man sitting in the back to my right that he had “pretty teeth” and they were like “super model teeth,” which made the entire class shift in their seat to take a gander and this young man’s mouth.  He shyly bid them thanks and smiled only after some of the other girls begged him to smile for them.  One of the girls asked if he was born with such wonderfully beautiful teeth, and he confessed that he wore braces in Middle School.  I gasped at the revelation.  Self-deprecating chatty girl was right after all! I envisioned her feeling somewhat redeemed of her earlier humiliation, and if she wasn’t, I was feeling the redemption for her.  I felt a small twinge of kinship with her for a split second.  She at least noticed he had braces at one time and had had them removed.  Her noticing was just 3 or 4 years late, unlike the other girl that didn’t even notice that he had worn braces in middle school to begin with.  Yay for noticing, self-deprecating chatty girl.  It’s better late than never.

3. It’s all relative.

I usually mention that I am originally from Nebraska when introducing myself to the students.  Many of them don’t care, some of them find it fascinating that someone would choose to move to west Tennessee (“Why would anyone want to move here?” they inevitably ask as if this part of Tennessee is God-forsaken), but many like to point out the weirdness of the state.  I try to explain that differences are only weird because their experiences have been limited, but they don’t care.  It’s still weird.

One student, a virtual walking cliché of a young man (boyish face, blonde hair that hung in his eyes, and skinny), asked me what part of Nebraska I was from, and after I had told him, he, of course, had no idea where my hometown was located.  As most of the conversations of this sort goes, I had to name a few of the cities in Nebraska (because there are only a few) before he snapped his fingers, pointed at me and said, “Yes, Lincoln, that’s it.”  Apparently, he had a friend that had moved from Lincoln, NE, and who intimated to him that “most everyone is Lutheran up there.”

“Yes, in comparison to here (western Tennessee), there are a lot of Lutherans,” I said. I was going to add how the oddity of this is relative to his singular experience of Western Tennesse,and that someone moving to Tennessee may note that there is an over abundance of Baptists here, but the conversation was over.  The snack cart arrived and like an ADHD squirrel, the young man had dropped the conversation and was on to the next shiny attraction.

On another note, maybe Lutherans are made from a fundamentally hardier stock than Baptists and are willing and able to endure and even thrive in harsh weather conditions.  What does enduring harsh weather conditions have to do with one’s religion?  I don’t know.  Just a stab in the dark.

4. No matter what, someone has the one-up.

Whenever I sub, I always come home and have stories of the excitement (or chaos) that has happened.  The kids used to drool to hear stories of naughty kids getting sent to the principal after verbally abusing me.  Today there was none of that.  After telling my kids the above stories, my oldest said, “You should have been at ___________ High.  The drug dogs came and searched the school.  E’s class was searched, and he was patted down.  When the dogs searched the parking lot, they smelled something on D’s car, and the police could search it.  L’s car was parked right next to D’s, so her car was searched, too.”

“Were they freaking out?”

“Of course, they were freaking out.  They don’t use, but they bring people to school who very well could. Those kids could have left something in D’s car.”

I’m always at the wrong school.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Just Marshmallows, Please – a cautionary tale

I was going to write about Santa Claus since it’s the Christmas season and all, but a friend of mine posted a simple question on Facebook asking, “Hot chocolate with or without marshmallows?” While everyone else was chiming in with their vote (which seemed to be leaning toward the “with”), my answer, along with the Redi-Whip guy, was the only one that was different.  I responded, “Marshmallows without the hot chocolate.”

I don’t like hot chocolate.  I did, but I don’t now.  The journey from there to here is an interesting story.  Imagine that.

Remember, I come from a large family. There are 10 children: 4 boys and 6 girls, of which I am the youngest. We lived in a relatively large house in a relatively small town in Northeast Nebraska where the winters were (and still are) relatively frigid; therefore, warm liquids were (and still are) a must. From the time I was about 8 years old, hot chocolate mix was a staple in our house.  My mother made the mix from scratch and kept it in an ice cream bucket on the counter for easy access.  My brother, who I adoringly refer to as #9 in all my writing, and I could make a piping hot cup at any time of the day without requiring assistance from our mother.  This could be a good thing or a bad thing.  Depends upon the person’s individual decision-making skills.

One afternoon on a particularly cold day, my brother and I came in from horsing around outside and decided to make some hot chocolate to warm ourselves.  We put the pan of water on the stove, brought it to a rolling boil, and then poured it into the cups that had a measured amount of chocolate mix in them.  There was a slight ting in our icy fingers as we wrapped them around the hot cups of chocolate.  As our hands began to thaw, we would place our faces over the cup and allow the steam to warm our faces and to breathe in the silky promise of warm chocolate.  #9 stuffed his cup with a mountain of marshmallows, and I aligned a simple layer to cover the top. While I sipped my cup of hot chocolate, my brother drank his quickly and made another. By the time I had finished my one cup, he easily had drunk two cups of hot chocolate and had eaten two mountains of marshmallows.

Later that evening after supper, we were in the living room watching television with my parents when my brother asked Mom to please make him a cup of hot chocolate.  He could have easily made it himself, but everyone knows that a cup of hot chocolate made by your mother is much more satisfying.  It is always just the right temperature and is made with just the right ratio of milk and mix, and mothers always know the perfect amount of marshmallows to grace the top.  When Mom returned with his requested cup of hot chocolate, #9 drank it quickly and asked for another one.  She made it for him, again with the perfect combination of ingredients and love.  He again drank it quickly.

“Be careful,” Mom warned #9. “You’re going to make yourself sick.”

He asked for another cup.  And she made it for him.  And he slurped it down.  And she warned him again.  He told her he was fine, and he went and made himself another cup.

After the night’s meetings with Archie Bunker, Hawkeye, and Carol Burnette, we were sent to bed.  At that time, my brother and I shared a room and we slept in bunk beds.  I slept in the top bunk because the bottom bunk was too enclosed, and I would have nightmares.  Although #9 was the oldest and would have preferred the top, he resigned himself to the bottom bunk, claiming it was too far to crawl to the top anyway.  But that night, #9 decided that he was going to sleep in the top bunk and that I had to take the bottom.  I vehemently opposed the idea based on the certainty of having a wild nightmare that would end in me crying out for my mother.  #9 would not concede.  He resolutely climbed to the top bunk and buried himself under my blankets.  I then had to crawl into his bunk.

Lying in the bottom bunk looking up at the metal springs that kept the upper bunk and my brother from falling, crushing the air out of me and immobilizing me to the point I would slowly suffocate to death, I began to panic.  Foreboding thoughts of dying in the middle of the night without any way of screaming out for help, only to be found the next morning by mother who would be grief stricken for the rest of her life, started swirling in my head.  Becoming claustrophobic from panic and needing air, I moved my pillow to the outside of the bed, so I could sleep with my head hanging half way off of the bed.  In that position I fell asleep.

In that position I was abruptly awakened by a sudden onslaught of regurgitated now not-hot hot chocolate. In the middle of the night, my brother’s stomach decided that 6+ cups of hot chocolate, although delicious, was too much to digest and needed a little relief. Now wide awake but not knowing what hit me (literally), #9 unloaded on my head again. I jumped out of bed to see him hanging over the upper bunk, slimy liquid dripping from his lips. “Mom!” I yelled, ran out of the room, down the hall and stopped at my parents door.  We were not allowed to just barge in, so I stood outside their door waiting for one of my parents to come out. I waited for a few seconds, but neither one of them appeared in the door to help me.  So I decided to try again.

I drew in a deep breath and screamed at the top of my lungs, “Moooooooooooom! #9 is puking up his guts!”  It took about 0.00001 of a second for my mother to appear in the doorway, barely look at me, and run down the hall to assist my brother.  She got him out of the bunk and across the hall in what seemed to be one fell swoop, while I was standing there watching with my brother’s stomach content dripping from my hair and face.  When she came out of the bath room, she looked at me in surprise and asked, “What happened to you?”  I was dumbfounded. I wanted to say, in the words of the mid-1970s, “Duh,” but my mother would have slapped me for being smart.  I chose to answer her honestly. “He puked on me.”

The rest of the night was pretty typical; mom got us both cleaned off and the bed room cleaned up.  She put on fresh sheets, gave #9 a puke bucket, and made him lie down in the bottom bunk where I would be safe if he missed the bucket.  And my dad slept through the entire ordeal.

So that is the reason for my answer to my friend’s question. Once you have had hot chocolate spewed on you by a sibling, you no longer crave hot chocolate as you did before.  In fact, it quite possibly could make you never want to see, smell or, God forbid, drink the wintery beverage ever again.

Categories: #9, Bad Decisions, Food, Holidays, Humor | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

How They Met

Today, November 30th, would have been my parents’ 60th wedding anniversary. They have both passed on, but I remember how I loved to hear my dad tell the story of how they met. The immediacy and desperation of their situation – each trying to care for and support their children amidst crippling poverty, death and divorce – escaped me as I was caught up in the wonder of their chance meeting. Even when I was in high school and thought my parents to be archaic and out of touch with the times, their story enchanted me.

When my father recited the tale of how he met and married my mother all within the month of November, it was always so miraculous, so divinely ordered, and so romantic. It wasn’t until I was out of college that my mother told me her side of the story, and it was all so practical. No divine intervention. Nothing miraculous. Just logical explanation. But that is who my parents were. Dad saw the miraculous. Mom saw the practical.

I am sure to leave something out that is of importance to one of my siblings, because I am sure they have heard the story as often as I have. What I write is what I remember of both of their stories.

Dad’s Perspective
Ellis moved his first wife and their two children to Houston, TX from Evansville, IN in 1949 because someone had told him the climate was supposed to help his wife’s tuberculosis. It didn’t and he lost his wife in June of 1951. A man new in his Christian faith, Ellis found himself having to care for a 9 year-old daughter, Peggy, and 8 year-old son, Larry. Ellis left their small apartment before the sun rose and didn’t wasn’t home until well after the sun set, leaving the motherly duties of getting kids ready for and off to school, house cleaning and preparing meals to 9 year-old Peggy. Realizing that it was all too much for his young daughter, Ellis and the children began asking God to send a wife and mother to care for them. They gave no specifics other than a woman that would love them as her own and loved Jesus with all her heart.

One Sunday in early November, Ellis treated his kids to an after-church lunch at the cafeteria in Woolworth’s close to the small apartment he rented. They were seated and he was looking over the menu when the waitress arrived to take their order. Before Ellis could raise his head, Larry yelled, “Mom!” Ellis, shocked at what Larry just called the waitress, received an even bigger shock when he looked up to see a mass of hair affixed to a bony body with lips slathered in bright red lipstick waiting to ask, “My I take your order?” Composed himself, Ellis said, “Yes” and ordered lunch for his little family. Believing Larry’s outburst to be prophetic, Ellis began having a conversation in his head with God. He questioned how this could possibly be the woman for him and his children. She was wearing make-up and working on a Sunday. She was a heathen! But in the quiet of his heart, Ellis knew that Larry was correct. This woman was the answer to their prayers. Ellis decided to do a kind of litmus test and invite her to church. After all, he would not be unequally yoked in marriage to an unbeliever.

When their food arrived, Larry again addressed her as mom. Although feeling the title a tad premature, Ellis thanked her and, before she could walk away, added “One day, I’m going to marry you.” The waitress smiled kindly, asked if there was anything else she could get for them, and then walked away. When the bill came, Ellis asked the waitress if she would go to his church’s evening service with him, and, to his surprise, she said yes. She gave Ellis her address. When he noticed that they lived in the same apartment complex, he took it as divine confirmation that indeed God had handpicked this woman just for him and his children.

Later that day, Ellis went to her apartment to pick her up for church. When she opened the door, Ellis was taken aback by the bright red lipstick she was wearing. Composing himself, he told her she couldn’t go to church with him unless she washed it off. She said, “Okay,” went back into the apartment, washed off the lipstick and went to church with Ellis and his kids. Less than a month later, Ellis and the Woolworth’s waitress were married.

Mom’s Perspective

At nineteen, Helen found herself divorced with a 3 year-old son, Charles, and living in Houston, TX. She lived in a small apartment complex and was a waitress at the little cafe in Woolworth’s department store, a job that paid the rent and little else. She had been divorced for about 6 months and wanted to return home to her mother in North Platte, NE, but she could barely scrape enough money together to feed her son after the rent was paid, so there was no possible way she could afford to move back to Nebraska. She was all of 98 pound and losing weight. She wasn’t sick. She was starving. At times, when the hunger was too much, and she couldn’t feed her son, or make rent, she contemplated prostitution. The thought made her sick, but she had not other recourse and she couldn’t let her son go hungry.

In the apartment complex there was someone that would watch Charles while Helen worked, an elderly lady that acted as a grandmother and makeshift daycare provider for the children in the complex that were left alone while their parents worked during the day. Charles would stay at the elderly woman’s house until the other children of the complex arrived home from school, and then he would play outside with them until Helen returned home. Helen enjoyed coming home to see her son playing with the other kids. She would stop and chat with a few of the children playing with Charles before she would take him in for the evening. Some of the children began to call her Mom because that is what they heard Charles call her.

One Sunday in early November, Helen had the chance to work an extra shift at the Woolworth’s cafe. She didn’t usually work on Sunday, but she needed the money. She worked the breakfast and lunch shift and would be home in time for supper with her son. During the lunch shift, a man and his children sat down in her section. It wasn’t until she got to the table and the little boy shouted, “Mom!” that she recognized the children. It was the little boy and girl that were always playing with Charles when she got home from work. She didn’t know their names and she had never met their father, so she smiled and greeted the little boy before asking if she could take their order.

She brought the food to the table; she smiled as the little boy called her mom again, and set the plates in front of each of them. The man thanked her for the food and before she could turn to help another table, the fellow said, “I’m going to marry you.” Dumbfounded, she looked at him and, not knowing what to say, asked if there was anything else she could get for them. She walked away wondering if he was serious. She didn’t want anything to do with another man after what she had been through with her ex-husband. This guy is crazy, she thought to herself. Just give him the bill and walk away, she told herself.

She was startled when, as she delivered the bill to the table, the man asked her to attend church with him that evening. She startled herself even more when she heard herself tell the man, “Okay.” She couldn’t help notice the excitement of the kids and the smile on the man’s face.

For the rest of the shift, she argued with herself, pointing out facts such as not knowing the man’s name and just meeting him, only to have herself rebutted with Charles plays with his children every day and how bad could a guy be that takes his kids out to lunch after church? By the end of her shift, despite her better judgment, she had decided to go to church with the fellow.

When she arrived home, Helen told Charles that they were going to go to church with some of his friends, so they need to take baths and get ready. After dressing Charles, Helen put on a simple dress, tied her unruly hair back in a low pony, and put on her bright red lipstick. By the time she heard the knock on the door, she had convinced herself that if the fellow was serious about marrying her then why shouldn’t she accept? He obviously had a job that paid well enough to eat Sunday dinner at a cafe instead of eating at home, and she wouldn’t have to contemplate selling herself to provide for her son. He needed a mother for his children, and she needed someone to support her and her son. It seemed to her that they would be helping each other out. If nothing else, it would be good for both her and Charles to get out of the apartment for the evening. So when she opened the door, she was not that hesitant to comply when he told her, “You can’t wear that lipstick. You’re going to have to go wash it off.” She went into the bathroom and washed it off.

She and Charles went to church with this man and his children quite often through the month of November. By the end of the month, Helen became a follower of Christ and married the crazy man (she did eventually learn his name and the names of his children).

My Perspective

I thought for certain when my mother told me her version of the courtship it would have been at least as romantic as my father’s. Obviously, it was wishful thinking. Something of the miraculous left Dad’s story when I found out that Larry’s outburst wasn’t prophetic and that he had known Mom because he played with Charles in the afternoon. It was very hard to hear that my mother decided to marry for security rather than the divinely appointed love connection of my father’s story; however, now I know why she didn’t tell me her version until I was much older. For quite some time after hearing my mother’s side, their story lost its romance to the point of being pale.

So much of each of their stories screams, “Bad decision!” I don’t know many people who would recommend marrying for convenience. I don’t know many people who would advise others to marry after literally knowing each other for 30 days. Yet, my parents made it to 46 years of marriage before my mother passed away. Today would have been their 60th. They added seven more children to their little start-up brood, and it would be easier to number the stars than to count the grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren they now have.

So really, even with the reality of my mother’s situation, their story is no less divinely ordered, no less miraculous, and no less romantic. It is a good story.

Categories: Bad Decisions, Personal | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments