Tag Archives: WPLongform

Images

The saying goes that a picture is worth a thousand words. People use pictures to add cute captions, and then spread them around the internet like very soft peanut butter. And, like peanut butter, some of them stick.

Some pictures are used for keepsakes, frames, scrapbooks, and mementoes. Others are used for sales, promos, attention, and education.

Some pictures simply reside in our own head, and we hope we never forget the moments that created them.

The first time I saw each of my children. Their respective faces on various Christmas mornings. The giggles of either of them when they got puppy kisses. The look of happy resignation on the faces of my grandchildren when they remember that the price of a peek in Granny’s cookie jar is a great big hug. Youngest’s face when she finally got her driver’s license. Youngest with her long-awaited High School diploma. Oldest’s reaction when she learned she had been accepted into her nursing program early. The look of adoration when Oldest talks about her man. My own husband’s face when he looks at me that way.

Some pictures we just can’t ever get out of our head no matter how hard we try.

My mother’s hands when they bled from the rope that drew water out of the well. The hurt and anger the last time I saw my father before he turned and vanished from my childhood. My grandmother in her casket at the funeral home. Oldest in a hospital bed after a severe trauma. The look of hatred hurled at me through teenage eyes.

Youngest in handcuffs when the police came to the house and arrested her a few days ago.

Writing this post is difficult, but in order to both heal and update, I’m doing it anyway, so if you’ve gotten to this point, know that here is where I take a deep breath and plunge forward. To do so, I may have to back up a little.

Youngest needed a car after a drunk driver wiped hers out while it was parked. You might remember that story. Husband, in an effort to both help provide the car and establish her credit, put Youngest’s car (and the loan to pay for it) in both their names. She loaned her car to The Boy while she was at work. Boy had hit another car and left the scene. He picked Youngest up at work like nothing had happened and she took him to drop him off wherever he’d been staying, which wasn’t here like she’d spent the last few weeks insisting.

That ongoing battle was the subject of my last post. When I wrote it, I didn’t have a clue how prophetic it would prove to be.

After she dropped off The Boy, she came home. I was surprised to see her here, especially so early in the evening. I was even more surprised to see that the police were right behind her.

The ensuing confusion in the driveway had the police about to arrest Husband. They had a picture of the car and license plate of the hit and run vehicle, and they knew a man had been driving. The assumption was logical that it was Husband, except that it wasn’t. It took a few more minutes to get it out of Youngest what had happened. She didn’t want to get The Boy in trouble. The handcuffs and an arrest for Obstruction of Justice is what started to convince her to cooperate. Being put in the back of the police car and hauled off to jail finished her conviction.

Her car was searched for drugs. Thankfully there was nothing to find, but I’ll admit I expected the outcome to be far different.

The events in the driveway that day play in my head like snapshots in a flip book, stuttering repeatedly from start to finish. Those images will never leave me. Seeing one of your children being arrested and placed in handcuffs will do something to a mother that before now I never thought I would have occasion to understand. It was almost a week ago, and sitting on the porch now, looking out at an empty driveway, gives me flashbacks of the ordeal that day.

Hearing Youngest talk about it yesterday made my chest hurt.

I stayed put while the cops arrested her. It was the hardest, single-most heartbreaking thing I’d ever forced myself to do. It was for the best. I wanted to run to her, to firmly place myself between her and them, and to protect her. She had to go through this alone and finally face the fact that she was not in a good place, that this is what happens when you surround yourself with trash. She alone had to realize for herself that she wouldn’t be in this position if not for The Boy.

So I stayed put.

She called me a couple of hours later and said that she was being released and that we could come to the police station to pick her up. She texted me a few times while husband drove, and I sat in the passenger seat alternately fighting back tears of hurt and tears of anger. I wasn’t very successful with either.

Her first text said that I was right, and that Boy was just dragging her down. Her second text said that she was done, this was it, and it was finally over. When we got there, all I could do was hold her while we stood in the parking lot of the police station. Tears of gratitude that she was unharmed replaced the tears of hurt and worry on my face. In the car, the anger took up residence and pushed everything else aside.

I learned later that The Boy had also been arrested and that Youngest’s cooperation leading to that arrest had earned her a lesser charge.

She talked to me that day, and confessed recent sins. She admitted to some of the things she knew about The Boy and his activities. She explained some of the gaps in her whereabouts and apologized for how she’d been acting lately. She said that for quite some time she’d had the feeling that something horrible was about to happen, and she thinks that this event, and her arrest, had halted whatever the bad thing was. She explained that when she saw The Boy being arrested and put into another police car, a tremendous weight had lifted, that it had just completely dissipated. She didn’t even realize she’d been carrying it.

She believes that there was a supernatural intervention, and that it took this incident to prevent whatever the other, more disastrous event, might have been.

And she hugged me. The look of hatred isn’t in her eyes anymore when she looks at me. And she’s talking to me again. She’s spent the last few days between home and work, and reconnecting with friends she’d given up for Boy. They didn’t approve, and expressing their feelings and concerns had earned them the same banishment as it had me.

She learned later that The Boy knew of her arrest, prior to his own, and instead of coming forward, he left her to handle it alone.

For her sake, I hope it’s really over between them. But she’s young. I worry that someday The Boy will enter her life again, drag her down even further, and that it might be far too late for redemption by the time she realizes just how far she’s fallen. My only hope here is that the next time he reappears, she’s a little wiser about the effects of being involved with him, and that saying ‘no’ to him becomes a little easier to do.

I guess the photo album isn’t complete yet. As much as she might believe that it’s over, and as much as I want to share that belief, this is not the end of the story. There are two ways she could go here, and all I can do is hope for the best. I’m not sure I’m equipped to handle it if her chosen direction is backward. It took all my strength to refrain from interfering with the police that day.

When I pull out this mental photo album in the years to come, only then will I know whether or not she had moved forward and really put this behind her.

Her court date for the lesser charge that was levied against her is in another four weeks.

Sometimes we’re given advance notice of a picture in our head that we know, without doubt, we’ll never be able to forget.

 

 

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Obsession

I don’t know if the obsession she’s experiencing at the moment is about getting her own way or whether it’s really about the boy.  Maybe it’s a combination of both.

She has issues, to put it mildly.  While her obsessions tended to change over time, fulfilling them was always genuinely necessary to preserve her sanity.

I remember when she was little and she just had to have all the shoes in the house paired up and lined against the baseboard of one wall with the toes pointed toward it.  There was no pattern in the shoes, just that they had to be lined up.

She was four years old.

I explained that it would probably be better if everyone’s shoes were in her own closet, that way Mommy could get ready for work and Oldest could get ready for school.  I asked her if she’d help me put them all back.  She did help me, and easily enough.  But then a few hours later they’d all be lined up against the wall again.  The explanation was repeated, the agreement reached, and the shoes returned.  This whole repetitive process lasted several days.  Slowly, the obsession with the shoes evolved until she was only lining her own shoes in her own closet.  Eventually she forgot about them altogether, and they wound up in a tangled mess like every other young girl’s shoes on the floors of closets everywhere.

Once, for a really long time, she had an obsession with pencils.  She just had to have them.  One entire dresser drawer was eventually devoted to housing nothing but the slender, graphite filled, and cylindrical slivers of wood.  Most were yellow because those were the easiest to collect.  But trips to the store and most small gifts for her usually involved at least one.   They became outlandish in both color and size.  Erasers were never an issue at all.

She was eight years old before we were finally able to empty that drawer and dispose of them all.

I’ve read that Attention Deficit Disorder is a little bit hereditary, and I do remember occasions when I’ve become obsessed with something, but mostly I think I just have an addictive personality.  I’ve been addicted to cigarettes since I was fourteen years old, I can get addicted to a computer game like nobody’s business, and activities for me have to be entered into lightly.  I once thought it would be neat to make a scrapbook.  Hundreds of dollars later I had every imaginable tool used by the most devoted scrap bookers everywhere, and made lots of scrapbooks and mementos.  Then the thrill of it quickly waned until I crashed all at once and just stopped doing it.  That ride took me through three or four years of constant snapshots and diligently collected pretty paper and ribbon.

I’ve suspected once or twice that I might be bi-polar.

When I stopped smoking for a year I was using an electronic cigarette and collected every flavor that sounded remotely interesting.  The interest in the collection wore off when I found the perfect flavor, but eventually I started smoking again.  Now I both smoke and vape.  I think I’m addicted to both.  I’m not smoking three packs a day anymore, but I’m still struggling to keep it under one.

Youngest’s dad was an alcoholic.  I’ve cautioned her about the lethal combination of ADD, Alcoholism, and Addictive Personalities.  I’ve talked to her about how careful she has to be to avoid self-medicating with drugs and alcohol.  I think so far she’s done okay.  I know she drinks some, and I’d be stupid to think there wasn’t any pot smoldering in her vicinity.  And I can only hope that she’s being careful.

But she’s almost nineteen, so she’s probably not.  Nothing I’ve said to her thus far has fallen on receptive ears, so I have no meaningful reason to believe that my wise words of advice will have any positive affect whatsoever.

She was about thirteen when she met the boy.  Everyone who knew him said he was bad news.  She wouldn’t believe them.  She eventually lost friends because of him.  He’s also the reason she started shutting me out.

He’s come and gone, weaving himself into and out of her life one crisis at a time, leaving her heartbroken and crushed, only to come back to her and assure her that this time it’s for real.  Loving him has left her closed to any good opportunity that might ever come her way.

I thought that it was finally over, that even though she had feelings for him that might never go away, he had at least moved on.  He’d found someone else to play with, torture, and maim.  But then he reappeared.  I didn’t have a clue.   I learned after the fact that he was the reason Youngest had packed up and moved out two weeks ago.

She’s insisting that he has to stay with us.  She finally told me that through circumstances beyond his control, circumstances that are none of my business, he has nowhere to be.  She’s demanding that we give him a place to stay.

We said no.

She doesn’t come home now at night after work, and I’m a little uncertain whether or not she is even still working.  I do know that whatever this boy wants, he will manipulate her into providing.  I tried to tell her that if he loved her, he wouldn’t want her to give up her home for his sake.

Yesterday she threatened sleeping in her car, with him, in order to provide him shelter, and that if we didn’t let him stay with us, then she wouldn’t come home either.  I told her I wouldn’t be harassed, bullied, or manipulated.  I reminded her that she could come home any time she wanted, but that where Boy is concerned, the answer is no.

She thinks she’s proving herself to him at all costs so that he’ll finally get it and never leave her again.

Love conquers all, etc.

The only time I hear from her is with an occasional text that demands we let him stay here, and promises that she’ll come home, too, if only we allow him to come with her.  Our response has been firm, and her insistence increasingly more hostile.  I don’t know why he has no place to go, and apparently I’m not supposed to.  Which means it’s probably a pretty grave situation that now involves Youngest.

I don’t think I want to know.

What makes this mother’s heart even more filled with angst is the idea that she might really be sleeping in her car, in parts of town unknown, surrounded by evil and ill will.  I have no hope that the boy will protect her.  Boy is the reason for all her current troubles.  And instead of encouraging her to come home and leaving her alone, he is dragging her down with him.

I talked to a gentlemen I highly admire and respect about a similar situation in his own life.  He told me about a son with whom he does not speak.  The son had gotten involved with a woman who pulled him into drugs, and the dad told me that it was more than he could bear to watch his son neglect his own children in favor of a drug addict and her children.  To be involved with his son meant that the rest of the family, and the quality of his own life, suffered.  So while he hated to do it, he felt like he had no choice but to cut the ties.

I don’t know if I’m in the same situation, or if this is the choice I will soon have to make.  I hope not.  I hope Youngest hasn’t gotten herself involved in something from which she will not be easily extracted.  While all the signs are there that she is experiencing an obsession, I’m still not clear on whether the obsession is with the boy or with her own efforts to get us to let him stay here.  I’m hoping the fixation is not with something more sinister.

She never did like being told ‘no’.  It comforts me to think that this might just be a simple power struggle between two stubborn people.  Youngest did inherit my unwillingness to budge.

She may have also inherited my addictive personality, which does provide some room for concern.

Right now she’s addicted to this fight, and while I’m determined to win it, dwelling in my own obsessions over it, I worry about the price of the victory.  That boy will not spend one night in my home.

I might just lose my daughter in the process of proving it.

Part of me knows I already have.

 

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Sway

Remember that upswing I was telling you about?  The one where my good fortune generally runs through the middle of everything and I have curves that sway away from the middle from time to time? Remember when I told you that something wonderful was about to happen because of my current sway to the left a little?

I’m still waiting.

Oh, it’ll happen.  I just think it’s going to be big.  With the way things have been running lately, it just has to be in order to balance things out.

You remember some of the dental issues that had me on a near liquid diet for seven days?  Well, one tooth finally got fixed.  I had put off the repair because I didn’t want to mess up an interview at work.  The rest of that story is that the person who should have gotten the promotion at work did get it, which is absolutely wonderful and I’m so incredibly happy that it fell the way that it did.  The interview itself has already opened some opportunities that I’ll be anxious to explore once a few more things finally fall into place.  And I know that they will.

But that’s another story.

The other tooth that was giving me trouble got pulled a couple of days ago.  It was one of those jaw teeth that grow roots to China.  In the process of its extraction, I felt some tugging on my right ear.  I know that sucker had roots that had wrapped around my ear, twice, and then had attached itself to the nape of my neck.  I think it might have been the first time ever that a dentist pulled a tooth and had to cut an umbilical cord.

Today is day three since the extraction, and while I’m healing nicely, I am a little sore.  My jaw bone feels bruised and there is still some slight swelling.  The good news is that I’m not in any kind of pain.

If you’re counting, that’s one broken tooth, one week of solely near-liquid and simultaneously flavorless intake, (I keep saying that because I love to eat.  I was deprived.  It’s a big deal.  I may repeat it at some point.) one semi-painful tooth repair, followed a week later by one very painful, and still ongoing, recovery from a tooth extraction.

Then Youngest and I got into a pretty heated argument yesterday morning.  Rather than talk to me she packed her stuff and moved out.  I was devastated.  I had only just recently gotten over Oldest’s last departure.  Of course, when Oldest moved out the last time, she took the two grandchildren with her.  I lost not one, but three loves.

It happened four times with Oldest.  The first time she left was also in anger and frustration, much like her sister’s departure yesterday.  Oldest felt like I had too much control in her life and she wanted to live it on her own.  I thought she still needed some guidance and I was, I suppose, too determined to offer it.  She was eighteen.  The second was a planned departure at nineteen.  The third was a little later, at twenty-one, only mildly hostile, and she took a grandbaby with her.  The fourth, while planned, took two grandbabies.  She’s all grown up now, with a life of her own, and I’m glad she chooses to share some of it with me.  She’s doing well, and I’m incredibly proud of the woman she’s become.  And she knows that wherever I am, she has a place to come home to.

Husband reminded me that this current set of events with Youngest is normal, and that it was bound to happen soon anyway.  I know this.  She’ll be nineteen this summer.  I knew she had been apartment hunting and was trying to get things in order so that she could move out.  I thought that was the natural way of things and it didn’t bother me much to think about it.  Between her work and her social life, I rarely saw her anyway.  And when she was home, she did all those things that annoy moms of adult children everywhere.

The leaving in anger part bothered me a great deal.  The fight was about responsibility, hers, and my insistence that she show some.  It was probably too soon.  I’ve spent all this time, probably the last four years, focusing solely on keeping her in school, and I forgot to prepare for what happened after graduation, which was barely a month ago.  Now I wish she was here to make all those messes and annoy me in all those thoughtless ways that always had me rolling my eyes and gritting my teeth in frustration.

You could remind me that it’s been barely twenty-four hours since she left, but I wouldn’t listen.  I’m like that sometimes.

I tried to talk to her this morning by phone and the end result was that she hung up on me.  She’s staying at a friend’s and I know that she’s safe, so I am comforted with the knowledge that she’s not out on the street, homeless, and desperate.  And I’ve told her that she can come home anytime she wants to, or needs to.

In the meantime, between bouts of depression and crying jags that leave me wishing I’d been a better mom to them both, I’m still waiting on the sway of something wonderful that is surely bound to happen.

It has to.

Because that’s the way life is.

 

 

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A Flight of Honor

I found myself traveling again this week.  It’s not something I do much anymore as I haven’t been anybody’s Union rep in about a year and a half now.  But this week I was once again on some other, equally important, Union business and traveled to Rochester New Hampshire.

It’s a place you just can’t get to from here.  It was an hour on a plane, then two hours in an airport, then another hour and a half on another plane, and then two hours or so in yet another airport, and then an hour by car, a diversion that lasted more than an hour, and then on to the hotel.  I could set down my backpack and laptop as I had finally arrived at my destination.

A backpack was all I needed because in my years of travel I’ve learned to pack well, and pack lightly.  And since I was only going to be in Rochester for two nights, I didn’t have to pack much at all.

Everybody always asks if it was a good trip, and I always say that it was uneventful.  In my opinion, an uneventful trip is the best kind to have, especially when travelling by air.  But this trip was full of adventure.   Not the bad kind, either.  The kind that will have me pondering the enormity of the events for a while, and the impact it had on me.

It was during my two-hour layover in Washington DC.  I’d gotten off the plane and headed to the restroom like everybody else.  Then I found a place to have a late breakfast.  And then I made my way to my gate.  With still an hour and a half before the scheduled boarding time, I settled into a seat, dug out my Kindle, and dove into something I’d downloaded a few days ago.

I began hearing announcements over the intercom system about something happening at another gate.  I’m usually pretty good at tuning out the airport noise, so I didn’t pay too much attention to it.  That is, I ignored it pretty well until I’d heard the same message for about the third time.  The announcement seemed more conversational than informative.  I figured if the guy was going to keep interrupting my reading, I might as well give it a listen at least once.

The announcement was about an incoming plane from which more than a hundred WWII veterans would be disembarking, having traveled to Washington DC to visit the memorial.  They were only going to be in DC for the one day, and the announcer had invited everyone in the terminal (who had the time without missing their flight) to greet the Veterans at Gate 36.

I still had about an hour and a half before my flight started to board.  I stowed my Kindle, picked up my few belongings, and meandered my way over to the designated gate.  A small crowd had already gathered, and it was growing by the minute.  The chute that the Veterans would travel from the plane to the terminal was decorated with an American flag hung on an inner wall.  Another hung tapestry style on an adjacent wall inside the terminal.  Amid red, white, and blue balloons, a brass quintet played all those old Company songs from the 40’s with two trumpets, a trombone, a baritone, and an oboe.

As their plane approached the terminal on the flag-lined tarmac, it received a water salute and the entire plane passed through an arc of water.  Inside, people’s noses were pressed up against the thick glass to watch, and tears sprang to our eyes long before we ever saw the first of the Veterans disembark.  Cheers the Veterans couldn’t possibly hear echoed through the halls of the airport, and the crowd grew thicker.

I could almost feel the static that rose from all the goose bumps from everybody’s arms as the Veterans came through that chute, one by one.  Some walked unassisted while others used wheelchairs, canes, and walkers.  One rose from his wheelchair to meet his greeting upright.

Some were missing a leg, one was missing an arm, and they were all absent their youth.

I thought about trying to dig out the only camera in my possession, my iPod, from the bottom of my backpack, decided that by the time I could get to it the parade would be over, and resigned myself to simply taking notes.  I was afraid I would forget probably the most profound sight I had ever seen in my lifetime.  But writing this, I find that I have only consulted my notes twice.  I don’t think I will ever forget this day.

The Veterans all wore yellow shirts that advised that if we could read their shirts, we should thank a teacher, and if we could read it in English, we should thank a Veteran.  The assistants all wore the same message on blue shirts.

While we applauded them for their service, they met us with smiles and laughter.  Some wept.  One couldn’t even look at us.  I saw in their elderly faces gratitude for our appreciation, sadness at the abruptly conjured memories, and nostalgia from the camaraderie experienced on the flight with their fellow servicemen.  I saw disdain from a few that we in the crowd would have the nerve to thank them now, derision that we dared act like we had any knowledge of their sufferings, and knowledge that whatever gratitude we were showing, it could never take the place of their tremendous losses.

And we clapped our hands together anyway, because all of us standing there were standing there in genuine gratitude for them.  We were showing appreciation for those that couldn’t be there because they’d, quite literally, given their all.  We remembered them, we saluted those that were still alive, and we tapped our feet to songs like Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, made popular by the Andrews Sisters in 1941 (and replayed for us live by the Whitworth Brass Quintet for an honor flight in 2013).

People who couldn’t wait any longer rushed to catch connecting flights.  Others paused as they passed the gate, and then stayed as long as they could.  Parents shuffled small children as best they could for as long as they could, all in order to stay and participate just a little while longer.

The war was over nearly 70 years ago.  These people we were saluting and for whom we were cheering, won’t be with us much longer.  They are aged, and their collective health is failing.  And pretty soon, there will be no more surviving servicemen from WWII.

As I was thinking about this, I realized that I’d lost all track of time and was about to miss boarding my own flight.  While the remaining Veterans disembarked, I became one of the other passengers fleeing the scene in a mad rush to my own gate.

I was glad I stayed as long as I possibly could, though.  It’s a sight I’m glad I was available to witness.  And even though I wasn’t able to take pictures digitally, I’ll always have the memory for as long as my own mind is healthy enough to re-play it.

It wasn’t only an actual flight of honor for the WWII Veterans.

It was also a flight of honor for me.

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Chicken Parmesan

I used to cook for my co-workers on occasion.  Not too often, just often enough so that they didn’t get tired of me bringing something in for the whole crew.

Their favorite seems to be my Chicken Parmesan, although I can’t really take credit for its creation.  I told them Friday that I would make it this weekend and bring them a pan, even though I no longer work in that area.

Only I didn’t make just a little.  I had to consider my new co-workers, too.

From watching several chefs on television do it, along with Tony Soprano’s wife on that mob show, I think I’ve got it down pat.  Or at least a passable version of it.

I promise I won’t do a lot of cooking posts, but if you’d like to give this a try, I’ll convey it as simply as possible.

The one thing to remember about anything you cook is to enjoy doing it.  If you’re grumpy about it, the food you make will reflect that attitude.  You’ll either forget a prime ingredient, cook it too long or not long enough, or use too much or too little of something important.  Just relax and have a good time, give yourself plenty of space, use a lot of spoons tasting stuff, and don’t rush.

For my chicken Parmesan  I shop with the idea that I’ll need 1 wedge of Parmesan, 1 log of Mozzarella, 1 can of crushed tomatoes, 1 head of garlic, and 1 pound of pasta noodles for every 2 pounds of boneless/skinless chicken breasts.  That seems to be the math that works best.  One 2-pound package of chicken will make a good-size family dish with the possibility of leftovers.  I would guess that this amount should serve about 8 if the portions were small and there were side dishes to go with it.  Otherwise, what I’m about to divulge will only serve about 4 or 5.

You’ll want to have casserole dishes, at least one for every 2 pounds of chicken.  You could use an additional smaller pan for those extra pieces of chicken that just won’t fit, or you could use any leftover chicken pieces to feed the most finicky among you who refuses to eat anything red.

You’ll want the kind of baking dishes that are shallow, and at least the size of a cake pan.  This dish works best if the chicken is baked in single layers that don’t overlap, so before you go trying to use six pounds of chicken, make sure you have the bake ware to pull that off.

The rest of the ingredients you should have readily available in your kitchen.  If you don’t, stock up.  You’ll want bread crumbs, oregano, basil, salt, pepper, bay leaves, cayenne, crushed red pepper, parsley, garlic powder, garlic salt, and whatever else you think might go well in this dish.  You’ll also want one of those cans of powdered Parmesan that the kids like to put on spaghetti.

You could buy bread crumbs, but it’s almost as easy to just make your own and keep them in the freezer.  Remember all those heels that get thrown away?  Freeze ‘em.  Then every once in a while you can crumb them in your food processor, store them in a gallon size freezer bag, and every time you need fresh bread crumbs just pull them out of the freezer.  Any bread works well.  Remnants of leftover white bread, wheat bread, that loaf you brought home from the steak house, biscuits, bagels, that partial sleeve of crackers that haven’t been touched in a while – whatever.  As long as the bread or crackers aren’t sweet and don’t have strong flavors like Rye or Rosemary, you can use these crumbs in just about anything.

The sauce is simple, and you’ll want to put it on to simmer while the chicken is frying.  So mince up two cloves of garlic and sauté them for just a few seconds in about a tablespoon or so of olive oil and then add a can of crushed tomatoes.  Add salt to taste.  That’s it.  Cover it up and let it stew while everything else is happening.

In a clean gallon-size zippy bag, put about 2 cups of the fresh bread crumbs for every 2 pounds of chicken you will be making.  Add some amount of each of the spices listed above, including that powdered Parmesan the kids like.  I recommend starting with about a tablespoon of everything (except the cayenne and crushed red pepper – only use about a ¼ teaspoon), and then the next time you make it you can adjust accordingly.  Shake the bag to combine everything.

You could use prepackaged, seasoned bread crumbs if you want, but you really never know what’s in that can.  For all I know it contains dried carpet fiber, but who’s checking?

I hope it goes without saying that you should wash your hands first and periodically thereafter, especially after each time you handle raw meat.  If you needed that little bit of advice, you may want to skip down to the next post in your reader as cooking is not something you’ll want to do very often, and something you’ll never want to do for other people.

Wash your chicken breasts in cold water.

Fillet your chicken with a very sharp knife and add the pieces to the bag.  It doesn’t matter how many pieces you get so much as it matters how thick the pieces are.  You’ll want thin pieces.  I can usually get three to four thin fillets out of each piece of breast meat and a few of something resembling the size of chicken tenders.  Even the small bits that resemble nuggets fry well and fill up space in the pan, so use those, too.

It won’t do to just shake the bag and expect the chicken to receive a nice coating.  These are crumbs, not flour, so you’ll want to press them onto the chicken pieces.

Ideally, you’ll want to heat a combination of olive oil and vegetable oil in a large skillet, about a quarter to a half an inch deep with oil, and fry a whole clove of garlic (sliced in half to get the most flavor out of it) between each batch of chicken, adding more of both oils as necessary.  Then you’ll want to salt each piece of chicken as it’s frying, both sides.  I find it easier to just keep a container of garlic salt and use that to season the chicken while it’s frying.  However you prefer is fine.

Layer the chicken into the hot oil.  Don’t crowd it.  If you can only fit three pieces into the pan without them touching each other, then wait until they’re done to put more in.  You just want to brown them lightly on each side.  Don’t overcook them – they’ll be in the oven for half an hour later, so don’t worry so much about getting them all the way done as browning them nicely.  If the pieces aren’t thick, you should only have to fry them about 2-4 minutes on each side.  Thicker pieces should be filleted again, if at all possible, prior to frying to ensure the half hour baking time (later) is sufficient time to cook them through without over-cooking them.  Most of them, if they’re thin enough, will be cooked through in the short time it takes to brown them.

As they come out of the pan, layer them in your baking dish, side by side, scrunching them together but not overlapping.  You’ll find yourself working them like puzzle pieces to get as many in as you can.  That’s fine, too.  Just try not to overlap them.

When your chicken is done and in the pan(s), slice up a log of Mozzarella.  The thinnest you’ll be able to slice them by hand is still a pretty good slab, and don’t use them sparingly.  Cover each piece of chicken, even if some of the chicken requires two pieces or more to completely cover.  You don’t want to put the mozzarella down onto the pan in any bare spots, but make sure the chicken is covered.

You probably won’t use the whole log, but it’s perfectly okay if you do.  Leftover mozzarella stores well for a while in the refrigerator and can be used in any number of recipes later.

Using a ladle or a large spoon, top each piece of mozzarella with some of the tomato sauce you’ve kept simmering.  Evenly distribute this making sure that most of the mozzarella is covered.  If you have extra sauce, now you can put it in places to fill up any holes between the chicken pieces.  If you don’t have any left, that’s fine too.  If you thought that 1 can wasn’t going to be enough for two pounds of chicken and you used 2 cans instead, then plan on making meatloaf or spaghetti later in the week.  The tomato sauce will freeze well, too, so you can use it much later for something else.

Or you could just toss it out, depending entirely on your personal level of ‘green’.

Liberally sprinkle freshly grated Parmesan from the wedge I had you buy.  You’ll want to use most of this in your dish, reserving some for garnishing later, and refrigerating the rest for use in something else, or sprinkle it on garlic bread to serve with your dish.  If you start grating from the pointy end, you’ll use all but the final inch or so of the whole wedge to cover your dish.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Bake your masterpiece(s) uncovered for 20-30 minutes, or until just before the top looks like it’s going to start browning a little.  You don’t want brown, but golden is nice.  It’s even better if it doesn’t brown at all.

Now you can get to work on your noodles, and if everything works well, you can eat as soon as the noodles get done.  If the chicken gets done sooner than that, it can just rest for a bit on the counter and be patiently awaiting the final touches on your pasta.

I’ve found that thin spaghetti noodles work best for this dish.  If you just like some other style, then go for it.  Use plenty of water in which to boil the noodles and add salt and both butter and olive oil to the water to provide flavor and to prevent sticking.  When done, drain well, add olive oil and butter to the bottom of the hot pan, and return the noodles quickly.  Add any measure of the same spices you used in the bread crumbs in whatever quantities you prefer.  I recommend that you start with the same measurements as for the bread crumbs and adjust deficiencies in the next batch you make.  There is one exception: do not add Parmesan in any form to the noodles.  It will try to melt, fail, and just make a sticky mess of your noodles.

Toss to coat well.

To build this mountain of perfection on the dinner plate, start with a small bed of seasoned noodles and top with a piece or two of chicken.  Stand back quickly when you hand the plate to someone so you can graciously receive their accolades while still retaining some dignity.

Leftovers re-heat well in the microwave, so it’s easy to put some noodles in small containers and top with chicken pieces.  You can even freeze these portions to grab and go on a day when you didn’t have leftovers for your lunch at work.  Be careful though.  When you re-heat this at work and your co-workers are eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, you may find you are suddenly very popular.  If this is your goal, then make extra so you can achieve the same effect often.

If you have more noodles left over than you have chicken to accompany it, you can always use them as a basis for an Alfredo sauce tomorrow, which is really good with chicken fried in the same manner as above.  Or you could pair it with mild or sweet Italian sausage instead.  Or just go ahead and make that spaghetti sauce your kids were screaming for when they found out you’d made something different than what they were used to.

Whatever you do, and regardless of your reasons for doing it, do it simply.  And enjoy.

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Chivalry Ain’t Dead – Just My Pride

I was never used to kindness from people I knew.  Even less so from people I didn’t.   But in the span of just a few hours I received so many acts of random kindness that it brought me to tears.

Okay, I didn’t actually bawl and cry, but I welled up a little.  Most of it was because strangers came to my aid when I least expected it.  And the rest was because of my pride.

I know, I know.  Pride goeth before any falls and such.  I get it.  And mine certainly fell.  But if you’ll bear with me a little longer, I’ll tell you how a grown woman (aged, really) found herself in a situation where she needed help, didn’t quite know it, and didn’t really have to ask.

The aged woman is me.  Okay, I’m only forty-four, but I’m an old forty-four.  I’m old because in my youth I performed some pretty hard labor.  My size and ability to man-handle bales of hay, crates of corn, and stacks of tobacco conditioned me to do most everything for myself.  I’m not that tiny woman that men fall all over themselves trying to assist.  One look at me performing any task screams, “Nah, she can do it.”

Did I mention I was once run over by a tractor?  Well, that’s a different tale, and someday I’ll tell it, but knowing it now just confirms in your mind that when I say I’m an old forty-four, I have my reasons.  And my aches and pains.

As a woman who is confident in her ability to take care of herself, there are some things I habitually do, like perform a visual check of my car before I get in and start it up.  I look at the tires, the windows, and the door handles.  The tires for obvious reasons, the windows to ensure none are cracked or broken, and the door handles to ensure no one has been messing around in an attempt to burglarize.  I look for the tell-tale signs of tread marks through the mud puddle at the foot of my driveway for clues to a stranger’s presence, and I always carry a small flashlight.  You just never know.

So the other morning, as I prepared to leave for work in the wee hours, I performed my visual inspection of my car, like always, and noticed nothing out of line.  I drove all the way to work with no incident.  During my shift, my supervisor instructed me to go to another office a few miles away to offer my assistance.  I got to my car and saw that my rear passenger tire was melting off its rim.

Okay, so it wasn’t literally melting, but that’s what it looked like.  The rubber tire was all floppy and there was no air to keep the rim off the concrete underneath.  And I was still on the clock and in a terrible hurry.

Luckily for me, there is a tire shop only a block away.  And while they had only been open a couple of hours at this point, they were already jam-packed with various cars of all kinds.  I scooted inside and asked if someone could look at my tire.  The guy pumped it full of air, told me it wouldn’t hold long because there was a gash in the side of my tire, and that he wouldn’t be able to replace it for another few hours.  I didn’t have that long.  At most, I had about twenty minutes to grab a bite to eat and get to the other office.  I flew.

Okay, so I didn’t sprout wings and actually fly, but you get that I was in a hurry, right?  About four blocks from my destination, I heard, more than felt, the tire go flat again.  Hoping that four blocks on the rim wouldn’t do much damage, I decided I’d take care of it after work.  I parked out back and went inside to finish my day.

I usually get off work around eleven-thirty or noon.  On this particular day, with overtime, it wound up being around one thirty or two – still plenty of daylight left to fix this.

I clocked out and went to the trunk of my car.  No jack.  No tire tool.  No anything, except a tired old donut tire that came with the car nearly ten years ago.  I wasn’t sure it was any good, nor could I remember the last time I’d had it checked.  This uncertainty was the first chip in my armor of pride.

But how did I lose a jack and a tire tool, out of my trunk, from under the carpet that covers the spare tire well, and from under all the junk that litters the carpet?  I had no clue.

I went back inside the building and asked a co-worker if I could borrow his jack.  He handed me his keys without looking up.

I retrieved the jack and tire tool from my co-worker’s trunk, marveling at how chintzy these things had become over the years, and proceeded to place the jack under my car.  I had to lay down on the concrete parking lot to do it.  This began the second chink in my armor of pride.

Now, remember, I’m the old farm girl who knows how to disassemble an entire rotor tiller and put it back together.  I was the kid who was melting down small sinkers to make larger ones for the deeper parts of the creek that ran by my childhood home.  There was even that time I replaced a headlight in my own vehicle. I am not afraid of dirt.

But boy did it hurt my pride to have to get down on all fours, slowly so as to be careful of my aching back, gingerly lengthen out to lay on my side, taking care to extend my right leg slowly so as not to aggravate an already bad knee.  Once in position, I scooted this little toy jack under my car, lifting it only enough to take some pressure off the rim while still allowing for the necessary friction between it and the concrete to be able to break the seal on the lug nuts, otherwise the tire would just spin.

It felt like it took five full minutes for me to stand upright again, all the while remembering the good, sturdy jacks of my youth and wishing I’d had one at my disposal.

Taking the tire tool over to the tire, I capped the end over one of the lug nuts and gave it a sharp yank left.  Nothing.  I affixed it so that the lever extended parallel to the ground and put my weight into it, arms extended for leverage, and bounced a couple of times.  Nothing.  Not even a squeak.  In frustration I picked up my foot and stomped the arm of the tire tool.

That’s when I remembered, rather painfully, that I was wearing my orthotics, those little hard plastic inserts the podiatrist said I needed in my shoes because I’m old.  And then I remembered, also rather painfully, my bad right knee.

Something green caught my peripheral vision.  A man in scrubs was walking toward me.  As he approached he identified himself as an employee of the medical building next door.  He wanted to know if I could use a hand.

Wow.  All my life I had just taken care of things on my own, never needing assistance, and never thinking to ask.  And I don’t recall anyone just coming up out of the blue to offer it, either.  Let alone cute and in green scrubs.  Episodes of recent television dramas filled my head.

That’s when my pride began to wilt further into my increased gratitude.  At least until I saw that he couldn’t break any of the lug nuts free either.  Then I didn’t feel so bad.  My foot was still hurting, though, and I began to wonder if I’d cracked the hard plastic insert in my shoe.  I made a mental note to check that later.

I returned my co-worker’s tools to his trunk, thanked Mr. Scrubs for trying to help, and went inside to find a phone book.  I called a local tire shop and explained my dilemma.  The young man with whom I spoke said he’d be right there.  He arrived with a proper jack and a proper cross bar with which to remove the tire and rim from my car.  He did it in under three minutes.  In another forty seconds, he had inspected and then affixed my donut spare and instructed me to follow him back to the shop.  He did all that without breaking a sweat, let alone any orthotics he probably wasn’t wearing anyway.  Those are things reserved for us old folks.

He neither charged me for the twenty mile round trip nor for the labor exerted that day.  My only charge was for the new tire and mounting/balancing.  Amazingly, my entire bill was less than a hundred dollars.

Back in the car and safely on the road, I counted my blessings the whole way home.  Strangers had come to my elderly aid for things I had just discovered I could no longer do alone.  It was a strange feeling to not be able to do those things for myself anymore, and my pride was indeed hurt.  But I think my gratitude overshadowed the hurt pride.

I don’t know if I can chalk up the kindness of each of these strangers to my wonderful community, or if the stars were just aligned perfectly and in my favor that day.  I like to think that given the proper tools, I may have been able to do it myself after all.  I may never know.

I’m also thankful that my shoe insert is not cracked or broken.  That might have just sent me over the edge.  And I’m glad to know that chivalry isn’t quite dead yet, even if my pride is at the end of its rope.

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THAT DOG DON’T HUNT…and other words of wisdom

It’s how I grew up.  It’s how I learned to speak.  And speaking properly in southern West Virginia is unlike anyplace else I know.

Now grown with grandchildren, and having traveled some within our country’s borders during my adulthood, I’ve learned that while home might be where my heart is, I’ve always been glad that I got my education someplace else.  Having been raised by grandparents who had only completed grammar school, getting out in the world and hearing how others expressed themselves was quite a shock to my system.

I do still speak with a slight accent, I’m told.  I’m also informed that it thickens with emotion – especially anger – or during times when I’m incredibly tired.  But the euphemisms are as much a part of me as anything else.

My husband is from Pennsylvania, a true northerner from my humble perspective.  His adaptation into my world seems remarkable, given that he’s had to pert near learn a whole new language.  He’s done well.  Although there are still occasions when he turns to me and says something akin to, “Okay, tell me.  What the HELL does that mean?”  When I explain the expression, his northern logic kicks into overdrive until he comes up with something to intelligently explain just how, or even why, the particular expression in question might have come to be.

And there are times when he still laughs at my pronunciation of a word here and there.  Like ‘acorn’.  My West Virginia mouth just can’t say it the way most people do.  It always comes out ‘akurn’, with the emphasis on the ‘A’.  There are other words I use that have him guessing their meaning.  For example, my enunciations of ‘fill’ and ‘feel’ sound pretty much the same, as does ‘mill’ and ‘meal’, ‘still’ and ‘steel’, ‘well’ and ‘will’…you get the idea.

He likes to believe that he rules this roost, so I don’t argue.  I do giggle a lot, though.  And every once in a while something will come out of my mouth that still takes him by surprise.  Once, while driving with our youngest someplace, my daughter and I had gotten into an argument.  She was arguing with me from her place in the backseat, and when I’d had enough of the bickering, I turned around from my front passenger seat and let loose a torrent of my grandmother’s words that I couldn’t quite remember when it was over.  The car was completely silent for several thick minutes until my husband, from his place in the driver’s seat, quietly cautioned my daughter to be very careful because, “Your mother’s speaking rural.”

He and I used to be activists for organized labor, the fight for the little guy.  It took us both to some extreme places.  At one time we were both arbitration advocates for our Union, presenting the little guy’s case to an arbitrator who acted as a judge with full and final decision-making authority.  It was our job to bring the arbitrator around to our way of thinking, in each case we presented, every single time.

My grandmother had always been good at that.  She had a real knack for persuasion that could always bring my contrary grandfather around to her way of thinking, regardless of the issue.  And she did it with remarkable finesse.  However, she, with all her wisdom and propensity for persuasion, just didn’t understand my work.  She once accused me of gettin’ above my raisin’.  I knew what she meant.  If she had only understood that my work was for the little guy, maybe she would have been more proud.  Maybe if I’d only told her that some folks need a voice, ‘cause their own just ain’t loud enough.  Maybe then she’d have understood why I was always getting on an airplane to jet someplace beyond our confining, yet gracious, mountainous borders.

My very northern husband and I once watched a film together entitled, “Even the Heavens Weep”.  It was a documentary about the coal mine wars complete with interviews of elderly West Virginians who had been small children at the time of the conflict.  After it was over, he expressed genuine gratitude for the subtitles during the interviews; otherwise, he proclaimed, the incredibly dense accents would have prevented his understanding of what was being said.

Subtitles?  I had seen that film five or six times already and had never noticed the subtitles!  Upon reflection, though, and after having seen the Jodie Foster movie “Nell”, I can appreciate his difficulty in comprehending what the old folks were saying.  I feel it necessary to point out, if only as a source of pride, that I had very little trouble understanding what Nell had to say.  Give me something to get riled up about and I will instantly slip into old speak myself.

It’s a language unto its own.  It’s colorful, tantalizing, almost aromatic, and usually contains all the flavors necessary to make a meal worthy of satisfying any hunger.  It sustained me as a youth and it’s what I return to even today.  And sometimes it’s without thinking that I dip into it, providing a taste of what was to those around me now.  Sometimes they laugh, yes.  But more often than not they just…get it.  Instantly.

Taking periodic pages from my grandmother’s book, I’ve been known to inform an arbitrator that while two ideas might be similar, comparing them would be like comparing a cucumber and a chicken leg.  Both are food, but they just don’t fry up the same.

During one particularly argumentative hearing I accused the management representative of attempting to use a horse’s tail to paint masterpieces on a burlap sack.  In other words:  that dog don’t hunt.

And in yet another, I explained that the opposing advocate’s attempt to beautify a pasture by covering it with snow didn’t quite remove the existence of the cow-patties underneath.

And that’s the thing with southern-isms.  They paint an unmistakable representation of thoughts and ideas that leaves no doubt as to its meaning.  A message is conveyed in simply spoken words that enables the mind to see, and feel, its complex content clearly.

Those who would look at my grandparents and regard them as backward hillbillies will never know the comfort of clear expression, the certainty of unambiguous communication with just a touch of color, or the resolute knowledge that life really is what we make of it for ourselves.

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GET PROACTIVE

            A few years ago, when my youngest daughter was about thirteen years old, I heard her run across the floor over my head, bound down the stairs, and fly through the open door of my home office.  Out of breath and very excited, she asked, “Mom, will you get proactive?”

            As a Union leader, and someone who was always participating in one demonstration or another, filing somebody’s grievance, or preparing a case for arbitration, I instinctively, upon hearing the request, scooted my chair back from my desk and whatever it was that I had been working on, and rolled up my sleeves while simultaneously answering her with, “Sure honey, about what?”

I did not yet know if there was something going on at school for which she and her friends, or she alone, wanted to take some grand stand for or against, or if something had happened in our community that required attention, but I knew I wanted to help.  And I couldn’t wait to hear the details.  I wondered briefly how often in a parent’s life that a child actually wants Mom to help with something this big.  And I was proud that she had asked.

My oldest daughter, already grown at the time with children of her own, denies that she is an activist.  But just let something go wrong in her community and she is the first one to write a letter or make a phone call with regard to the injustice of whatever the situation may be.  My youngest daughter, though, had participated with me during my years of activism that began before she was born.

So imagine for just a moment my Unionist’s pride.  My little girl, after all those years she’s assisted me in one way or another, has just asked me to assist her.  I didn’t know what had gotten her so excited, but I was grateful that she wanted to get involved. My chest swelled and I sat a little taller waiting for her answer that would surely be delivered just as breathlessly and full of excitement as her question had been.  I reveled in it.

“Mom, will you get proactive?”

“Sure Honey; about what?”

But before she could answer and give me the details in her teenager’s language that I would have to decipher as I listened, I had a brief flash of her history with me.  It was only a fraction of a second, but it was filled with memories from her childhood that had led us to this moment in our lives.  Parents who are reading this will know what I mean; it’s that time when something profound happens and everything else stops peripherally while these memories instantly flash through your mind like a movie reel, and it’s a moment that only you notice because it takes no real time at all.

In that frozen moment before she could answer my question, I remembered my daughter sitting beside me all those years ago at my Local’s Union meeting.  I remembered how the President would call for all those in favor to signify by the sound of ‘aye’ and the raising of hands, and her little two-year old hand would fly toward the ceiling and she would shout ‘aye’, thinking she had done something wonderful to participate in the events.  That she also voted ‘nay’ in the same manner, each time, on every issue, always brought a chuckle from those seated around us.

In that same fraction of a second came the memory of my little girl at about eight or nine years old and very small for her age.  She had accompanied me to a Kerry rally when he was campaigning for election to President of the United States.  She sat on my shoulders waving a small USA flag, chanting with the crowd, “Kerry!  Kerry!  Kerry!”  When the senator, tall and lithe, loped through the crowd toward the stage and then leapt up on top of it in a singular bound, avoiding the steps altogether, my daughter asked excitedly, “Is that him, Mommy, is that who we want to win?”

“Yes, Honey,” I replied through a smile that stretched as wide as the Kanawha River by which we were gathered, simply awed that she was doing this with me.  “That’s him.”

And in that same frozen moment I recalled just a year or so later when she walked a picket line with me, carrying a sign bigger than she was, during one of those times when I had waged war against an abusive supervisor.  Her sign read, “No More Fear; Stop the Abuse” in hand lettering that she had helped me color with markers and stencils the night before as we and our materials lay sprawled across the living room floor.

Imagine my pride, my little girl, after all these years of standing with me, was now asking me to take a stand with her.

“Mom, will you get proactive?”

“Sure, Honey; about what?”

And as she spoke her answer, to my severe dismay, she pointed a finger to the side of her nose, to the small zit she had just discovered that, in her opinion, was the size of Texas.  Proactive, she informed me with winded excitement, was the facial wash she had just seen advertised on television that promised to clear up all a young girl’s problems.  Just as quickly as she had entered, she blew out of my office and ran back upstairs.

Deflated, all of the air sucked out of the room I still occupied upon her breathless exit, I scooted my chair back up to the desk, unrolled my sleeves, and tried to resume my concentration on the grievance, or whatever else it was, on which I had previously been working.

I then added “Get Proactive” to the next available line of my to-do list.

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D’Ogee and his Tail

D’Ogee is our dog. We call him Ogee for short.

Well, he’s our oldest daughter’s dog. He is so named because Jaycee, our then three-year old granddaughter, was learning how to spell D-O-G. It kept coming out deeohgee in one fluid word instead of three distinct letters. It just stuck.

You know how some people talk about their oh-so-smart dogs and how they are man’s-best-friend and how gushy-mushy they get when they talk about their little four-legged family members? Not me. At least not where Ogee is concerned anyway.

Don’t get me wrong, please. While I am not an animal lover like some people I know, who carry pictures of their pets on their key chains and on necklaces proudly displayed around their necks and spend a fortune at McDonald’s buying them Happy Meals that get thrown into the back seats of their cars, I am rather more of an animal ‘liker’, meaning I won’t intentionally run one over. On purpose. Although I probably won’t feel too bad for too long if I happen to do it accidentally. Most times.

Maybe it’s a character flaw. Maybe it’s because my grandfather used to trade dogs for pocket knives and then trade pocket knives for hunting dogs. Maybe it’s because I actually know the difference between a squirrel dog and rabbit dog. Maybe it’s just because I wasn’t raised with dogs as pets. Or maybe it’s because my grandmother would have had a full-blown fit if someone had brought an animal of any sort into her house.

Maybe I’m just crazy and everyone else is sane. Maybe one day I will fully come to realize that dogs really do like to go shopping in handbags affixed to old ladies’ shoulders. Maybe.

But Ogee? I guess you would just have to know him to appreciate my rejection of that animal. He has a tail that he flings and smacks like a bullwhip, slashing in two everything he whacks. Our front porch rails have had to be replaced twice because he keeps cracking them. And oh, my poor knees are at that exact perfect height for this way-too-happy tail-slasher.

Most dogs simply wag their tails. It’s even kind of cute when they do. Even I think so. Usually. But Ogee bull-whips his with a force that makes his whole body double around itself so that he’s almost kissing his own doggie derrière. Repeatedly. And very painfully to those who happen to be anywhere near him. This is a dog that needs his own three-foot circumference wherever he goes so as not to cause harm to himself or others.

Ogee has not only damaged our knees, our furniture, and solid wood with his tail-whipping, he has also damaged his tail. My daughter has taken him to the vet on more than one occasion because he had almost whacked it off completely against some something or other and the bloodletting was just horrible. I don’t think Ogee really lost all that much blood, though, but the way he splashed it everywhere with his violent tail whipping made it look like blood spatter worthy of an episode of Dexter. Droplets on the floors, on the ceilings, on the furniture – our living room looked like a crime scene. Smack splash! Smack splash!

The vet said something akin to “Well, when he realizes it hurts, he’ll stop.” Sounds like something my Uncle used to say about the television set his son, who was a toddler at the time, kept pulling by the cord. “Just let it fall on his head one time,” he said, “and he’ll learn to quit.” It was the kind of statement that was immediately followed by a stream of tobacco spit in some general direction that was away from his own shoes.

I don’t think our vet chews tobacco, but we do live in West Virginia, so you never know. She might.

But Ogee just doesn’t stop, regardless of the now ragged condition of his tail. This morning he was standing at the bottom of the stairwell looking up the stairs, front paws about three steps ahead of his back paws. His tail was whipping violently back and forth against both corners of the wall that housed the stairwell. The corners! They have metal strips in them for stability! Metal! My husband and I looked at each other and just shrugged. One of us wondered aloud if maybe he had no feeling left in his poor tail, and suggested that maybe the lack of feeling was why he continued to beat everything with ferocious fervor. The question had to be repeated, twice, because the sound of Ogee’s tail (thwack thwack thwack) was delivered with such velocity that the original sentiment was drowned out. It was like trying to talk next to the roaring blades of a helicopter in full spin.

The other of us suggested, loudly to be heard, that if it were indeed painful, surely he would stop, sounding just like the vet in our expertise. Although neither of us chew tobacco.

My husband’s eyes lit up then, with a new thought entirely. Maybe Ogee just wanted to go outside and was at the ‘wrong door’ so to speak. I find it necessary to point out at this juncture that the carpeted view from the bottom step looking up the stairwell in no way resembles that of our front yard, regardless of how long the intervals between vacuuming. But it was a good idea. Ogee is apparently not that bright and maybe he was just confused. My husband went to the living room and opened the front door. Ogee indeed seemed grateful, when he finally figured it out, and took leaps and bounds in his effort to get outside, being sure to forcefully thwack/smack both sides of the door frame on his way out. He was so grateful, in fact, that my husband is still limping, three hours later, from Ogee’s glee.

I am truthfully considering amputation at this point. If I could only be certain that I was doing it for Ogee’s benefit, I might rush right into discussions of the project with our vet. My hesitation is that I fear I would be doing it out of selfishness, especially if Ogee really can’t feel what happens to him whenever he takes out a car’s tire or breaks a two-by-four in half. But the other concern I have is that maybe he just hasn’t figured it out yet. He’s really not a very smart animal. I’m not sure we can withstand the time it will take, though, for Ogee to discover the relationship between thwack/smack and his own pain.

Or maybe I will just affix a hoola-hoop to my knees, thereby providing my own three-foot circumference whenever he’s around.

May 1, 2012

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