Friday, May 22, 2009

Walk Down No Memory Lane

I’m reading a book my mother gave me, called Still Alice, by Lisa Genova. Mom said she couldn’t put it down and thought I would enjoy it as much as she did. The main character is a 50-year old woman, who is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer ’s disease. The book is extremely well written and takes the reader inside the thoughts of the main character, dramatizing the effects of the disease on her family. However, after a couple of weeks, I’m only halfway through and keep putting the book down, because the story hits way too close to home.

Yesterday, I had three items on my errand list: 1) Go to the post office and submit a change of address, 2) Buy blank address labels at Office Max, and 3) Shop for a dress to get married in. (Yes, Gene eventually did formally propose marriage, and we are getting married on June 6th.) Not being terribly familiar with the downtown Austin area, I asked Gene for directions to the nearest post office and Office Max. I didn’t write down the directions. That was my first mistake.

From the softball fields where Gene had just finished playing his game, I was to travel along Pleasant Valley Road and turn east on 6th Street to get to the post office. “Here’s 5th Street”, I said to myself, be-bopping along in my Durango. The next street I came to was 7th Street. “Hey, wait one minute! Where’d 6th Street go?!” I figured that I must not have been paying attention, so I turned right on 7th Street and cut back across on the next road, expecting to intersect 6th Street. But instead, I came upon 5th Street again. What in the world?!!! I was terribly frustrated, remembering that I had opted not to change my address online because of the $1 fee, realizing I had likely used up about $5 worth of gas at this point. I tried calling Gene from my cell phone, but there was no answer.

Not wanting to waste anymore of my time looking for the hidden post office, I headed toward Office Max. Gene and I made the trip to Office Max just a few days before, so I thought I knew where it was, but as I began to travel in the maze of downtown Austin, I realized I had no clue where the store was located. I circled the same blocks over and over, expecting a different result, but Office Max simply was not where I thought it was. I called Gene again; Still no answer.

As I expanded the perimeters of my block search, I spied the downtown post office. At least I’d found one item on my list, albeit not the location I was originally searching for. I completed the change of address form, but couldn’t decide which one of the receptacles to place it in. In the area where the stamp would’ve gone were the words “No postage necessary if mailed anywhere in the U.S.” “Should I put it in the “Stamped Mail Only” slot or the “Metered Mail” slot?” I asked myself. I mean, after all, there was no stamp on the form, and it hadn’t been metered either. Why was there no “None Of The Above” slot? I finally opted for “Stamped Mail Only” and, on my way out, thankfully had the wherewithal to ask a man in the lobby where the nearest Office Max was located. I was so close to Office Max I could’ve spit on it, as the crow flies. But seeing as I was driving, it took me another ten minutes of navigating one-way streets to get there.

Feeling elated with a sense of accomplishment after leaving Office Max, I decided to go shopping at the Barton Creek Mall. As I approached the mall parking lot, my cell phone rang. No, it wasn’t Gene. It was my dear friend, Paula. We were having a wonderful conversation and still talking as I drove into the mall, parked the car and went inside. I shopped for a couple of hours, but did not find what I was looking for.

My feet hurt. My back hurt. I was hungry and tired. Not a good combination. Overly ready to leave, I walked out the JC Penney exit to the parking lot and looked about. None of the scenery was familiar. I surmised that I must’ve come in a different entrance. Not finding another exit in JC Penney, I walked back into the mall. I looked around, but couldn’t put couldn’t recall coming through any of the entrances there either. I obtained a store directory and looked it over, determining that I must’ve come in at JC Penney.

Returning to the original JC Penney exit, I walked into the bright sunlight, stared at the rows of cars before me, but did not see mine anywhere. Assuring myself that my car must be close by, I walked further into the parking lot. After several minutes of walking, shielding my eyes from the brightness and mindful of my aching back and sore feet, I became more and more dismayed. What if I was getting Alzheimer’s, like the woman in my book? What if Gene never answered his phone and I wandered in the parking lot for years like Moses in the wilderness? Would anyone I know ever find me? Nobody knew where I was.

I called Gene’s phone again, and this time my son, Eric, answered (he’s now living in the trailer house behind Gene’s home). I asked him if Gene was there and he found Gene outside, watering the plants.

“This is going to sound weird, Honey,” I said, “but I’m lost in the Barton Creek Mall parking lot. I can’t find my car anywhere.” Gene calmed me down and suggested I push the Panic Button on my key fob. Now, why didn’t I think of that? He said, “Walk around the parking lot, and if you’re within 100 feet of your car, the alarm will sound.” Great idea! Now, I only had to will my aching feet to walk around the mall parking lot while I pressed the button.

Endowed with a great deal of resilience, I set out with my new plan, pressing my Panic Button. I walked around the corner of JC Penney toward Dillard’s and saw another exit not listed on the store directory. Suddenly, I knew where my car was parked. As I walked toward it, I pressed the Panic Button anyway, just to test out Gene’s theory. Like balm to my soul, the alarm sounded. No more need to panic.

When I got home, I began reading Still Alice again. I didn’t get very far, though. I fell fast asleep.

From the movie, “Finding Nemo”:
Dory: "I suffer from short-term memory loss.”

Marlin: “Short-term memory loss?” (Dory nods) “I don't believe this!”

Dory: “No, it's true! I forget things almost instantly. It runs in my family! Well I mean... at least... I think it does. Hum... Where are they? ... Can I help you?"

Never Give Up, Y’all!!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

When It Rains, It Pours

Yesterday was a day full of service, food and fun. Gene and I attended the annual Austin Single Adult Picnic at church. Since Gene was ultimately responsible for the event, I offered my assistance by helping him shop at Sam’s Club for the burgers, dogs and fixin’s, and I whipped up a Darn Good Chocolate Cake as my own contribution.

The picnic started at 11AM and a small number of people arrived at that time. Within 30 minutes or so, I noticed the sky looked ominous. Gene had just gotten the outdoor grill going and had a few burger patties cooking, when we felt the first pitter pat of raindrops. That’s when Gene directed us to move the picnic inside the church building. I was already on my way, and as if it were my baby, I swept the chocolate cake up in my arms, trying to lean over it in protection, as I half-walked, half-ran to the building. Before I was even halfway there, the heavens opened up, and it began to pour.

Austin hasn’t had significant rain in quite awhile, and it’s been desperately needed with daily temperatures hovering in the hot and humid 90s. I commented to Gene that I couldn’t believe it rained on the one day the picnic had been planned, and he replied that they should’ve planned more picnics last year when it was so extremely dry. Plan a picnic, it’s gonna rain. Wash your car, it’s gonna rain. There are some universal truths we cannot deny no matter how much we may want to.

Although I’m sure the weather kept many of the singles from attending, we had about 23 people show up for burgers, hotdogs and brisket. Oh, and I received another marriage proposal. As you may recall, a few blogs ago, I wrote about a man at a church singles event who wanted to know which sister had made the chicken salad, and when I raised my hand, he asked me to marry him. Well, yesterday while we were all eating our picnic fare indoors, Gene said he had an announcement, asking who had made the chocolate cake. Wondering what he was up to, I raised my hand. Gene asked me if I’d marry him.

Maybe I’m just not on the ball, but I didn’t say yes and I didn’t say no. Friends of ours kept asking if this was an announcement. I thought Gene was just being funny, so I didn’t say anything at all, I just laughed along with everyone else. Gene and I are getting married, though. We’ve talked about it these past couple of months, decided we want to marry and last week even set a date (June 6th), but until yesterday, Gene had not formally proposed. I had asked him not to propose until the waiting period was up on my divorce, which was granted in February, but not effective until May 17th.

Gene and I have known each other for over seven years, and have always been able to talk about anything, so I did ask him later whether the proposal had been “for real” or if he’d been kidding, since I’d been asked at the last event. “Well,” he said “I was kidding, but…well, you didn’t say yes.” He had jokingly told a friend, who was ribbing him about staking out a claim before I get snatched up, “I know! There’s a marriage proposal sign-up sheet in the kitchen for Grayson, and I’m fifth on the list!” Funny man. I told him not to quit his day job.

Later that evening, we joined our friends, Hal and Trudy, at their beautiful home for a scrumptious lasagna dinner. There were five other people there as well, and a group of us went out afterwards to Esther’s Follies, a vaudeville show in Austin on 6th Street. The show was full of very current political satire, fast-paced skits, bawdy humor and side-splitting laughs, as well as a fabulous comedic magician, Ray Anderson. This is a must-see for Austinites and visitors alike!

A perfect ending to a perfect day with my perfect man!

You come to love not by finding the perfect person, but by seeing an imperfect person perfectly.
~ Sam Keen

Love works in miracles every day: such as weakening the strong, and stretching the weak; making fools of the wise, and wise men of fools; favouring the passions, destroying reason, and in a word, turning everything topsy-turvy. ~ Marguerite De Valois

All love that has not friendship for its base, is like a mansion built upon the sand. ~ Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Let Your Love Rain Down Today, Y’all!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Rhythm of the Ranch

Out in the rolling hills of the Central Texas landscape sits the Double M Ranch, an oasis of creature comforts and real Southern hospitality. This is the home of my parents, Max and Glenda.

My mother is the best cook in Coryell County, and she exudes a welcoming spirit and a hearty, infectious laugh. This weekend we were treated on Saturday to a moist, delicious meatloaf lunch with perfectly mashed potatoes, a zucchini medley, homemade cornbread and fresh watermelon. To satiate our sweet teeth, Mom had an apricot tort and a Darn Good Chocolate Cake, along with Blue Belle Dutch Chocolate and Mocha Madness Ice Creams.

The menfolk retreated to their napping spots after lunch and they were not seen or heard from for a few hours, while the women lasted a bit longer by cleaning, chatting and putting off the inevitable nap. That’s just the way it is at the Ranch – great food, a stylish comfortable country home worthy of any decorating magazine, clean country air, peace and quiet. A body can’t help but leave the stresses of city life at the welcome mat.

For dinner, Mom fed us a sweet, country ham and corn-on-the-cob with leftovers from lunch. After church on Mother’s Day, Mom served us a tender roast with rice and brown mushroom gravy, along with green beans and mushrooms, salad, dinner rolls and watermelon. We delved into the Blue Bell Ice Cream again, and once again, the men drifted off to Z-Land in the afternoon.

Mom and I sat outside on the front porch, with my two nieces, Cassie and Corinne, watching the hummingbirds at the feeder. The ceiling fan was on, which cooled us. The moment was brief, though, as my nieces got a case of the Giggles. All it took was one look at each other and they were off again, laughing and giggling, unable to stop.

Then, I saw a long lizard scurrying across the grass and pointed it out to them. The two girls both squealed and ran after him. Corinne and Cassie cornered the lizard on the sidewalk, not sure what to do next. But, that ol’ lizard was one step ahead of them. He changed directions and ran toward me and Mom, but Cassie blocked him. He skidded and slowed as he turned back toward the grass and then high-tailed it into the shrubs to safety. After all that running around, it was time for a “lenomade”, as Cassie pronounced it.

What a wonderful, Mother’s Day weekend in the country at the Double M Ranch just livin’ on Texas Time.

Enjoy the Journey, Y’all!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Popping The Question

Almost every little girl dreams of growing up, meeting her Prince Charming one day, falling madly in love and hearing that oh-so-special question, “Will you marry me?” I, however, was a tomboy growing up and had decided I wouldn’t marry until I was in my 30s. I never really thought I was that attractive to men anyway, although I craved attention from them.

Needless to say, marriage proposals did come my way…often. I married at nineteen. I married at twenty-six. I married at thirty-five. I married at forty-six, and I married at forty-eight. And, I’ve heard that “special question” even more times than the five proposals that ended in marriage.

The first time I received a marriage proposal was when I was seventeen years old. He was twenty-six, and when he asked me to marry him, I said “yes”, because I thought no one else would ever ask me again. (Oh heck, I always said yes.) I couldn’t understand why my mother wasn’t happy about it. I mean, wasn’t that what girls were “supposed” to do, grow up and get married? As a teenager, my self-esteem was very low. I’m just glad I didn’t go through with it.

Another boyfriend asked me to marry him when I was about twenty-three. He bought me the big, beautiful diamond engagement ring, but we never seemed to agree on when to marry, and after all, he was a bizarre psychotic alcoholic. So, in the end, of course, I couldn’t marry him. Whew! Another near miss!

At thirty-two, I met a musician, who also owned a catfish restaurant (now, that was a plus), who also wanted to marry me. We were going to have a Cajun-style marriage party, with his buddies from the band playing for us and his best friend cooking the crawfish √©touffe√©. Yet, three weeks from the wedding date, I still hadn’t mailed the invitations, and, in retrospect, I am grateful I didn’t follow through.

The first time I traveled to meet Hubby #5, I was proposed to by the United Airlines skycap, who checked in my bags at 5:30 A.M. An older black man, he asked if the amethyst ring on my left finger was an engagement ring. “No”, I replied, “I’m not married.” “Pretty woman like you, not married?” he said. “Well, would you marry me?!” I beamed my best smile, laughed and said, “You just made my day. That’s the first marriage proposal I’ve received today.” I definitely had my groove on that day.

This past Sunday, I attended a potluck dinner for the single adults at my church. I called my mother for her Chicken Salad recipe, which I knew was easy and yummy. As I suspected would be the case, there was no chicken salad left to take home after the dinner. Following the potluck, we heard from a wonderful speaker and his wife, who I just happened to know. And, when the speaker concluded, a short, balding older man stood up and asked in a very serious voice, “Who made the chicken salad in the glass bowl with the red top?” I raised my hand, thinking he must want the recipe or that someone might’ve keeled over with food poisoning. As his eyes settled on me, he excitedly asked, “Would you marry me?!!” Everyone began to laugh. I think I turned red. Later, as we were filing out of the room, I walked up to the would-be suitor and said, “I’d be glad to give you the RECIPE”, which of course meant, “Cook it yourself.” Looks like I’ve learned to say “no” in my own special way.

If you are a single woman in the market for a husband, below is my mother’s recipe for chicken salad. Be careful who you serve this to!

Glenda’s Chicken Salad
o 1 whole chicken, de-boned and diced
o Bunch of red grapes, cleaned and cut in half
o 1 cup of pecan halves
o 4 stalks celery, sliced
o 1-1 ½ cups mayonnaise
o ½ - ⅔ cup sour cream
o ¼ cup sugar (to taste)
o ½ - 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper (to taste)

1. Cover the chicken with water in a large pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and continue to boil chicken on medium low heat for 1 ½ hours. Let chicken cool. De-bone the chicken and dice into bite-sized pieces. (Save the broth and freeze for your favorite chicken soup recipe later.)
2. Combine chicken, grapes, pecans and celery in large bowl.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk mayonnaise, sour cream, sugar and pepper until thoroughly combined and smooth.
4. Pour dressing over the chicken mixture and toss to coat.

Some women collect dolls. It seems I collect marriage proposals. However, getting a marriage proposal is not necessarily all it’s cracked up to be. I mean, I can get a man hooked, but I just can’t seem to keep ‘em. And, I’m not sure I should’ve “hooked” any one of the men I said “yes” to anyway. Knowing when and how to say “no” is just as important as knowing when to say “yes”, because Prince Charming really is worth waiting for.

Know When To Say No, Y'all!

Monday, May 4, 2009

One Dirty Burger

In our continued search for the best burger in Austin, Texas, Gene and I visited Dirty Martin’s Kum-Bak Place, a popular burger joint, although the name made me think it might be an X-rated bookstore. Located on Guadalupe near the University of Texas campus, Dirty Martin’s has been around since 1926, so they must be doing something right. Right? I can’t believe neither of us had ever eaten there before. From what other people have been telling me, the place is a dadgum Austin institution. Where in the world have we been?

Gene and I both ordered the Kum-Bak cheeseburgers. Gene chose the onion rings as his side and fresh-squeezed limeade to drink, while I had the French fries and a chocolate shake. At Dirty Martin’s, everything is made right there and is fresh. No frozen hamburger patties, nosiree. They use fresh hamburger meat, cut up their own fries, slice their own onions for onion rings and batter ‘em themselves.

The cheeseburgers are smallish, which is perfect for the meal I ordered. To get a bigger burger, you’ve got to double up on the patties. Nevertheless, they were tasty. The patty was thin, just the way I like it. The only thing I would’ve done differently would be to toast up the bun longer on the grill.

The French fries were sliced rather thin and a tad overdone, and I don’t know what type of oil they were fried in, but I was a little disappointed. Gene’s onion rings, on the other hand, only needed a dash of salt to reach perfection. The light crusty brown halos were cooked perfectly and simply delicious.

And, Dirty Martin’s makes a mean shake. Gene slurped up all the whipped cream and we shared the delectable, creamy chocolate treat. No disappointments there. And, the service was great! Next time, I’m gonna try the Large Chili Cheeseburger! Oh yeah…mmm.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I would rate Dirty Martin’s as a 4. ☻☻☻☻

Y’all Kum-Bak Now, Ya Hear?!