Friday, January 23, 2009

Rhubarb's interview.....First question

Rhubarb Whine recently tossed out an offer to interview any readers brave/foolhardy enough to risk it. As soon as I put up my impetuous hand I wanted to grab it back down. But, too late! She'd already spotted it. I need not have fretted however. No attempts were made to coax skeletons out of my closet or to make me reveal my deepest, darkest secrets. Shirley put a lot of thought into her questions and I was eager to jump right in and start answering them.

But the flesh is weak.

That was more than a week ago.

Procrastination is not my middle name for nothing!

I love to tell a story and she has given me not one, but several opportunities to do so.....

These are the questions:

1. Readers know you are of Irish heritage, and were educated by nuns. You have said 'their ghosts haunt you still'. Share with us a memory of that time that has had a strong impact on how you live your life today.

2. Tell me about one person with whom you’ve lost touch. If you hope for a reunion, how would you like that reunion to take place?

3. Your love of books and reading is apparent. What genres and authors are your ultimate favourites, and why? Fiction or non fiction?

4. If you were recuperating in a hospital and expected a long stay, who would you want in the bed next to you, excluding relatives?

5. Left field question, to finish on a lighter note: This question requires a little more work on your part. You have five minutes to go through your house and find one object that reveals a lot about you to people who know you, but would tell nothing about you to the rest of the world. Post a picture of that object.

See what I mean about opportunities to spin yarns? I think I hear the OC groaning! His life's mission is to get me to give him the condensed version. Of anything. You'd think, after almost forty years, he'd accept the fact that I'm just not genetically wired for verbal brevity. But he keeps hoping.

Aggie and Her Flock of Little Lambs.....

When I was in secondary school there was an evil plot between the nuns and our parents. It's stated object was to provide us with a quiet, distraction-free setting in which to do our homework. It's unstated effect was to ensure that we had no life! The evil plot was Evening Study. It was optional, but my parents, being conscientious souls, wanted to give me every advantage.

School got out at four. We hared home on our bicycles, had a bite to eat, changed out of our school uniforms and cycled back for Evening Study from five to seven. First, the inevitable prayer. Then, heads down to work. If you had a question you could go,[quietly!] to the supervising teacher's desk to ask for help. On the evening in question, Sister Mary Agnes was our jailer. Her chiseled, chalky face gazed out over our bent heads. If she suspected that you were the source of any stifled snorts or snickering, she squashed you with a glare.

I was seated in the middle of the room. Half way through the monotony I heard a chair scrape in the silence, as a girl somewhere behind me got up. Passing my desk, she flashed me a quick peek at something she was holding in her pocket. I perked up instantly! It looked like one of the monthly 64-pagers we loved to read. Stories of schoolgirls, like ourselves, getting into and out of all kinds of scrapes and adventures! They were about the size of Reader's Digest and half as thick. I patiently waited while Mary W conducted her business with Aggie. When she turned and started back to her desk, she grinned at me. Grinning back, I motioned for her to slip the 64-pager to me as she went by. I was looking forward to a little diversion.....

As soon as I had it in my hot little fist I knew I'd made a horrible mistake. It was a 64-pager alright, but not the kind I'd expected from my fleeting glimpse. Now that I had it, I heartily wished I didn't. It was a 64-pager version of what my mother called a "penny dreadful." To wit, a bodice ripper! Complete with sultry, scantily clad beauty in the arms of muscle bound Lothario on its cover. The setting seemed to be a dark and stormy night......

I was panic stricken! And Aggie was already sniffing the air, nostrils flaring, smelling fear....I was a goner! Another chair scraped the floor in the silence, as Aggie, a monument of a woman, stood. She knew she had me this time! [It wasn't the first time Aggie and I had tangled.] Never taking her eyes from my face, she came at me with slow, deliberate steps, habit swishing, beads clicking out my doom. I had shoved the offending material into the middle of a book I wasn't using, and was striving for a cool, nonchalant air, totally defeated by my blazing cheeks. At my desk, she stopped. And towered. Aggie was six feet tall if she was an inch! And held out her hand. I feigned innocence, and puzzlement. To no avail. Unwillingly I handed over the evidence, mumbling about how I'd had no idea it was THAT kind of 64 pager.

Aggie turned on her heel, clutching her prize, and returned to her desk. She looked like the cat that got the cream. She didn't like me and I didn't like her. She was exultant.I was miserable.

But you can't keep a good woman [or an idiot] down. Next evening I was full of the joys again. In the middle of evening study I was taking a wee [unscheduled] break. Having a little chat, whisper, whisper, giggle, giggle with the girl behind me. She said something funny and I threw my head back in silent laughter...................And, glancing at the little window in the upper half of the classroom door, met the quiet, reproachful gaze of The Mag. The foolish laugh froze in my throat. I wanted to die. Take me now Lord. I'm sorry for all my sins. Just take me now. Make it quick and save me from a slow, tortuous death by humiliation.

But of course He didn't listen to me. There was to be no quick and painless escape.

Sister Margaret L. was the headmistress. She was a gracious, scrupulously fair personage whom I greatly admired and whom I desperately wanted to have a good opinion of me....

I died a thousand mini deaths while she knocked softly on the door; while Aggie jumped officiously to attention; while The Mag walked silently to Aggie's desk and spoke a few words in her ear; while Aggie triumphantly called me to the front of the room,her voice high pitched and tremulous in victory; while The Mag quietly bade me follow her; while I walked behind her, down endless, echoing corridors, to her office; while she graciously motioned for me to sit. Which was a mercy, since my quaking knees were on the point of buckling......

The next fifteen minutes were the most miserable I had lived through yet in my fourteen years. I don't remember details. But, not one to assume she knew the whole story based on Aggie's reportage, The Mag asked me to recount the entire miserable tale, in my own words. It was not a complicated tale. The only complications came from how I felt about being the hapless twit caught in flagrante delicto. I sniveled and wept my way through the sorry tale. She murmured something about being disappointed in me; about having expected better from me; about how she didn't think my parents would approve of my reading such trashy stories etc., etc.

As an adult, I think she might have had a hard time trying to suppress the urge to laugh [if I'd been in her shoes I would have!] There might have been a touch of sadism in it all too. They enjoyed making us squirm! In religion class, when we touched on vocations, the Big One was being called to the religious life. Of course they hastened to assure us that marriage was also a noble calling. But not quite as noble, you got the unmistakable feeling, as nun-hood or priesthood. Because of all the messy, unmentionable physical goings on don't you know!

To my surprise,[and disappointment,] I did not melt into a grease spot on the seat of that chair in the Mag's office; neither did I expire from the weight of the humiliation. I was conscious, and over-heated, and acutely embarrassed for every excruciatingly minute of it.

And what did I learn?

I learned that if I was to survive in life, I should take care not to involve myself in any activities that I would not want The Mag to know about! Of course she has long since gone to her eternal reward, but the lesson lingers on. If something would make me ashamed, were anyone I loved or respected to find out about it, then it's probably something I shouldn't be doing in the first place. So I don't.

I still have four more questions to answer, but if you'd like to join in, just say so in the comment box, and I will dream up five questions just for you. You can then post answers on your blog, along with these rules and an invitation to interview anyone else who raises their hand! I'll try to make my questions as interesting for you as Rhubarb made mine for me!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Pancakes And Syrup

This blog has never been about what I had for breakfast.


You'd be bored, I'd be bored......

But today I'm making an exception. This morning I had pancakes for breakfast. Nothing fancy, nothing from scratch; just the kind you grab from the freezer, pop in the toaster, dab with butter, a dribble of syrup, and quickly munch while gathering your wits to dash out the door to the dentist.

Something slowed me down though. It was the sweet smell of the syrup, good old Log Cabin. And not so much the syrup itself as the memories it stirred. Memories of the first time I ever had pancakes and syrup for breakfast. As my mother, may she rest in peace, would say, it's far from pancakes for breakfast I was raised! Good old stick-to-the-ribs porridge, and hunks of brown bread with marmalade, more like.

But the first time I came to the States with my dad, we stayed in the middle of New York city. For breakfast we would go out and pick one of the many little hole-in-the wall breakfast places. And I fell in love with this uniquely American idea of starting the day with pancakes or waffles. Until that time pancakes, to me, were the things we had on Shrove Tuesday, supposedly to use up all the eggs, since we'd be starving ourselves for the good of our immortal souls for the forty days of Lent! Those pancakes were more like crepes. Delicious in their own right.....

The thing that struck me the most about that first visit to America, was the hustle and bustle of Manhattan, the crazy mad traffic, the uninhibited shouting and honking of horns, the brash, loud, chaotic way Americans rushed at life, and the way the very air crackled with energy and vitality. In this country, you felt, anything was possible! If you could dream it, this was the place you could do it!

For me, that feeling of excitement and endless possibility is forever linked to the smell and the taste of pancakes with syrup!

"So," you're wondering. "Where is she meandering to with all of this?"

In recent years that "pancakes and syrup" exhilaration has been diminishing.

With the inauguration tomorrow of Barack Obama as the president of the United States, I'm thinking there's a good chance we're about to get it back!

Sayonara Dubbya!

Sunday, January 11, 2009


It's Sunday, January eleventh, nine fifteen in the evening. Do you know where your brain is? I seem to have misplaced mine.....In an effort to resuscitate the blogging muse, Rise and I challenged each other, again! But inspiration is elusive; I'll just have to start writing down words, and then more words. The theme is Change. The only rule is we can't peek at what the other wrote until we post our own.......Before midnight! I need my brain for this; fine time for it to go missing!

Change is in the air, this new year more than ever. What comes to mind?

Loose change?
Diaper change?
Stock ex-change?
Obama?---"Change we can believe in?"
Changing of the guard?
Change of life?
Change of seasons?
Change of underwear?
Change of heart?
Names changed to protect the innocent?
The more things change the more they stay the same?
Maybe that's why I can't find my brain!
The only thing you can change is your attitude?
Or your mind?
Or the sheets on your bed...
A change is as good as a rest, they say in Ireland.

January always starts with great intentions. Lists are made of things I will change. Things I will organize. Things I will do! But, increasingly, as more and more Januaries roll around, I look about in dismay and realize "Nothing's changed!" Except the face I see when I look in the mirror. Where did the young me disappear to? Maybe she and my brain ran away together....

The brass tacks of getting through three hundred and sixty five days is what stands in the way. Think about it.

Shopping, preparation, cooking and serving of 365 dinners. Boggles the mind, does it not? And then there's the cleanup! Okay, so maybe not quite 365, if you deduct a few for eating out...

How many times do you change your underwear in a year?
Think of all the filthy socks you soak, scrub and toss in the washing machine!
Think of all the buttons and zippers that come loose and need mending.
How many times do you scrub the kitchen floor in a year?
Wash the windows? Yes, we're getting theoretical now!
How many times do you shower? Comb your hair? Have it cut?
Brush your teeth? Visit the dentist?
Take the dog and cat to the vet?
Walk the dog?
Read the newspaper? And a book here and there.....
Clean up hairballs from the floor, where the cat thoughtfully deposited them?
Change [aha!] the cat litter?
Water the house plants? Weed the garden? Trim the shrubs?

It keeps a person busy, just maintaining! Who has time to change anything when you're pedaling as fast as you can? Since, when all of that is done, there are quilts to be made, blogs to be read, Ancients to be visited, inspiration to be found, somewhere, and blog posts written......

And yet, change is sneaky. It happens when you're not looking.......

Children grow up....You thought you'd always have them near.
Parents grow old.....or worse yet, die too soon.
And nobody warned you to brace yourself!

But if nothing else changes, I hope, that as the Januaries fly by, I'll at least grow wiser, as well as older.

Note: The picture is my Christmas jigsaw puzzle, finally finished today. It's a picture of a cottage in Adare, a picturesque village a few miles out from my hometown in Ireland. Proof that nothing stays the same. When I was growing up it was a quiet little place, often visited by tourists. The last time I visited though it had been turned into a tourist mecca, which made it a lot less charming.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

It's The Little Things....

My new year is getting off to a very slow start. I haven't really made any new years' resolutions. But I'm thinking! It seems pointless when they're destined to be broken almost immediately. Which isn't to say that I'm not determined to improve this year!

Something has to give in my sewing room. I will organize it this year. I think that featured in my new years' resolutions last year. And, possibly, the year before.... And still it's chaotic. But this year will be different!

I will listen more this year. I've been getting better at this in recent years. Which is a struggle since, according to the OC, I didn't just kiss the Blarney Stone, I chewed off a piece of it and swallowed it.... I'm finding it's true what I heard when I was younger---You learn a lot more when your mouth is shut. My dad used to say "a closed mouth catches no flies!" I will be applying this particularly in relationship to my father-in-law. I will not roll my eyes when he embarks on the nine hundred and ninety ninth telling of the same story [in which he is the hero. As he is in all his stories.] I will smile and breathe deeply and let it wash over me like the teacher's voice on Charlie Brown.

I like Chani's suggestion of picking a word as a theme for the year. Her word is "reconciliation." A list of resolutions is cumbersome to remember, but even I could manage to remember one word, if only I could decide what it should be!

I also like Lily's idea of focusing on the "grace of small things."
It's so easy to complain. And discontent is contagious. Much better to find things to be happy about. We all have them, but we often take them for granted.

So. No procrastinating [another goal for 2009!] Here, without further ado are five things that made me happy today.

1. A crisp and shivery, cold-for-Florida morning.

2. A ripped pocket here, a dangling fastener there, fixed! Without making a federal case out of it.

3.A paper-thin disc of pale white moon in the cloudless blue of late afternoon.

4.The pleasant surprise of finding yet another post on DD's blog!

5.Persuading sister-in-law to come over after the Ancients were tucked in for the night, to watch Dr. Zhivago, one of my all-time favourite movies.

Quick, can you rattle off five ordinary things that made you happy lately?

Monday, January 05, 2009

A Comment For Thimbleanna

Holy smokes!

Ninety comments!? How do you possibly keep up? Congratulations on your blogiversary! Your cranberry thingamajigs sound so yummy. Do you know, energized with New Years' fervor, I cleaned out the fridge yesterday. There was a small bowl of homemade cranberry sauce, tucked away in the back, a last lingering remnant of Thanksgiving.

I hauled it out for inspection.


It looked fine, nicely jelled and firm.

I sniffed. Nothing offensive assailed my nostrils.

Next came the spoon. Yum. It tasted good too.

BUT. And it is a big BUT. [That's B-U-T, not B-U-T-T!]

Nobody here eats cranberry sauce, except around Thanksgiving. What to do? Throwing out perfectly good food wracks me with guilt, given that plenty of people in the world are starving. But the chances that I'll cook another turkey, or even a turkey breast, before next Thanksgiving? Slim to none. The chances that anyone living here will remember to have a helping of cranberry sauce with their next turkey sandwich? Not gonna happen!

Even as I broke the jelled mass into smaller chunks and washed it down the disposal, I knew that the hour was at hand when I'd find a recipe that would make me regret my wastefulness.

Fast forward to tonight. Reading blogs, writing e-mails. Yawning. Seeing that the small hand is at twelve and the big hand is at nine. I really should follow the sensible OC to bed. Especially as I have to be at HQ at nine a.m. to sit with m-i-l while s-i-l accompanies f-i-l to the doctor's. Are you still with me?

One last read. Thimbleanna has come out of her Christmas cocoon and has a new post up. Let's see what it's about.....

Like an avenging angel sent to twitter at me, she proceeds to give me the recipe I should have had yesterday! A recipe for yummy cranberry thingies that would have made excellent use of my little bowl of leftover, homemade, still good, but too fast thrown out, cranberry sauce!

Like the baby bed, too soon given away, then OOPS!

So, onward to next Thanksgiving with one recipe for yummy sounding cranberry thingies added to my arsenal!