Monday, July 30, 2007

Things I Wish I'd Never... (a miniseries)

Things I Wish I'd Never Eaten:

1) On the way back from my grandparent's ranch near College Station, my family stopped at Texas Burger for a meal. (They might have these things other places, but in case not, Texas Burger is exactly what it sounds like it would be - a burger joint that's a few steps up from Burger King but not quite as exciting as Fuddruckers - if you consider Fuddruckers to be exciting, which I don't.) Anyway, after the burgers we decided to treat ourselves to some ice cream before hitting the road. I was quite thrilled because they serve Blue Bell at Texas Burger and in my way of thinking, it doesn't get much better than that. I strolled up and down the ice cream counter carefully weighing my options and finally decided on Strawberry Cheesecake, the "special of the day." It was just as delicious as it sounds and I gobbled it right up in my sugar cone, glad I had branched out a bit from Homemade Vanilla and tried a new flavor. My brother Garrett had also ordered Strawberry Cheesecake. (Here's a tidbit to know - to this day, any time I'm eating somewhere with Garrett I HAVE to order the same thing he does, or I'm inevitably jealous of what he ordered. It makes things really simple because I don't have to decide what to get, and since he is a consistently good orderer, I'm rarely disappointed. So, come to think of it, maybe I didn't decide on Strawberry Cheesecake and simply took his lead like the lemming I am...)

Anyway, we had a delightful car trip and got home just in time to hit the sack. Or so we thought. Instead, Garrett and I stayed up most of the night puking our guts out. Yes, the "daily special" was apparently not so special after all, but rather was the culprit of our distress. Since that day, a spoonful of Strawberry Cheesecake ice cream has never darkened the door of my mouth. And I'm extremely suspicious of restaurants trying to unload their soon-to-be-expired/oops - we should have thrown this out yesterday dairy products onto unsuspecting customers under the guise of a "special." There ain't nothin' special about that.

2) About a year ago, K and I decided to go out to lunch at a new Thai place in town. We love Thai food and were very excited as we entered the restaurant and discovered a surprisingly beautiful atmosphere. I say surprising because this place is smack-dab in the middle of a strip mall, so I guess I was expecting something more along the lines of a hole-in-the-wall than the lavish decor we discovered when we stepped from the bright afternoon sun into the dimly lit elegance of the large room. We were the only customers, but since it was 2:00 on a Saturday afternoon I didn't find that very unusual. Surely no one had discovered this jewel of a restaurant... We were escorted to a lovely little table and the first thing that came out was our water. As often happens in town around this time of year, the water reeked of - well, I don't quite know what it is, but it reminds me of lake water. (I picture the boaters out on the lakes enjoying the summer, churning up the murky bottom and somehow getting silt into our drinking supply. I know this doesn't make sense scientifically, and I've since heard that it's due to some sort of algae bloom, but you get the point - this water is NASTY.) I asked for a bowl of lemons, as I often do at restaurants, and found myself squeezing each slice down to a pulp in an attempt to make this water taste a bit more like lemons and a bit less like lake. When I commented to the waitress about the water (in attempt to make friendly conversation about what happens to the city's water this time of year) she seemed to have no idea what I was talking about. I thought: either she doesn't speak enough English to know what I just said, she hasn't been in town for a year yet and doesn't know that this happens every summer, or she thinks this water is acceptably tasty. I hoped it was one of the first two assumptions.

When they brought out the menus, it really drove the point home that this was NOT a hole-in-the-wall. Yikes-a-moley!!! I instantly wanted to get up and leave, not wanting to spend our eating-out budget for the whole weekend on this one meal, but K would never be that rude, so we stayed. We ordered Pad Thai, a standard menu item at most Thai restaurants and one we had become fond of at some of our favorite haunts. When it came out, I caught the first whiff and my nostrils flared. (In actuality, my nostrils cannot flare, but if they could have, they would have.) My first thought - dog food. Oh my gosh, this smells just like dog food. How am I going to eat this? Surely this will not taste like it smells. Bravely, I spun a few noodles onto my fork and lifted this pungent pile to my mouth for the first bite. The moment it hit my tongue, I knew things were not going to turn out well. Embarassingly, my gag reflex took over. I sat for a few horrifying seconds trying to decide what to do with this mound of manure in my mouth. Would my body allow me to swallow? As it turns out, it would not. I leaned over and, with an effort to be graceful, spit it out onto my plate.

Since I'm not three years old, this was extremely humiliating. I am about the least picky eater I know, and I have never been known to spit anything out other than the occasional gristle in my meat. Gristle, yes - but noodles? How can anyone ruin noodles? K apparently has the ability to put mind over matter, because he had somehow managed to swallow his first bite. He even took a couple more bites, trying to be polite while commenting the whole time on how grotesque this meal was. I just sat there breathing through my mouth, unable to take in the dog food odor while I stared at my pile of noodles and the smaller pile of rejected food sitting on my plate. I wanted to send it back to the kitchen, tell them it was gross and I couldn't eat it, get my money back and go out to eat elsewhere for dinner. But K is entirely too nice for that. We asked for our check and tried not to notice the confused looks on the faces of the staff (all attention was focused on us, mind you, as we were the only customers dining) as we turned down their offer for a to-go box and left nearly all of our noodles (and literally all, in my case) sitting on our plates.

The most painful part, aside from the gagging, was the knowledge that we had just turned over good money for nothing. We were still hungry, only we couldn't go out to eat anywhere else. We ended up at home eating sandwiches or something equally disappointing. Yep, that's got to be at the top of my list of things I wish I'd never eaten.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

What Are the Chances?

So last Wednesday K and I were at the park where our church was holding this family function. We had signed up to help out and had been put in charge of the tug of war event. Sadly, this was set up over the rock-hard patches of dirt that make up most of the park grounds, so the few kiddos that braved this event inevitably walked away holding their bruised arms and bemoaning their newly inflicted injuries under their breaths.

Before the event started, we headed across to the pavilion to get some water. I had been at school all day and was sick of sitting down, so as we walked I said, "I'm so glad to be standing." K got a funny look on his face and, once we were on the other side of the pavilion, took me aside and said, "You have rather unfortunate timing." I, of course, had no clue what he was talking about. Apparently while I was remarking on how joyous it was to be standing, I was walking right past a woman with one leg sitting in a wheelchair.

What are the chances?

Thursday, July 26, 2007

What I Wish

I wish I could shrink down to the size of a grasshopper (but still be me) and...

...climb into a warm peach cobbler. I'd roll around in the warm cobbler juices and take in the aroma of fresh peaches and brown sugar. I'd perch on a peach slice and alternate between bites of spongy cobbler crust and soft peaches until I was full and sleepy, my eyelids growing heavy - that delightful Sunday afternoon feeling. Then I'd take a peach slice in my arms and cradle it like a warm pillow. I'd drift off to sleep and dream of orchards and sunshine. I'd awake to the sound of fresh cream being poured over my luscious bed and I'd take a swim, enjoying the cool cream on my face as it contrasts the warmth of the peaches.

...tear open a warm Sister Schubert dinner roll. It would take all my effort to pry it apart, but the feel of the dough tearing, giving way between my struggling arms, would make me that good kind of tired. I'd climb inside and wrap myself in the warmth, let it close on me as if I were a pat of melting butter. Of course, this would make me sleepy, so I'd take a nap. When I woke up, I would tear off a giant mound from the very center of the roll - the softest part of all - and it would fill my arms as if I were carrying a giant cloud. I'd stroll down the hill and sit beside the Butter River, setting my yeasty load down beside me on the cool grass. Bit by bit, I'd tear pieces from the roll and dip them into the river, not caring about the melted butter dribbling down my chin as I indulged in my after-nap snack. I'd spend the whole afternoon there, listening to the birds chirp, closing my eyes to relish the cool spring breeze as it lifts my hair from my shoulders.

Yes, that's what I wish.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Like an Elephant

Has everyone heard of that new reality show "The Singing Bee?" I have yet to see it, but this thing is right up my alley. I have always prided myself in knowing all of the words to every song on the radio. Lyrics just make the song for me, so it's important for me to know them ALL. Of course, there is the occasional exception - Sweet Home Alabama is one of my all-time favorites and not only do I not know all the words, I don't even care what they are because I feel confident that they are not profound... I just love to belt out the chorus and enjoy the great guitar riffs. But I digress...

The other day while driving I started daydreaming about myself being on the show. My heart actually started pounding as I pictured myself standing on the stage in front of millions, putting my lyrical expertise on the line for the big bucks. I realized that more than winning the cash, I just want to prove that I know all of the lyrics. What if they played a song I didn't know? I'd be so humiliated! I blew a huge lead in the 800m run at my 8th grade district track meet and sometimes I still lay in bed thinking about what I could have done differently to win. (I shouldn't have run that 1st lap at quarter speed!!!) I realize that this is a personal problem and I need to just let it go. This is why I can never enter a contest like this. I'm simply too competitive. But just for kicks, I'm driving down the road rehearsing for The Singing Bee - just in case. I quickly recall several songs with tricky lyrics and rattle them off to make sure I would be ready when the music stopped. Yep, I know that one, that one, that one. Boy, am I good.

And then I begin to think of some songs I did not have the correct lyrics to. The first that comes to mind:

"I get knocked down
Like an elephant
You're never gonna keep me down..."

Of course, these guys weren't singing "like an elephant." Any who remember this jazzy hit probably know the true lyrics, and there is no mention of an elephant in this song.

Then there's the classic song Kyrie Elaison. Don't remember it?

Kyrie Elaison down the road that I must travel
Kyrie Elaison through the darkness of the niiiight...

Come on, now, did ANYBODY know these were the lyrics? I always sung it:

Carrying a laser down the road that I must travel...

The guy is on a mission. It's dark, it's scary, he's carrying a laser. Carrying a laser down the road that he must travel - I mean, you never know when a light saber is going to come in handy.

And then, for you Church of Christers out there, there are always the hymns gone wrong. I don't have any personal stories about mondegreens (I just learned that this is the official word for misheard lyrics in songs) when it comes to church songs, but here are some of my favorites I've heard through the years:

Now let us have a little chocolate Jesus
Let us tell him all about our troubles...

Low in the gravy lay
Jesus my savior...

Well, you get the point. I'm sleepy now, so I'm going to stop this ceaseless rambling. If any of you out there would like to share your own mondegreens, I'd LOVE to hear them! Goodnight, and be careful out there. I don't want anyone getting knocked down like an elephant (especially if you're not carrying a laser)...

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Why I'm Glad I'm Not a Pioneer

Tonight while I was getting ready for bed and adjusting the faucet to just the right temperature for washing my face, I thought of the pioneers for some reason. Probably because I was obsessed with Little House on the Prairie as a child, but every now and then it occurs to me how amazingly easy we have it, how convenient everything is for us these days. I mean, not only did the early settlers not have a faucet for getting their water to the perfect temperature, they didn't even have running water in the house. They had to go to the creek or the well or something and then haul it up to the house. And then I'm guessing they had to brace themselves to wash their faces with cold water, or heat it on the stove and then wait until just the right moment in the cooling process in hopes that it would be warm. Probably lots of them just gave up and didn't bother washing their faces before they went to bed.

This got me thinking about outhouses and what a pain it was just to go to the bathroom (just thinking of the unsanitary conditions makes me want to run for the Clorox!) Yesterday I went to flush the toilet and the handle did that thing where it just gives up and slumps down like a kid who's in trouble. I took the lid off immediately, proud of myself for understanding the simple workings of a toilet, prepared to reach down into that water and reconnect the chain that had become disconnected from the flusher dealie (see my extensive knowledge about toilets?). Only, when I lifted the lid, I discovered that that plastic piece that connects the chain to the flusher dealie had snapped in half! This was, of course, disappointing, because now I would have to go in search of a new flusher-dealie connector piece. humph. K and I meant to get around to getting this piece today, but the day got away from us and here we are a whole day later, lifting the lid off the toilet each time we need to flush. The logical part of my brain reminds me that this water has never actually come in contact with the toilet bowl. "Go ahead, reach into it!" it tells me. "It's clean, it's clean, it's clean!" However, the OCD part of my brain says, "You are now reaching into toilet water. Water on the inside of a toilet. Do NOT let your wrist enter this water. Unclean! Unclean!!!" My brain seems to have worked out a compromise: the logical part coaches me through the reaching into the water to grab the chain part, and the OCD part insists that I wash my hands at least twice in quick succession after completing this task.

Tomorrow we will track down a new plastic piece, and in a couple of days, this disgusting little routine will be a distant memory. My brain will go back to thinking about more important things. Until then, I'll pretend that I'm a pioneer, braving the elements. I always thought I would have made a great pioneer. I would like to go on thinking that, but I must admit that my standards for bravery are quite a bit lower than they would need to be if I had to head out into the night and risk running into a rattlesnake on my way to the outhouse...

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

What I Learned in Class Yesterday

So I spend most of my days sitting in class now, whittling the hours away. The first day of my July short course was Monday and I was almost bored to tears (or sleep, rather). I wanted to get something from the vending machine during the break, but all I had was a fifty dollar bill and a five dollar bill that I got from selling two books back - yippee! I don't know that I've ever had a fifty dollar bill in my purse before...

Anyway, in hopes of waking myself up I went into the stairwell and walked down and back up 5 flights of stairs. Apart from being the only exercise I've gotten this month it didn't do much good. I was still on the verge of a boredom-induced coma the entire 3 and a half hours of the class.

On Tuesday I came prepared. Well, not really, but I just kind of lucked out. On my lunch break in between classes I ran into the vending machine restocking guy in the break room. He was nice and we had some good times while I ate my turkey sandwich and he made sure there were plenty of animal crackers in the machines. Then I had a wonderful thought - this guy can break my five!!! Sure enough, he had a handy-dandy little pouch of ones. So we traded and I had five wonderful little dollar bills that promised to save me from my afternoon stupor.

I excitedly purchased some Skittles and headed up to the 5th floor for another fun-filled afternoon of Special Ed. Law. While others were frantically taking notes and attending to the power points, I was strategizing about the best way to make use of this treat. Now I don't normally eat Skittles, but I had selected them because I thought they had the best staying power. If I ate them slowly and one at a time, I could make them last through at least half of the class and then I could stay awake from the sugar rush for the second half.

I carefully tore open the package at the seams so that there was a little wrapper plate for my Skittles to sit on while giving me easy access and a full view of all of the colors. Since it's been awhile since I had Skittles, I sampled the flavors that probably tied for last place: lemon, lime, and orange. Grape and cherry are always top dog when it comes to likeability in Skittles, so I knew they'd be eaten last. After the taste test I decided that lemon Skittles are the worst, so I began. One yellow Skittle after the other until all the little sunny pieces were gone from the rainbow. Next, on to the green ones. When I got to the orange ones I was surprised at how much I loved them. How could I have thought they could tie for last? In the future, they may even be contenders with the red and purple ones. I gained a whole new respect for the orange Skittles that day. Finally, I finished up by alternating the grape and cherry flavors until I was down to one last grape and one last cherry. Grape won and was eaten as the last Skittle of the pack.

What I learned in class yesterday:
1. Eating Skittles is a great deal more interesting than power point presentations.
2. No one really gives the orange Skittles enough credit. They really are bursting with flavor.
3. Eating a whole package of Skittles makes my tongue sore.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Leave Something Beautiful

Today while I was driving to school I saw a butterfly flying across the road. It was beautiful in the morning sunlight. And then a split second later, it was dead - smashed by the force of my windshield as I flew down the highway. I momentarily mourned its loss and then my mind wandered to other things as I drove.

A few minutes later, as the road turned and the sunlight fell across my windshield, I saw something glistening on the glass. I realized it was the smudge left behind by the butterfly. As I stared at the beautiful iridescence, I was struck by the thought that this animal, while beautiful in life, even left something beautiful behind in its death.

My mind went instantly to my grandfather, my dad's dad, who has Alzheimer's disease and is slowly slipping away from us even as he lives. I thought of the care he provided for hundreds in his work as a doctor, of the children that he raised and the way he has made family a priority in his life. I thought of the legacy of love he is leaving to me and to all of those he has known in his amazing life. I choked back tears as it occurred to me that Grandaddy will leave something beautiful behind when he dies. He will leave a family full of people who know their worth, because Grandaddy always made people feel valuable. He always encouraged, always supported, always believed in us and let us know it. It would be impossible in the confines of a paragraph to communicate all of the beauty my Grandaddy will leave behind him, but I can feel it now. I can already anticipate the heart pangs I will feel each time I think of how he loved, the way my throat will close up even as I laugh to think of the wonderful times we shared.

I want to live my life like that butterfly. I want to live my life like Grandaddy. I want to live so that whenever my life is over, there will be a beautiful iridescence on the glass, imprints of love and hope on the hearts of those I knew. I want to leave something beautiful.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Think by Numbers

The following is a brief list of associations I have between numbers and random things in life:

3 - the number of bathroom stalls you have to check at the movie theater before you find one that's acceptably clean (or almost acceptable, at least). An exception is the dollar theater bathroom where, well, you're just lucky to make it out alive...

10 - the number of consistent runs it takes before I don't feel like I'm jogging with a sack of potatoes tied to my butt. Not that I've experienced this potato-free feeling any time in the recent past, but I know it's out there waiting for me whenever I can finally get my act together. I'll let you know how that goes, as I'm hoping to be potato-free within the month...

52 - the number of minutes it takes me to drive to school to get my master's degree. These gas prices are killing us, but I must admit it makes for some great singing time. Usually K can't handle me belting it out in the car for extended periods of time, so I get it out of my system on these long drives. I might actually miss them when I'm finished with the whole thing, but there's always my commute to work...

7 - the number of times in the last week I've thought how liberating it would be to cut my hair off super short again. I just can't get used to this fixing my hair routine, but there's a little voice inside my head reminding me that it's taken me two long years of growing it out to get to this point. And then there are all of the insulting nicknames K has for me as I'm in those weird in-between stages of growing it out: Hall and Oates (this is a reference I still don't understand, but I feel confident that it's not flattering), English school-boy, the Beatles, and my all-time favorite: Christopher Robin. Notice that they're all references to men. hmmm... maybe I should rethink this...

5 - the number of years its been since I graduated from college. This is hard to believe... and not hard to believe. On the one hand, I can't believe that time is going by and I'm actually aging.. You would think I would be used to this fact of life by now since it's been happening for the past 27 years, but honestly I still feel like a kid in many respects (anyone who knows me can probably attest to this). On the other hand, it feels like FOREVER since I darkened the doors of ACU. This fall is my 5-year reunion. Which is why I need to get on that sack of potatoes thing...