Friday, January 27, 2012

Are You Going to Cook That Chicken?

There are few questions that stop me in my tracks, but "Are you going to cook that chicken?" was one that did.  I had deposited my groceries on the counter at Sam's, then bustled to get everything ready to check out. The twenty-something woman who was scanning the items got to the raw chicken thighs and continued on after this question by adding whistfully, "My mom used to cook chicken. Roasted it and then we'd eat. Oh, it was so good. I wish I knew how to do that."

"It's not hard," I said, frowning. "Didn't your mom every teach you how?"

"No. There must be a trick to it or something. I wish I knew because I would cook like that if I could."

There are times when you have converstations and you just don't know what to say. This was one of those instances.  Why didn't her mother ever teach her how?  Why didn't I simply say, "Check a cookbook out of the library and you'll learn!" But I didn't think of it at that moment. Now the moment's gone, and the young woman may never learn.

The incident bothered me enough to where I shared it with The Man Who Puts Up With Me on the phone one evening. "How the heck does she eat?"

"Precooked food, prepackaged food." he answered.  "Every kind of food now is ready to serve or you can add water, stir and presto!"

So expensive, albeit so convenient. Still, one never knows how many chemicals are added to food like that.  Wouldn't it be healthier as well as less expensive to learn how to cook at home?

"I can't understand people who don't teach their kids to cook," I said. 

The issue hits close to home for me. My mother wouldn't teach me either and when I asked her how I was supposed to learn how to cook, she replied, "Oh, you'll learn." The answer aggravated me to pieces. Did she expect space aliens to land on our roof and come in for a cooking lesson?  I explained to her that our neighbor's daughters not only had full access to the kitchen, their mother actually taught them how to make cookies and casseroles. But it didn't budge her resolve one bit. 

"Oh, that's crazy," said my sister-in-law. She was a newlywed and I was sent to help her watch my nephew while she did chores out in the barn. "Bake a cake while I'm gone," she said, handing me a cookbook.

I followed the recipie to the letter. But when I took it out, the middle had collapsed in such a way that it looked as though a little old woman had stepped right on the center of the cake! I was devastated, certain that my sister-in-law would be crushed that I had failed.

'Oh, for goodness sakes!" she exclaimed, when she returned from outside.  Then, cutting a piece out of the corner, she pronounced it fit for a king. My confidence soared, and from then on, I experimented in the culinary arts whenever I had the chance.  Even with loaves of bread that turned out like doorstops, chestnuts that nearly killed me when they turned into missles, fires that have started on the stove or in the oven, even with all of those adventures in our kitchen, I've endured the fine art of homemade cooking.

I told this all to The Man Who Puts Up With Me.  "I wonder," he said thoughtfully."


"Well, my mother's mother wouldn't teach her either. But I wonder if that's because years ago in some cultures, girls were not taught how to cook until they were engaged. Then they were sent to their mother-in-law's house where she taught the bride-to-be cooking."

"So that the new wife would always cook what her husand grew up with and loved," I finished.  Good heavens.  One half of the tradition was forgotten; only the not-teaching-your-daughter part was remembered.

I thought about all these things this morning as I stirred together my mother's banana bread.  Right now the smell is wafting through the house and I think of that young checkout girl.  Is it possible that without teaching our daughters and sons to cook, we bind them to poverty? Do we take away choices of a better life because they have to spend more money on food? After all, if your budget is higher because you spend more on prepackaged food, is there enough to save for education, a better car, a better wardrobe to attract a better job?  If we allow our children to get used to eating foods loaded with MSG or other chemicals, do we saddle them forever with paying higher medical bills?  It's pretty hard to stay healthy with junk entering the body.

I know now that I have a responsibilty to my sons beyond the schoolwork, beyond helping them live their dreams. It's in the kitchen, and one hour a weekend may determine how bright their future really may be. I never want them to wonder about how to cook a chicken.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Post Children Plans

The Man Who Puts Up With Me and I have lived together about fifty percent of our married life. It's truly shocking to contemplate, even fathom if you are married and in a normal relationship. However, when I add it up, we've lived together about half of the time since saying "I do."

When we first married, he was in the military. We spent eighteen months in California before I moved ahead to Alaska. Then we actually spent some six years under the same roof before I moved on ahead to Minnesota. He joined us a year later, then became an over the road truck driver, a far less stressful job than owning our old business. Now he comes home for a couple of nights every week or two, which when you start averaging it out, means that we live together fifty percent of our married life.

There's a special kind of modus operendi that takes place when you rarely see your spouse. First, Verizon Wireless saves our marriage. The money we invest in the Friends and Family plan not only helps us deal with day to day emergencies, it also helps us co-parent, plan for trips or the future, and gossip, laugh and tell jokes..  Plus it's cheaper than seeing a marriage counselor. Suffice to say that without cell phones, I wouldn't have much of a relationship with him at all.

Second, getting reunited is like getting a new lover every time. I can kiss him once when he is clean shaven, and the next time he comes home, I kiss his mustache. Sometimes I feel downright shy when we get together after being apart for over ten days. We have to date again, learn to touch again, and snuggle. I have to remember not to refer to the bedroom as "mine," or sit by myself on the rocking chair all the time.  Let me tell you, it's work.

Being in this kind of long-distance relationship is much like having a boyfriend or having an affair, only one that's sanctioned by your church.  One day last week, for example, I met him in a local town for lunch.  We kissed by his truck, and if I had been impulsive and crazy, I could have suggested we find a place for a liason. Instead, we've been married long enough to agree to meet later, if the mood comes over us. 

I got to thinking of our odd marriage one day last week when we talked about where we would go after the kids went off to college. He said, somewhat forlornly, " I know you and I'll probably be living in two different places after the kids are gone." And there it was, something both of us knew in our hearts: eventually we'll live apart even more. It wasn't news, really to me, just more of a surprise that he had already accepted it. A sadness crept over me.

You see, though we love it other deeply, he wants to move back to a remote part of western Alaska.  It gets cold there in the winter, really awful, and in the Bush, it's outdoor toilets and long hikes to the vehicle. There's a lonely wind that gets a wind chill down to minus sixty or worse, and sometimes you can go long stretches without seeing a soul. It's work to live in a remote cabin. Sometimes you have to haul water, read by small, kerosene lanterns, and use wood for heating a cooking. Even if you figure out a way to run a battery, or set up a solar panel, or get running water, hauling it all to a remote cabin is a ton of work. I won't mind visiting on occasion, but living there full time will not thrill me.

Plus he would like to commercial fish. That's another activity that makes you grow old fast. It's labor intensive, and I've faced the reality that when I turn sixty, I won't want to do heavy physical work like that. Men probably don't mind, but watching him slave away all day won't be my thing at all. I'll insist on doing my fair share, and I've seen that women who do heavy, physical labor look old after a couple of years. I'd like to age gracefully.

So when Youngest moves out, The Man Who Puts Up With Me will move on. Oh, we'll get together as time and money permits. And it'll be wonderful to see each other again, to love and be loved in each others' presence. But it's makes me sad to know that the time will come when he'll be even more gone than he is today.  It's not the way the love story is supposed to be written. Men who ride into your life on a white horse are supposed to take you away to a lovely castle where you're both live "happily ever after."  At no time is the Prince to get on his horse and ride back out. It's not done that way. Obviously we're breaking with convention, but we have to face facts. It's the ending that we both see coming.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Kind of "Friends" I didn't Expect

Imagine my delight and surprise when I opened my inbox yesterday morning, only to discover "dhoeyboozer189" is now following me on Twitter.  What joy! What exhileration to know that someplace, somewhere, someone with that kind of handle would have singled out little old me to befriend! I now can close my eyes for the last time knowing I have attracted the finest of the fine.


You have to kind of wonder some times how people come up with names like that in the first place. We all know the term "boozer" belongs to just the kind of people you want to engage in intelligent conversation.  Oh sure.  But the clever part is "d" meaning "the" and "hoey" meaning the kind of girl Mama warned you about. I thought my name, "Wearmanyhats" was particularly appropriate because I play so many different roles in life: wife, daughter, sister, friend, cook, etc. But never once did I assume I should tell someone that I was morally loose or a drunk. I'm not sure what kind of person is behind this name, but I would bet we wouldn't run in the same circles in life!

What got me was the "189" behind that name. Now did that mean there were 188 other "dhoeyboozers" out there?  If so, do they have a club or something? How many times did this person have to type into Twitter to try to get this name?  I can't even imagine sitting there typing a number 188 times, just waiting to be "accepted" as having a new name as worthy as "dehoeyboozer." 

I don't spend nearly as much time on Twitter as I probably should to really promote my blog or give my opinion.  No one in the media makes an announcement when I write a deep, meaningful sentence and post it. Truly Twitter is one of my lower priorities. Maybe I should be on there more often. It might help me learn to say what's on my mind more succinctly. Alas, only so many hours in a day.

Now, however, I'm feeling more like it's a bad biker bar I want to avoid. Last week someone "followed" me and in their note to me asked me to do things that would make a normal man blush.  I was hoping these kind of people would think I was only someone that had many hats in her closet. After all, I'm assuming these are not the deep, intellectual type.... rather the kind of get-down-to-business type of person Stephen Covey would have coached in efficiency. I noticed both of these new contacts were following hundreds of people and had no followers of their own. That was a good feeling.  It gives me hope for humankind.

I think about being "followed" anyway, and it sort of makes me wonder what Jesus Christ would have done about Twitter if he had been alive today.  I suppose he would have welcomed all 189 of DeHoeyboozers into fold, explaining how there is a special place after life for them if they repent their ways. In a way, someone could make Twitter a ministry to all of those fallen stars just like Christ would have done. I'd make a lousy evangelist. When these kind of people come around, I run; no doubt I'm a coward.

So I'm neglecting my Twitter, perhaps hiding from the bad guys that seem to roam its streets.  Sometimes it's nice to just reside in a place where the Hoeyboozers of the world aren't in my face. Who knows? Maybe someday someone really delightful will "follow me" just because they like my name.  Hey, a girl can hope, right?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Dead Body and Local Social Politics

We'll probably never know quite what the young man said before he jumped out of the car and was killed. The driver, Jim,  a local man who has an incredibly good siding business, never knew either. Jim was drunker than any one should be, and doesn't recall hearing the man ask to get out of the car. All Jim ever knew was that the next day, the man he had been partying with was dead and Jim was on his way to jail.

I came across the police barricade on the highway the morning someone found the body.  I was about to turn left toward our church some twenty-three miles away. We were late as usual, but this time I would have to stop to wait for pictures to be taken of the crime scene. A body lay in the road, covered by a gray blanket.  I didn't know at the time if there had been an accident, but the fact that no smashed cars were around seem ominous.  So I bravely headed down a dirt road in the general direction of church, only to find myself at the end of a dead end. By the time I had returned, I was muttering words you shouldn't say while on your way to church, the body was gone, and two state officers were left, standing beside the road talking.

Little by little the people around the town began to talk. One woman, who works at the local convenience store where I get my highly addictive coffee, knew the dead man, had gone to school with him. More than that, she knew his parents, and they were grieving. She shared about his partying, how he was often doing meth or coke, how hurt his folks were by his behavior. And now this. He was their only son.

Soon the gossip turned to fact as the newspaper carried the first real details. The driver had not realized his passanger had jumped from the vehicle, which was why he hadn't stopped to help the "friend" before the victim died of severe brain trauma.  No, there was no sign of intent to murder.  And then there was a plea, time behind bars, and the driver began to try to get his life back.

Now comes the dilemma. The woman in the convenience shop is angry at the driver, furious that he got to go on living when through sheer stupidity, the other guy died.  Anyone ordering siding work from him, as talented and inexpensive as he is, may face her disgust.  However, the driver has served his time, been in jail, has to live with the consequences. Every day that he is alive, he has to wake up and look into the mirror at the face of a man who was responsible for the death of another. From what I have heard from a contractor who worked closely with him, Jim is acutely aware of the consequences of his actions.

I need to get new siding on my apartment and probably would want to at least get a bid from this talented siding expert, the Sinner in this story. Now this incident leaves me with more questions than answers. Should I jeapordize my good standing with others if I do hire Jim? Is there room for mercy at the table of a small town feast of life? Can I introduce the concept of forgiveness by merely using the man's skills, or is it mine to give?  In a small town, politics are important.  By merely ignoring the man, am I to blame in a small way for his loss of livliehood?  Funny how one terrible incident ripples across the fabric of our society, even for a man whose deeds were less than honorable.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Alternative Destinies

"He came home one night, drunk. And he looked at me and said,'Shut the F--- up,' but I didn't say anything. I just went into my room...we stopped sleeping together long before that. The next morning I woke up and told him, 'If you ever come home like that again, it'll be the last time, because the next morning, you'll find the house empty.'

"I never knew he was a drinker when we first got married." She folded her clothes very carefully. "And years later some fellow I didn't even know asked me why we stayed married. Of course I told him it was for the kids, and he said that he figured that was the reason. I didn't even know him, and so I wondered what all the other people talked about it."  Then she leaned back, and stared off into space.  "I was dating someone else when I met him, and that was the biggest mistake I ever made, leaving that other guy. I saw him one day about two years ago, and he said to me, 'Do you remember me?' and I said, 'Oh yes I do!'  'Course my kids know him but they didn't know we ever dated. Still, I wonder how different my life would have been if I had never broken up with him."

She resumed folding her clothes, and I pondered his words. It's always amazing how people share the most intimate details when we start visiting at our laundromat.  I've heard about lovers, arrests, dead relatives, divorces, and kids.  But this was the first time this particular customer had told me about her drinking spouse, and her thoughts about the "what ifs" of life hit close to home.

You see, every year our boys have to complete a science project, one that is probably for the National Science Project. And every year my eleven-year-old chooses the World's Most Obscure Idea for his project. This year he somehow decided to research and present the concenpts of Ten...or actually, Eleven Dimensions.  And I'm trying to decide how he's going to make it through this project without putting my brain into the last of these dimensions.

In case you haven't ever heard of this concept, let's just say that the zero dimension is a point, the first is a line, then there are two dimensional things. Everyone lives in the third, and the fourth is time. Those are truly the only ones we can understand. The rest are theoretical, but that doesn't stop lots of people from trying to make sense of them. The final is all the alternative possibilities for that first point, leads to the concept of string theory, and some place in between is quantam mechanics.  Understood? If not, let's just say that I'm not sure I do either.

Youngest watched a You Tube video first, then a Nova episode on String Theory, then I showed him some other websites that referred to the various dimensions.  His eyes glazed over by the time we started looking that math that people had developed to explain each dimension, and I encouraged him often to reconsider a new topic. But he's pigheaded like his mother, so I expect soon to have a tri-folded presentation about these theories before the end of next month.  Still, it was the idea that all of us could have alternative lives, that we could have married other people, not married, not graduated from school or chose the priesthood or something else very different from our current lives that intrigued me.  And after listening to this woman today, I had to examine my own ideas on this.

I'm a person that truly loves concrete concepts.  This idea that there's a universe somewhere where I might have a pierced nose is more than I want to accept!  And I can't imagine my life without our sons, nor marrying someone besides The Man Who Puts Up With Me.  All that said, I wonder if there's another Me out there that doesn't struggle with weight problems, or maybe went on to get her Master's degree or even became a famous actress or something.  I know that the possibilities in the tenth dimension are only limited to the size of our imagination. Still, I'd like to imagine a much nicer house, more money, and a housekeeper. The rest of my reality is fine.

I can relate to times in my life when I've made a decision that I later regretted.  No doubt about it, my twenties were wasted on choices I made that were quite bad. But I made the left turn to change my life. And like this woman, I've met up with the Guy I Used to Date. Believe me, I got the better choice with the one I married. Unlike her, my marriage hasn't been a prision sentence, where time dragged mercilessly on. I can't believe it's been eighteen years.

I feel for the woman at the laundromat. It's got to be tough to look back on life and wish you had taken a left instead of a right.  It's tough to be glad your husband is dead, to know you would NEVER marry again because it was a hassle.  My reality is better, even if no one can really understand it except our Youngest Son.

Thursday, January 5, 2012


Right before we hung up on the phone together, Oldest said, "Okay then, Teeteewhyel!"

My eyebrows arched. I amost stopped breathing. Was this a moment where I had totally lost touch with my son? Where words no longer had meaning? Where my brain had stopped working?

"Yeah, right."  Something in my brain clicked. I should know what that word meant.  Teeteewhyel. Sure. I've heard it before.  But for some reason I didn't know it. And even though I could have called him right back and asked, I paused, uncertain if I could handle him knowing that I couldn't figure out something he said.

You see, we just got back from a Florida trip.  While traipsing around Disneyworld, I found that everything on me hurt, especially three painful blisters under my feet and my hips.  I couldn't walk as fast as he could. He's only fifteen, healthy and strong.  What must it be like to charge forward, only to have to stop and see your little mother coming along at an almost snail's pace (comparatively) and have to wait?

To his credit, he never once complained. Not one word of unkindness. Just so you know, griping is what he likes to do best. I wasn't short of breath or anything. I just hurt. But I had to admit that I was holding him back, slowing him down. And if you don't think that hurts, well, think again.

I felt rather badly about it, until my hubby asked him to slow up on their walk around town the other night.  "Son," said The Man Who Puts Up With Me.  "You might not remember how slow I walked for you when you were only this tall," and he held his hand down by his knee, " and holding on to my pinkie. But maybe you can slow up for me now."

We are not old. Just that he's so young. That's what I keep telling myself. Maybe the body simply can't move so quickly with a brain carrying so much wisdom.  There, that's a better excuse. But his knees aren't ruined from racquetball and hiking, and other wear-and-tear activities. He isn't missing an organ or two, hasn't had implants. Nope, he just floats along like we used to when we were his age: carefree and fast.

So tonight when he used a word that I had never heard, I hesitated asking just because I felt once again like I was slowing him down. In the back of my mind, I figured the word would be more easily explained by the eleven-year-old sitting next to me in the car.

"Teeteewhyl." I said, chewing the word over carefully in my mouth as I said it.

"Yeah!" said Youngest. "Talk to you later!"

Now that's just not fair!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The One Finger Wave

"You're such a snob!" said my realtor one morning last summer. "Everytime I go by you on the road, you never wave."

His words hit me hard. Half the time I didn't even know I had passed him on the road. And inwardly I groaned. I'd been gone so long that I had forgotten that waving is as much a part of rural culture as bagels are a part of New York.  But I remember the kind of people that zoomed past our house as children, their nose up in the air, too busy or stuck up to wave.  Old man H- was like that.  "Jerk," I'd say whenever he sped by, not even looking to see who was waving.

See, if you aren't from this part of the world, you have to be brought up to speed on waving. There's the "boat wave." It's a full fledged, move your hand and forearm aerobic exercise designed to make sure the people on shore know you are being friendly to your neighbors. No, it's not okay to wave like the Queen of England where only the hand slightly moves. This is serious waving. When people don't wave back, or if they are the ones on the boat ignoring you, they might just as well be sold to the nearest Alien Space Invaders. It's just better to get them out of the gene pool.

Then there's the "Cool Farmer Wave." It's a quick move of the hand to let someone know you have acknowledged their presence. It's casual enough to say, "Howya doin'?" or "Hey there." But it's not making you work up a sweat. It's good for farmers who are driving by in their pickups, guys who've had too much pot to smoke or business people with way too much to think about that don't want the waving recipient to think they are being insincere.  It's got just the right amount of speed and motion to not make someone else feel obligated to invite you in for coffee. 

Then there's the "Type A Personality" wave. This one is from the person who had waaaaay too many cups of coffee at breakfast.  It's often followed by small pebbles flying from the tires, dust or a streak of motion from the vehicle that is usually driving too fast.  You don't truly want to run into these people anyway.  They'll tell you busy they are, or gabble on about how they need help.  Once you see that wave, hide behind a tree or something.

I was contemplating this when trying to devise how to change the error of my way.  I needed to wave to everybody now, just so I didn't tick any off!  But what's a wave that's good for me?  I puzzled and puzzled. The waves mentioned above came to mind, but I rejected them all for good reasons. Still, I felt compelled to do something.

The answer came several days later when passing someone on the road that I probably didn't know.  The driver raised his first finger on the hand that was grasping the steering wheel in the twelve o'clock position.  I was enthralled.  It was a wonderful wave!  One that said, "Hey! I see ya!  Looking good!" or "Hey!  Howya doing?"  There is no obligation in this quick acknowledgement.  Just something easy and cool.

So I'm out doing the one finger wave.  It's too early to tell if I'm going to hear from anyone that they totally get my new form of communication. And since I wave at every car I pass on the road now, no one can gripe about me being egotistical any more.  I just give them my one finger wave.  And I celebrate that I am not using the one finger that might make them take a shot at me.