Friday, January 20, 2017

Family Tradition

There are those readers who know more about my past than others, and I'm not going to get into that here, suffice it to say I've had extreme highs and extreme lows. This is a story of a memory of an extreme high, maybe the best memory of my adult life.

I worked as a bookkeeper at Cross Auto Supply for about two years. It was a job I was lucky to get at a good, family-owned, local business which sold NAPA auto parts. The work was easy yet engaging enough to make me feel productive, the people with whom I worked were also engaging and productive, and though I wasn't technically full-time and didn't qualify for real benefits, there were benefits to just working for and with the management and other staff. For instance, I had never worked at a place where they had a Thanksgiving potluck at work AND each employee was given their very own Thanksgiving turkey (which ended up sitting with pride in my freezer until I was forced to throw it away when I moved out of that apartment). For Christmas we were all treated to a three-course feast at a nice local restaurant, complete with a magician for entertainment. And in the summer every employee and every one of their family members were given complimentary tickets to an Arkansas Travellers baseball game. Arkansas doesn't have their own major league team, but proud we are to be the home of the St. Louis Cardinals farm team.

At the time, my family available to attend was my husband, Justin, my stepdaughter, Holly who was probably about 14, my stepson, Hayden, 12-ish, and Story, our son who was about four. It was the first real, just-for-fun outing the five of us had embarked upon.

I had been excited about it for weeks, not because I particularly care about the Travellers or sports in general or because we'd be travelling ourselves about 70 miles from home in Russellville to Little Rock in my compact Corolla with four, shall we say, unpredictable individuals and a four-year-old whom we had already self-diagnosed with raging ADHD, or the idea of introducing my proudly rag-tag family to and meeting my co-workers as-of-yet unknown families, but because I was so proud to be employed by the type of people who offer such opportunities for fellowship, and I was able to extend that opportunity to my family. I felt very grown-up, responsible, and successful, independent.

When we arrived in Little Rock after a relatively uneventful loading of the family and hour and a half on the road, wrong turns and all, which was quite a source of relief and feeling of accomplishment in itself, we picked up our tickets at the will-call window and made our way to the refreshments area reserved for Cross Auto Supply guests. There we were provided with ball park staples like hot dogs, chips, sodas, and cookies to enjoy before the game. Luckily there were a number of people whose entourage included relatively young children so the storm of hot dog bun bits, crunched chips that Story's fist couldn't quite cram into his mouth, spilled sodas, ice, napkins and all went relatively unnoticed.

After eating and introductions and chit-chat and abandonment of any self-consciousness replaced invigorated pride in my respective pride, we made our way to the stands and took our seats to stand up for the singing of the National Anthem and "Play Ball!"

I don't remember much of what happened on the field, so busy was I running Story to the bathroom and back (I think he was just faking so he could run, and I mean run, all over the stands). I was watching, trying to listen to, Holly and Justin make their inside jokes, laughing with Hayden laughing with Story, playing musical chairs as Holly had something funny to say to Hayden or Hayden having a question for Justin or Story climbing over all of us, and even some people who weren't "us," and everyone having their own version of a good time all together. I have no idea who won or lost and couldn't tell you who we even played.

What I remember most about that night was after the game. We had to walk about a mile to where we had parked the car and I lagged behind a little bit. I watched Justin and the kids and so seldom it seemed that all five of us were in the same good mood at the same good time, when everyone teased and was equally teased in return with no hurt feelings or outbursts of anger. I didn't mind the walk, it was so nice to watch my husband being a playful and admired leader, Holly on the brink of breaking away from us in favor of friends, Hayden so confident in who he was and learning more every day, Story so excited to have all his people, the nucleus of his world, there together, out and about in the world, and me bringing up the rear, trying to document it all in my mind, such was my sense that this was a last best memory we would all have, just like this, completely in sync, resonating even, before a not-unhappy but natural discord took hold as each of us moved on to the next phase in our respective lives.

On the ride home Justin got hold of the iPod and played the most perfect selection of Southern hits which we all knew. Every word. We all went down, down, down into the burning ring of fire, sang along as Johnny committed what might be a sin, taking on the Devil for that fiddle made of gold, spat Beech-Nut in that dude's eye and shot him with our old .45, laughed along as Momma got runned over by a damned ol' train, and all because, down here, for that laughing, carefree, snapshot of a night, it was a Family Tradition.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Miso Sick

It's pretty rare that I get legitimately sick. I attribute that to a strong immune system, despite, or because of, the assaults I've launched at it over the years and the fact that I'm not immunized. That's probably not a fact that should be advertised over the Internet these days since you'd have to be insane not to immunize your children and it required a number of hoops through which to jump to acheive back in 1982, I imagine the hoops are a little narrower and ablaze these days. I still have my Social Security number and my salvation and all. As it stands I simply have to rearrange my entire home, including the various junk closets and hidey-holes I've maintained over the years to keep track of important documentation like my religious exemption card which must be presented in lieu of my shot record and sign a few forms agreeing to be quarantined if I come down with polio or the measles or something every time I apply to college or for a passport, things of that nature where I'm a risk to my own health and the health of everyone around me, apparently. And for those of you wondering, the main tenant of the religion which allowed my exemption is that members of said religion don't immunize their children. My parents didn't sell my soul, and immunity, to some cult or anything. Kind of, but we didn't have to communicate with any of those people or anything once I was safely away from the needle-crazed "doctors" at the hospital where I was born. Later it turned out the doctor who delivered me went to jail for embezzling or something, probably on the take from pharmaceutical companies, there's no more real information there, just an interesting side note.

I say all that to illustrate this: Getting sick is terrible and foreign and scary for me and in order for me to get better, there are several things I require. Being as my immunization history was questionable at best, I realize now it must have been quite harrowing for my parents to ever take me to a traditional doctor and listen through what I imagine was a pretty intense chastising on their opinions and beliefs followed by an equally intense sales job, followed by a prescription for antibiotics, which I can never get out of a doctor's office without accepting anymore. I never fill them. What I DO do, if quite certainly on my death bed and forced to go to the doctor, I'll wait for about three days in the waiting room to see the on-call doctor, spend another eternity in the secondary waiting room, with the tissue covered doctor's office furnishing which I'm never sure whether to sit with my feet danngling over the edge, the bottom, or just go ahead and lie down and make use of that pillow and read every issue of "Martha Stewart's Living" I can find so I can get some cute name card ideas for my next luncheon, if God promises to make me feel better, I swear I'll organize. I'm mid-way through making my own decorative candy-popper place settings when the doctor comes in poised to write out my prescription for antibiotics.

I'm always sure to tell the doctor what makes THIS particular illness different from any other which antibiotics have helped and if he writes me anything that doesn't end in -icin or -illin, I'll fill it, otherwise I stick to my old tried and true remedies from my doctor growing up, "doctor" being used loosely here as he was a Doctor of Chiropractic. More than that though, he had a more Eastern view of health, wherein the body is only healthy when functioning at its peak level, as opposed to the more Western "absence of disease" forum. Dr. Todd said that, for my body type, pineapple was the best medicine for when I was sick. In addition to that, I should follow the B.A.R.T. diet, which consisted of bananas, applesauce, rice, and toast, nothing heavier than that. The main thing though, was to listen to my body and if I'm craving it, eat it. When you're sick, you're not going to crave anything that is going to make you throw up, your body is on your side, after all. Usually I'll crave weird things for a sick person like spicy food or something rich which strays far indeed from the B.A.R.T. diet. I ALWAYS though, every time I'm sick, crave miso soup.

Miso soup is hard to find down here. For a bowl of good miso soup, there's a nice Japanese restaurant here that will sell you a bowl for $10, which is absurd for a soup that is made from ingredients most people don't even consider food, but they do put a lot of fuss into making it seem like a $10 bowl of soup with noodles and vegetables and you can get it with shrimp or chicken or beef or something, which I feel almost remiss not to do when paying that price so I usually get shrimp since I figure it costs more than the other options, and it IS my very favorite miso soup and I have to be at death's door and willing to wipe out our savings to get it. I never even eat the shrimp or other fancy stuff. I pick around all that for the tofu cubes and the nori,  or seaweed, if you want to just call it like it is. Most people get physically ill at the idea of tofu, seaweed, maybe some slivers of green onion, in what I think is a kind of fermented soy bean broth, but I swear it's the only thing that makes me better when I'm sick.

This last go-round I found myself propped up on the empty cart at Walmart in the Asian foods section deciding between this packaged soup with noodles and a "topping packet" and "seasoning packet" with the plastic bowl and the American-ized Asian-type typeface for like, $3.00, and this slim package of "Miso Soup" which claimed to have three servings in this thin little packet, it was like astronaut food, which was like $2.00 for three whole servings. As I usually do when facing a two-point decision, or any decision, I went with both. What's  $5.00 as opposed to $2.00 or $3.00 when the soup I really wanted was $10 and I would have given my life itself to not be in Walmart at the moment? Or ever.

I made the one with all the packets first and it couldn't have been too bad because I kept it down, but it wasn't anything to write an entire blog entry about, unless you're me and these are the exciting things in life. The next day I tried the astronaut miso soup. It was exactly what I wanted. It was just mild enough for me to not worry about keeping it down, but it had enough flavor to indulge that salty, umami (I think we talked about this in a long ago post) craving, and all it had in it was the tofu and the seaweed. It was so good. The serving size per packet was only 3/4 of a cup, so I had to overindulge, but I'm an American with an American-sized appetite, even when sick. In Asia 3/4 of a cup is probably about right, as a people group Asians are tiny, and I mean that in the most politically correct, complimentary way. Anyway, that's why I've been so long writing anything. I've been sick and uncertain of my strength of body or mind. I've been sitting in doctors offices feeling both beaten and superior at the same time. I've been in Walmart, under acres of fluorescent lights deciding which American, Asian food half-aisle selection is the most authentic Japanese dish. And now I'm here, having survived it all thanks to Walmart carrying surprisingly satisfying miso soup, a chiropractor with some healthy life lessons, and a good old-fashioned, new age, upbringing. And a delivery room doctor who may or may not still be in jail, whose influence on my life may have been greater than we could ever guess. And I suppose I owe the world a decorative luncheon.

Monday, January 2, 2017

New Year, New Me, New Post, Same Old Password - Miracles Abound in 2017

Today is January 2, 2017. A new year. New Year's is my favorite holiday because it's the only holiday that we, as a nation, and most of the world, all celebrate together, with no political undertones or sensitivity regarding beliefs or concerns about offending anyone, no stress of gift giving or the proper reaction upon receiving a gift. It's just simple. Joyous. New Year's is one day out of the year that we can all celebrate together, each with our own resolve to make this year THE year. We're given a fresh start and a chance to calibrate who we endeavor to be with who we currently are, starting NOW. Or yesterday. I'm not willing to work on procrastination yet. So it's January 2nd, I'm lucky I was able to remember my password to log in to my blogger dashboard in less than two frustrating days. I didn't even plan on resurrecting this creative outlet, but looking back at my endless drivel posted loud and clear all over Facebook, I started feeling really self-conscious and embarrassingly presumptuous that people really have the time and interest to invest in reading a paragraphs-long diatribe on why I, knowing nothing about cars,  unable to even DRIVE the car I reference because it's a standard, believe Toyotas are the best car for your money. I stand by that still, but my excessively long explanation and laundry list of pros was totally unsolicited. The original comment was some inquiry about a clicking sound when their (non-Toyota) car made a turn. So I saw the word "car" and launched into an ad campaign about this 1983 Toyota pickup I'm chauffeured around in, which has new floor mats specifically so that I can't see the road and feel the cold coming through the holes in the floor now that the weather is changing. Looking back on 2016 behavior like that, getting hyper-sensitive, and subsequently cracking the password to my account without tears or tearing through old notebooks with scribbled information like that which I was certain I'd never forget at the time, added up to the return of the wayward wanderer, the indignant lost humbly found, the Facebook drone with a new platform to vent her platitudes and self-righteous, second-degree vanity. Follow along if you like, and you don't have to click any thumbs-up, or decide on the most accurate emoticon, leave a comment or send any message. I'm not quite sure how I'll figure out what to write about, but as I think I once said in a Facebook monologue, a good writer can make a story about anything, so intricate and layered are our thoughts and the world around us. As my mom once answered the question "What does your husband write?" She, already losing words from the dementia, said "He writes this," and patted his heart. It's a new year, 2017, and I'm tired. My mind is tired. It's time to quit thinking and planning and analyzing and begin. It's all there, right under my mothers open palm, it's time to write this. Arkansas is again your kansas. The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step and today is the first day of the rest of your life and all that. Fingers crossed.