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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Who I Am Today (7th Prompt in Nonfiction Class)

            I must be a good listener because people confide in me--A LOT.  Standing in elevators, riding on buses, on long airline flights, waiting in doctor offices, you name it, people talk to me.  They often tell me things I'd rather not know.  I sometimes wonder if I have a tattoo across my forehead that reads, 'Shoulder to Cry on'.
            Broad shoulders run in my family.  Being raised on a farm, I earned my brawny shoulders the hard way. These shoulders of mine are often wet from the tears of people I know and sometimes from people I have just met while they are drenching my shirt.
            Almost 29 years ago when my first son was born, I learned that a child depends upon the shoulder of his mother for comfort.  Mom's shoulder can protect them from strangers and scary situations.  It's a great place to hide eyes or catch a nap.  It is where my nursery and primary children  found relief from pain and humiliation and these upper joints where my arms hook to my trunk, have soaked up stuff other than tears on the shoulders of many shirts, jackets, and blouses.  I learned to never wear dry-clean-only clothing to church.
            I spent a few years as a Young Women's President.  That was a period of teenage tears sopping my shoulder.  Adolescent angst produces puddles!  Girls between 12 and 18  seem habitually in need of an older friend to offer comfort, love, and support.
            Currently I am on my second time around as a Ward Relief Society President.  Now in my fifth year of serving in this position, I can't tell you how many tears have waterlogged my shoulders.  Wide, absorbent shoulders must be a prerequisite for the calling. That is why I've started wearing blazers with shoulder pads.  I have been in charge of 23 funerals over the years.  That is a lot of cheesy potato casseroles, jello salads, and tears.
            My phone rings multiple times a day, my doorbell chimes several times a week announcing people who want to 'chat' about problems.  Death, divorce, illness, accidents, job loss, feuds, and various other mishaps are the typical subjects of discussion.  Mostly, I don't have advice to offer, solutions to proffer, just these soft shoulders and a hug.
            Yesterday, the appeal for a shoulder to cry on came from 3000 miles away, but was closer to my heart than other requests.  My daughter, who lives in Baltimore, phoned to say she had experienced a miscarriage and a horrible emergency room episode.  Just four days after she and her husband viewed the first ultra sound image of their unborn child and heard its heartbeat, the baby was gone.  Dani and Kelly are heartbroken.  I've never wanted to be the shoulder to cry on like I did yesterday.  How I longed to hold Danielle close and hug her and soak up all her tears.  As it was, all I could do was say, "I'm so sorry" and "I love you" over and over.
            I think I  need a shoulder to cry on.

Friday, October 12, 2012

A Mental Rabbit - (6th Prompt in Non-fiction Class)

 This essay is called a Mental Rabbit.  The assignment was to think of an item we touch daily and then start writing about it and see where it leads us, like a zig-zagging rabbit running from bush to tree to hole.  This was what I came up with on my rabbit hunt:

             My American Express credit card doubles as my Costco Membership card. I am at Costco at least once a week buying oversized boxes of crackers, enormous bins of fruits, and giant jugs of apple juice, but I also fill our vehicles' gas tanks with Costco gas; print our pictures and refill the printer ink cartridges at the Costco Photo Counter; purchase my children's contact lenses at the Costco Eye Care Center; renew our cell phone coverage at the Costco Wireless Kiosk; even my daughter's wedding cake was made in the Costco bakery. I suppose if I ever require a hearing aid, I'll be making an appointment with the Costco Hearing Center. Both of our televisions in the house and all of the mattresses on our beds were purchased at Costco. We plan vacations, buy airline tickets, and rent vehicles through Costco and pay for everything with our American Express Card--they say, "Membership has its rewards".
           For our last vacation, we flew to Maryland. When we arrived at the BWI (Baltimore Washington International) Airport, we took the shuttle to the car rental center, used our Amex card to pay the rental fees, which automatically provided insurance on the Chrysler Impala we rented from Enterprise. That Impala took us to Gettysburg, Philadelphia, Washington DC, and to Baltimore, Towson, and Annapolis, Maryland. We visited Civil War battlefields, Independence Hall, Ben Franklin's grave, and the Liberty Bell. We admired the DuPont Estate, mourned in the Holocaust Museum, and were amazed at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. We also visited the National Zoo, National Cathedral, and all the monuments on the DC Mall. We visited the US Naval Academy and spent a day at Ocean City where the towels were spread on the sand as far as the eye could see; spacious awnings and huge beach umbrellas marking the seasoned beach goers' turf. Miles of boardwalk lined with shops and restaurants behind, the Atlantic Ocean in front. We read, sunned, hunted seashells, splashed, slept, then we took my American Express card and did a little shopping and found fresh seafood for dinner.
           Each night we returned to the Sheraton Hotel in Towson--home base for our daily excursions. We have a Sheraton rewards card, with benefits for members (are you surprised?) We made sure to take in a tour of Inner Harbor, where we looked at tall ships, a WWII submarine, coast guard ship, and the USS Constellation anchored in the Harbor. We have thick, metal tokens, good for life-time admittance to the Constellation at her permanent berth--Constellation Dock, Inner Harbor, Pier 1, 301 East Pratt Street, Baltimore. She is the last wind-powered warship built by the U.S. Navy and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1994 as the last existing naval vessel from the Civil War.
           Lots of food is required for a family of six traveling in the United States. Luckily, there is a Costco in Baltimore which supplied us with croissants, the makings for sandwiches, big bags of chips, and flats of sodas. We packed lunches and saved a few dollars, but we also ate at restaurants, pubs and fast-food joints. Crabcakes, fresh flounder, and salmon were on the dinner menu; Dunkin' Donuts was a favorite breakfast spot. The Baltimore Orioles played the Pirates at Camden Yards while we were there. Abbey Burger after the game was a loud and boisterous place because the Orioles won. At this pub, the menu is a check list of about a hundred items. You pick your meat--ostrich, alligator, and bison were three of the many choices to select from; you choose the kind of bread/bun from about 10 varieties; and then you choose your toppings from dozens of items. Abbey Burger is home of Baltimore's best burger--my assessment as well as that of Best of Baltimore Magazine. We discovered Trader Joe's and can't wait until we have one of those 'Joes' at home. Every place we went, we looked for the familiar blue and white 'American Express accepted here' sign because we never leave home without it.
           Around my birthday each year, Amex rewards checks are sent out. The one, two, or three percent cash back on purchases made over the past year will be totaled and mailed. We can use our check on Costco merchandise or cash it and used it anywhere else. Isn't that a great birthday gift? I look at our check each year and start figuring what one, two, or three percent translates into as charges on our credit card over the past year, then I think maybe we'll cut back and not buy so much next year. But I start thinking of places we've yet to visit, things we need to do, and start making plans--after all, membership has its rewards.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A Hike Around Mantua

On Saturday, we got up early and went for a walk with our friends, the Marsdens, around Mantua Lake.  It was a spectacular morning and we watched the sun rise over the beautiful eastern mountains.  The fall colors are fading a little, but still spectacular, especially when reflected in the lake.

We decided we're going to go in the evening next week and watch the sun set and see it from that perspective.
Cattails and the town of Mantua.

I love the reflection of the colorful hills in the lake.

A spot of color on a gray morning

The Ducks make V shapes in the water when they swim
as well as in the air when they fly.

Several horse pastures on the other side of Mantua Lake

I thought this was the most beautiful photo I took of the lake Saturday morning

The town of Mantua nestled beneath the colorful mountain sides
in Sardine Canyon.

Usually the guys walk behind us, but they passed us
while I was taking photos.

Tima and Margie are great friends and fun walking partners. 

The tree-line east shore of Mantua Lake

This green willow with the fall-colored backdrop made such a pretty picture.