Saturday, July 25, 2009

OUR VACATION 2009









Don and I pulled out of Jasper on July 25, 2009, for our annual trek. We were trying to get going by 7:00 but someone (who shall go nameless...okay, ME) was not packed by then, but a half-hour later we were on the road.

Our first stop was at Skeeter Mountain Rest Area. That is a huge drive from our city, at least one hour, but when a girl has to go a girl has to go. It also gave us a chance to grab a snack out of the well-stocked snack bag I had put in the car and get a drink. Coulda had a V-8, and we did.

Once out of the hills of Southern Indiana, we were a little speechless at how flat all of Illinois and the first part of eastern Missouri were. Speechless and very bored.

Next stop was in a huge place called Mouscoutah (Sp?) Illinois. The photo of the gas pump and absolutely nothing else, is the highlight of that town. We stopped to fill the car up before making our trip to a much anticipated place: Cuba. Yes, we went to CUBA! Cuba, Missouri, that is.

Don and I are both AAA members (not to be confused with AA, although when this trip is over, that might be next), and we receive a magazine once a month called Midwest Traveler. We learned about Cuba from an article in that magazine as well as the name of a cafe that the author had nothing but praise for called Back In The Day Cafe and Bakery. It really was worth the time we spent lost in the metropolis (2200 people) of Cuba, Missouri. The food was excellent and the service awesome. For $9.00 each we had roast beef, green beans, the best dressing I have ever eaten, including my mother's, mashed potatoes with gravy, a roll, sweet tea and a warm slice of homemade peach cobbler with ice cream on top. Burp! Being deprived while on a diet made this food seem extra-delicious.

We then got our kicks on Route 66 and took it from Cuba to Fanning, Missouri, where we planned to go to see The World's Largest Rocking Chair. Okay, impressed. No, really, I was impressed. It was kind of unbelievable. They had, of course, a gift shop. I bought a magnet and went to an impromptu wine tasting. There are several wineries on Route 66 here in Missouri, and after tasting, hiccup, several, I chose two and now am in search of a corkscrew.

There were no plans to stay on Route 66 to Rolla, but we did, and finding that we were not able to check into our room that early, we asked at the front desk for directions to another attraction we could not miss, called Stubby Stonehenge, a one-half scale Stonehenge, and supposedly the only replica in the United States that actually works as a clock and calendar, just like the one in England. While not as impressive as the one across the pond, it probably is as close as I will get and again, I was duly impressed by its construction. That is located at the University of Missouri Rolla and was constructed by the mining and engineering students. The stone was all cut by water lasers in one month. I could not resist a photo of the building we walked by on campus called McNutt Hall. Really?

So here we are in our hotel. Don is "watching a movie" but he is doing that with his eyes closed, on the bed, and his head is definitely taking on sleeping posture, and I am preparing to walk around this gorgeous lake that our room faces, to try to make room for food that surely is going to be in the forecast as soon as Don is done "watching this movie." I have found the pool and hot tub and am going to head down there soon, too.

So far, so good. We will be arriving in Branson tomorrow.






Friday, July 24, 2009

CICADA SAVING

This morning I woke up early. I think the anticipation of being on vacation starting after work today had me a little antsy. I just wanted to get through the workday and get in the car and hit the road.

Because of that anticipation, I am a little more relaxed than normal, and the weather in the mornings has just been delightful for the entire week. With the cool breeze blowing and the air dry, the temperature topping out from the overnight 60 degrees, the patio called me at about 6:00, and with coffee mug in hand, that is where I went.

But relaxation was not to be for long. Hanging on a chair leg was a cicada, half in and half out of his shell, trying to be birthed, trying to be free, trying to find his wings.

For a while I watched as he struggled and then to my dismay and I am sure to the insect's dismay, he fell from the chair, the shell still attached securely to his damp forelegs, and he landed in the dying cockroach position, on his back on the bricks.

With every ounce of my strength I vowed not to help him. I would not help this ugly insect correct his precarious situation. And so he struggled while I sat on the patio beside him.

Cicadas have huge eyes. And with his, he looked at me as he kicked and tried to free himself from his shell. Once that happened, though, he was still destined to die on my patio, on his back, once the sun came out full-force for the day. With wings wet, they stuck firmly, and the little guy was not accepting his fate easily. He stared at me, he pleaded with those big bulging eyes, until finally, ever so gently, I lifted the shell off of him and he sighed a sigh of relief, fluttered a little, tried to free his wings, tried to navigate onto his side so his legs would allow a bit of leverage so he could get upright and dry off and soar.

This bug weighs a lot when referenced against other bugs in my queendom. The laws of physics were against him ever righting himself, so I just gave him a tiny nudge. The tiniest of nudges was all it took to put him on his feet, and then, as luck would have it, one wing, gooey and wet, was flopped forward and stuck to one of his big eyes. He wandered toward another chair leg, feeling ahead with his feet, pleading with me with his one exposed eye to please go one step further.

"I'm not asking much," he said in his silent cicada voice that I will admit probably only I could hear. "Just one more thing, please?"

So carefully I took his beautiful blue-green wing and peeled it back, placed it into position just so over his back, and he smiled. I thought, "Might as well go the extra mile," and I held a stick in front of him which he gratefully climbed onto, and then I took him to the big ash tree in my back yard.

When C., as I like to call him now, reached out and grabbed onto the bark of that tree and began climbing up toward the top, it was a triumphant moment. Once he was safely high he looked back and whispered his thank yous and disappeared into the crook.

We both learned something today: No creature is too small to give a helping hand to, and not all humans are the enemy.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

IT HAS HAPPENED

This morning I woke up feeling a little odd. I shook the sleep off, gently placed my feet on the floor and into my cushy slippers and shuffled off to the bathroom in that half-sleep state. When there, the mirror caught my reflection, and through eyes that would only partially open in the sudden light, my self became visible. The clock on the sink said it was 6:45, the date July 23, 2009, and then it hit me. My baby was 1-3/4 hours away from turning 25 years old.

I sat down on the edge of the tub and thought about that for a bit. It seems like only yesterday that I was laying in a hospital bed being stuck and prodded and probed and prepped to go to the operating room for the c-section I knew I had to endure to get my precious daughter. I remember the feeling of the spinal anesthetic, the encouragement of the nurses as my breathing became compromised due to the anesthetic getting too high and in essence "numbing" my lungs. The nurse said, "Breathe in, breathe out" over and over and over, because otherwise, they were going to have to intubate me, and she coached me long enough for me to see my beautiful little girl and hear her cry.

I remember the feeling of the hot tears rolling down my cheeks as they brought her little face to my lips so I could give her a mommy's welcome to life kiss.

And the next thing I remember is holding her in my arms in my room, marveling at her face, her fingers, her toes, and thanking God for her over and over.

We have had ups and downs and in-betweens, but she is my daughter 25 years later, and I love her.

Happy birthday to my baby.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

I THOUGHT THIS WAS SO PRECIOUS - THANK YOU, AUNT ALICE

A little girl walked to and from school daily.
Though the weather that morning was questionable and clouds were forming, she made her daily trek to the elementary school.

As the afternoon progressed, the winds whipped up, along with lightning. The mother of the little girl felt concerned that her daughter would be frightened as she walked home from school and she feared the electrical storm might harm her child. So the mother quickly got into her car and drove
along the route to her child's school..
As she did, she saw her little girl walking along and at each flash of lightning, the child would stop, look up, and smile.

When the mother's car drew up beside the child, she lowered the window and called to her...
'What are you doing?'
The child answered,
I am trying to look pretty because God keeps taking my picture.

ABANDONED


First this little guy's nest got blown out of the tree during a storm. He and his brother and his mom sat on the ground behind the tree, fiercely protecting one another from harm.

Then, his brother found his wings and left the area, surely for higher ground in a less cat-riddled neighborhood.

It seemed strange to Baby Pigeon Twin B to be left alone with his mom, but the food was more forthcoming, and his belly stayed full all the time. He also had his mom's attention all to himself, and that wasn't so bad. But as his wings became stronger, even over the course of two nights, and Mom's instincts told her he was able to make it on his own, she, too, abandoned him.

Twin B found the warmest spot he could on an unusually chilly July day, on the asphalt of the driveway, and he looked around, scared, hungry, lonely, abandoned, until he found his wings and soared, surprising even himself.

Here is hoping your family never abandons you and that you find a warm spot on the asphalt on which to find your wings! Cheers!

Monday, July 13, 2009

"WHAT THE HECK ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?" SHE ASKS, INCREDULOUS

Don and I enjoy hanging out at Home Depot. We each own a house, and at least once a weekend we make a trip to that store and talk about all the things we would like to do. Sometimes we actually buy things and start a project, most times we buy things that have nothing to do with a project. Each trip usually ends with a Coke at McDonald's while we dump our purchases out on the table and discuss, again, the things we would like to do, but probably won't.

Last night's rendezvous in the lumber aisle was uneventful, calm, peaceful, where we met up, showing one another what we were taking home. We laughed, talked, climbed in the truck and set our sights on home.

But the July 12 trip was slated to be more memorable than most.

It was a hot Sunday evening, the humidity was stifling. And something you should know about me...I suffer from motion sickness very easily, especially in those conditions. Carnival rides? Forget it. Boats? Surely you jest! Stressful car rides? Sure to induce nausea.

Of course, I could learn to keep my mouth shut, but Don was driving me crazy. The speed limit was 40 and he was tooling along at about 25. I could see what was about to happen here. We were approaching a green light, and by the time he got to it, it was going to start changing and he was going to slam on the brakes, causing the truck to lurch and my stomach to do the same thing. So I gently said, "Would you speed the f&*) up??"

He did, and when we barely beat the red light found it necessary to say, "You drive like an old woman."

"Wh- what?? I don't either!! Why would you even say something so incredibly stupid and untrue?" I cried out a little defensively.

"It's not untrue. I've noticed it the past few months. You drive like an old lady. You wait until cars that are way back there get past, then you turn."

Okay, ladies, help me out here. That's called "patience." I have it now. Not only that, if there are just two cars and I can wait ten seconds before pulling out, then I don't have to hit the gas to accelerate quickly, which saves gas.

He just doesn't get it. Patience = sanity-keeper = fuel savings. What is WRONG with that?

I just am dreading driving on our summer trip now because I will feel self-conscious when I practice my patient driving skills. If Don would just think back to the time that I had to actually take a stress management class per orders of my physician to learn this patient driving technique, and how to deal with people who criticize my driving skills, he would shut up already!

He wants to ride with me when I am not practicing sane driving? Oh, well, okay...Branson, here we come. Everyone get out of my way! The old lady is coming through!

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO ME?

When my son was younger and still living at home, he would, at times, need a playmate, and would try to recruit me. Oh, don't get me wrong. I was a great entertainer of children, still am...as long as we're talking Legos, blocks, board games and books. But Ian had one passion, computer games.

One day, after failing miserably at Super Mario Brothers, I, the adult, threw down the control and said, while stomping off to find my daughter to play with, "You will never find me playing computer games again, so leave me alone about it. I hate it!"

Fast forward. Ian is 28 years old now, I have reached that ripe old age of 52. And in my spare time, I find myself almost hyperventilating at the thought of getting to Farm Town. Is Farm Town the name of my mid-life crisis real estate? Is Farm Town the name of a great produce market? Is Farm Town a theater where they show the old classic movies? No. Farm Town is a COMPUTER GAME. That's right. I am addicted to a computer game that allows me to purchase land and buy seeds and grow food, build a house, make money from selling my homegrown food, plant beautiful flowers that actually grow and bloom and raise horses, pigs, rabbits, chickens, roosters, cows, sheep and donkeys who flourish and love me and provide me with a little extra income if I decide I want to sell them in order to purchase, oh, for example, a little house.

The day I was able to go to the virtual real estate office and expand the size of my farm and buy a house? Well, I was in tears as I walked my little zombie-like virtual self up my sidewalk, hugged my new mailbox and whacked a chicken for the grill. It was an amazing feeling. My neighbors are my friends and we hire one another to work the harvest in order to collect more coin. Yeah, we've got it all together there at Farm Town!

Every now and then I load up Farm Town and just stand and stare in awe at what I have accomplished. Plow, plant, harvest, plow, plant, harvest. My virtual self never gets tired, nor does her arthritis restrict her wooden mobility.

Listen. Hear that? That's Virtual Kathy McWhirt whistling while she works! Now there's something nobody is going to experience everyday.

Oh, man, I've got to go...the potatoes are about to go to waste. Come over anytime for a grilled meal around the picnic table, amidst the gorgeous flowers and waving wheat! Ya'all visit now, ya hear?

Monday, July 06, 2009

SOME BAD NEWS

I want you all to sit down now, and prepare yourselves for something I have to tell you that is pretty upsetting. Michael Jackson died.

This happened last week sometime, and I'm sorry that I'm just now reporting on it here. I am not sure of the day it happened, but if you ask one of a billion people, and that gives you a pretty good pool to choose from, they can tell you the day, the time, what he was wearing and any of a million other "facts" about the case.

Did you know they actually gave away tickets to his funeral to people who registered online for them? The funeral was at that comforting, quiet mortuary known as The Staples Center in Los Angeles. Michael, may he rest in peace and God bless his soul, might be buried at Neverland Ranch, if there is not too much controversy associated with that, or he might end up in a regular cemetery in LA, a beautiful place called Oak Lawn Cemetery, where many celebrities are buried.

I adored Michael Jackson's music, love Janet Jackson's music, and was just crazy about The Jackson Five, but even as a kid, I could tell they were just an act and there was no real warmth up there on that stage. Looking back at old videos now, it seems almost sad.

Here is what I hope for my own death: That I am lucky enough to be remembered and mourned by one person; that I make an just enough of an impact to have one person turn out to party at my final show; and that I never become a circus act requiring the use of The Staples Center for my send-off...amen.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

THE WEIGHT LOSS DILEMMA

In April 2008 I had a spinal fusion surgery. The length of recovery was almost whispered to me by my neurosurgeon, "In one year you won't even know you had surgery!"

At the time, I was in searing pain from a nerve pinched between arthritic, collapsed vertebrae, and so he could have said, "three years," and I would have dragged my sorry, broken body to the operating table that very day, just to eradicate the pain that had slowly taken over my life.

The surgery went well, he said. The recovery, however, was a different story. Locked into a rigid back brace day and night, it was impossible for me to get up without assistance or even sleep in my bed. I chastised myself for putting myself through that misery. I cried, I groaned and once I think I probably even screamed out from my misery, and the people who were caring for me were concerned, and rightfully so.

To comfort me, my girlfriends cooked or drove out to a restaurant and returned with goodies, put them on a tray and brought them to wherever I had landed for the day, usually on the loveseat in the living room. They were so loving, so patient, so kind! I felt so lucky.

And in a few short months, I was back on my feet and almost caring for myself, but the lack of meaningful exercise and my desire to squelch my self-pity with food, had caught up with me, and I realized I had, somewhere along the line, gathered 20 extra pounds around my waist and on my ass.

Instead of self-loathing, though, I embraced the weight and washed down Oreos with some high-caloric drink, like Corona, at very bad times, like just before bed or while soaking in a tub of hot water. And it wasn't always Corona. Sometimes I drank wine.

This past month I came to the realization that probably I should consider dropping the extra weight. I looked at my granddaughter, who is one and very chunky and nearly impossible for me to carry, and heard a little voice in my own head, at least one of many little voices in my head, asking me if I could not carry the child, how was I possibly carrying this weight around? Immediately my heels began to hurt (power of suggestion, even if it was from one of my own inner voices), and my clothes began to feel tighter. The mirror no longer was my friend. Hell, the mirror had been my enemy for over a year.

About this time, as if my divine intervention, a program began at the hospital where I am employed. I paid twenty bucks and stood on a scale, collected a huge folder of information and learned that the biggest loser keeps the money at the end of twenty weeks.

"Great!" one of my voices told me. "I could use an extra couple of hundred dollars around the Holidays! And so it began.

The first week I dropped, you guessed it, one pound. And the only reason that happened was because I ran in place while trying to decipher the following information: "1 pound is approximately 3550 calories so to lose 1 pound per week you would need to lower your calorie intake by 3550 calories a week. Example, if you weight 250 pounds and are lightly active and eat 2558 calories a day that is 17,906 calories a week. In order to lose 1 pound a week you would need to subtract 3550 from 17,906, which is 13,356 and divide that by 7 which is 2050 calories per day to lose 1 pound per week."

I lost one pound just from the brain power it took to solve that equation. I never was good at algebra OR story problems. And I needed a glass of wine to go on reading the Pandora's box of story problems I had been handed.

This week is going to be different. This week I am throwing away my black three-ring binder full of tips and suggestions and winging it. It is not rocket science, after all. Stop drinking wine and beer, exercise some, stop eating every other meal at McDonald's and when the box says one serving is two cookies, eat two cookies and not half the box.

So, at this time, I am heading out for a walk to the Farmer's Market, to pick up a couple of bags of good fresh homegrown veggies, curbing the almost insane desire to stop at the baked items table where the woman who no doubt bakes the best breads and cakes and cookies in the entire Tri-State, tries to lure me in with her grandmotherly sad old woman look so she can comfort me with her still-warm bread smeared with real butter.