Squirt

Have you guys ever used a tongue scraper?  I read about them once in a Marian Keyes novel and also heard the term “fresh as a daisy” thrown around as an after effect from using one, so I got me one and put it to use a few times a week.  I guess it works but it’s not something I go around asking. “Hey,” hack directly into someone’s face, “do you notice that my breath smells like daisies?”  Talk about instant social ostracism, no matter how daisy fresh I am.

Anyway, yesterday I put it to use but apparently a little too enthusiastically because I gagged myself. It took an inordinately long time to recover from that.  I had to lie down.  Everything revolted for a long number of minutes and when I felt I could stand, I commenced to drying my hair and mentally disposed of any breakfast I had planned on eating.  I might be permanently off of trying to achieve that level of oral hygiene anymore.

That story really has nothing to do with anything but I felt I should share it.

I talk a lot about Martie here but I do have another sister, Squirt, who I talk about less. She’s just as great but she often lives far away and quite honestly, she is a terrible communicator.  She is significantly younger than me, so much so that if I were to date one of her friends I’d feel like a ridiculous wrinkled up old hag with a young whippersnapper type sugar baby.  If I shared funny stories about her I’d mostly be making them up because I don’t get to experience them for myself very often.  She’s a cute little thing, though.  Here, look.

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One super cute story – when she was tiny, big enough to have hair and eat adult food but young enough to speak in her toddler language still, she asked for chips. Ruffles, specifically, and I’m only telling you this so you can recreate the picture in your head.

“Uh-ona jap, plz,” she said.

Fortunately, Martie and I spoke Squirt toddler and understood that “uh-ona jap, plz” meant “I want a chip, please.” Also fortunately, Squirt was amenable to repeating this over and over at our request while we flailed about on the sofa wheezing with mirth at the cuteness of it.

Anyway. After a time, we gave Squirt the bag of Ruffles which she protectively placed between her legs and against her body, effectively hiding herself behind the bag.  All we could see were two tiny toddler feet on either side of the bag, one blonde pigtail sprouting from both the right and left of the Ruffles, and a tiny hand reaching ever so often into the bag to pluck a single chip for her consumption.  We’d hear the crunch, watch the hand, and flail around wheezing until our stomachs hurt. Unfortunately for Squirt, we still have the same reaction when we tell the story now, which is often.  Poor kid. I don’t think she will ever be allowed to grow up as far as Martie and I are concerned.

I say that, but it isn’t true. See, Squirt just left two weeks ago for a stint in the Peace Corps. She’s in Paraguay for 27 months and it is unlikely that she will come back to the States during those months.  Martie and I were super excited for her until it came time for her to go.  Suddenly, she was leaving.  It was real and she was going and to say that we were distraught is putting it far too lightly.  We had taken her shopping for things she would need.  We asked a million questions about what she’d be doing.  We spent more quality time with her than we’d done in a while but two days before she got on that plane, we had a comeapart.  I say comeapart but what I really mean is comeaparts.  Ssss.  More than one.

Our small younger sister is in another country with people she only met at the staging session. We saw the group picture of the pile of Peace Corps, Paraguay, but we don’t know those people. We don’t know her host family.  We cannot visit for three months which feels like an eternity even though we might only see each other once a year sometimes and had no plans to go Paraguay in those three months anyway.

On the Tuesday before the Thursday that Squirt left, my boss came to my desk to give me good news. She said, “I have good news,” and when she delivered it, I burst into tears, much to the surprise of both of us.  She paused for a moment and said, “You heard the part where I said good news, right?”  I did that a lot that week.  I especially did that when Squirt sent a text from the plane in New York, right before they took off for Asuncion.  I called Martie and sobbed; then when I stopped Martie started.  Why? Why do we feel this way?  Squirt has been taking good care of herself for years now. She’s an adult.  She is more than capable. She loves meeting new people and moving to new places and most importantly she loves to give back. She always has.  Why is this different?  I have to stop asking these questions because I’m crying a little now and I have to drive soon.

I suppose I wrote the oral hygiene story because it’s a silly moment in my life, one that I would have shared with Squirt during one of our many beach visits. We would sip on champagne, because why not, and tell stupid stories and laugh. Sometimes cry.  But we connected. And if she comes here to read my life, she’ll see it and know what it would feel like if I were telling her this perched on my beach towel with a cocktail in hand while I cooked myself into bacon in the hot sun.  This is our connection.  I hope we don’t lose it.  We aren’t going to lose it.

Love you, Squirt. Always.

Serves Me Right

A couple of weeks ago I was driving my senior citizens in our big fifteen-passenger bus (we have upgraded from van to bus, and it’s a hoss) to dinner, and when I stopped at a red light I got out my lipstick.

“You never know when you are going to meet the love of your life,” I said as I caked it on. Pink is a good color for me.

I didn’t think another thing about it because we were headed to Tenn16 over in East Nashville which everyone knows if full of hipsters wearing skinny jeans, and everyone knows I am not going to find myself in a relationship with a man who wears skinny jeans. Ever.  (God, hear me on this.)  During dinner I noticed that Jan, me in thirty years, was talking to a man at the bar.  Since I like to make new friends in bars and restaurants my own self, I thought nothing of that either.

Later, after food was consumed and plates were cleared, Jan got out her lipstick and caked it on. Mauve is a good color for her.  She motioned for me to do the same and once that chore was accomplished, she invited me down to her end of the table.

“Jimmie,” she said, “I have someone I want you to meet. That man behind me at the bar?  His name is Jerry.  I went to high school with him and while I’m furious with him for aging better than me, I want you to meet him.  Here’s what I think I’m going to say:  This is Jimmie. She’s looking for a hookup.  Are you interested in going out with her?”

Y’all. Y’all!  Jerry is 70 years old.* Open up that floor and swallow me whole.  I’ve got to keep my mouth shut around Jan.

In other related-but-not-really news, I recently lost my driver’s license in Key West. This story would be far more exciting if I were able to tell you that I lost it in the bar or on the beach, but alas, I believe I lost it in the grocery store buying something boring like cheese. Anyway, I had to go through TSA twice with no ID of any kind and unless you count a pat down so thorough I felt like I needed a cigarette after, it was not a pleasant experience.  Getting a new license was not a pleasant experience either but I was rewarded with a new license photo that makes me look like a melted piece of cheese (apropos, no?).  Also, it looks like every chin I ever had in my life showed up for that photo.  I suppose that is what I get for losing my license, although I feel good about replacing it so soon because I can speed again.  Was terrified to do that without one.

In final related news (not really), in our last blogging episode I threw my dear sister, Martie, under the bus. In retaliation, she threw me under the bus and in a display of her pipes and creativity, she wrote me a song.

Please enjoy her non-warbling-nor-screeching tune written rightfully at my expense. For the record, I feel about Willie Nelson much like I do about Patsy Cline.

In Which Martie Throws Me Under The Bus; Or, A Song By Martie

Ain’t we great? That is some sisterly love right there.

*I feel I should defend myself here – while I’m not opposed to an older man, I think maybe five years is my limit. Seven, tops. (God, hear me on this.) I’d like for our wrinkling pattern to be roughly the same.

Photo Dump

Man, what a lazy cow I have been lately! I had all these intentions for writing excellent stuff, really scintillating material that would wow you, and then Madre and I took a vacation.  Since we have returned I’ve read eight nine books (finished another last night).  I’m guessing that lazing around in a hammock chair for six days really did me a lot of good as far as relaxing me but it also put some kind of lazy haze on me and I can’t seem to snap out of it.  Oof.

Anyway, I was scrolling through the photos on my phone the other day because somehow I have used up most of my storage and I can’t figure out why. I play no games.  I have maybe four songs I listen to on a rotation.  I don’t Facebook anymore, and I’ve posted seven pictures to Instagram.  I wanted to see if I could delete anything, maybe some pictures of some meals I already blogged about here or an accidental 3-minute video of my floor covered in cat fur, and it so happens that I found about 62 pictures similar to this:

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Pooh

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Tigger

Turns out if you give your phone password to your nieces and then leave them in the same room with said phone, they take liberties. I miss those children.

I’m not one to really miss people. I enjoy you when I have you and I look forward to seeing you, but I’m not going to miss you, not really.  But Madre and I flew down to Key West with Pooh and Tigger a few weeks ago to deliver them to Aunties Anne and Susanne for a three-week European trip, and I MISS them.

(Also, do you like how I casually just threw “Key West” and “Europe” in there? Very blasé, like this happens to us all the time.  These kids are in EUROPE!  And Madre and I were in KEY WEST!)

(To be fair, I suppose Key West isn’t really that big of a deal because we do have open access to the aunties’ house any time we want to go plus it’s hotter than is healthy or fun for any human down there. I do believe it is currently too hot for even the iguanas and that is saying something.)

The girls come back home tomorrow. I am beyond ready.  Their parents are frantically beyond ready which is really the only word I can think of to describe what it must feel like to be a parent of children that you miss more than I do.

In honor of their return, and in honor of them in general, I’ll share this picture and then tell you the story of how it came to be.

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About a year ago I headed down to their house for my monthly babysitting gig, although babysitting sounds very juvenile for two girls who are already shaving their legs. Let’s say that I headed down for my monthly hangout with some preteens and we decided to go on an adventure.  We set off for the woods, in the fall where we were certain to not run into any ticks, and kicked rocks along the dirt road as we walked.  After a few good kicks, Pooh kicked a clod of dirt off of something round and sort of smooth and suddenly we were on the ground digging at it with rocks and twigs trying to see what it was.  I had to scurry back to the house for a shovel with which to dig it up and only after quite a lot of work did we discover that tortoise shell.

Pooh said, “I knew it! I knew something exciting would happen today!” We unearthed it, liquid dead turtle poured out in a chunky, vile-smelling stream, and suddenly it seemed less exciting.  I was not one to crush the excited hopes of a preteenager, though, so I excitedly placed the shell in the scoop of the shovel and excitedly carried it hobo-style back home. We placed it on the rail of the porch for the parents to exclaim over upon their return which they did with hands clasped over their noses and faint traces of nausea on their faces.

I think what I really want to focus on here is the hopes and dreams of these girls, the exciting opportunities available to them. I’m such a selfish person, or maybe an indulgent person, and while I want good things for everyone, truly, it is very hard to be as enthusiastic about your hopes and dreams as I am about my own.  I think that is human.  These children have forced me to be different.  They have forced me to face the fact that I am not the most important person to me anymore, the spinster, the person who gives herself everything she wants because it is clear that no one else will. Now that indulgent person wants every good thing I ever had or never had to be theirs, whether it be a stinky tortoise shell or a trip to Europe or a boy to just stand in front of the girl and say he really, really likes her.  I want them to have it all.  I’ve never felt so selflessly about anyone in my life.

Perhaps I will have stories to tell about their adventures when they return.  I hope I hear them all.

To sign off, I’ll deliver more of my photo dump to you so that I can delete this mess off my phone and save more room for teenaged selfies.

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Jimmie and Pooh

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Tigger and Jimmie

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Groundhog who actually posed for this photo

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And then turned the other way for another shot.  Not joking.

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Seamus, just because

How Madre Does A Hospital Stay

A week or two ago Madre had to have some surgery to get her gut rearranged, and that surgery required an overnight stay in the hospital. Back in April she had a different gut rearranging surgery wherein parts of her that were useless were removed. That removal opened the door for other gut items to shift around and act like brats so Madre sternly opted to teach them a lesson by having them operated upon. She’s fine, so there will be no surprise ending where I exclaim, “She’s in a full body cast for approximately three months to one year but she’s hopeful and the prognosis, while grim, can be good as long as she gets regular acupuncture and never has sugar again!”

Going relatively anywhere with Madre is a treat. She’s from whom I get my stunning and friendly personality so like me, Madre simply views strangers as friends that she has not yet met. Combine that personality with the increasing lack of filter that often comes in the aging process and you’ll understand what an adventure it is to witness Madre come out of anesthesia and recover overnight in a hospital bed.

Martie drove Madre up for the procedure and planned on spending the night in Madre’s room, ostensibly to keep an eye on Madre’s care but more honestly to make sure Madre didn’t loot the nurse’s cart or sneak down the hall for a midnight coffee run. After the surgery had been completed Madre was whisked off to the recovery room. We expected an hour’s wait but after two Martie and I began to get worried. Martie set off to the seventh floor to hunt her down. As it happens, things took a horrible turn for the nurses and also Madre when, coming out of anesthesia, Madre rubbed her eyes and in doing so, scraped the tape debris right across her cornea. The sight Martie found at the recovery room door was Madre sitting up in her recovery bed with an eye patch taped over her face, her mouth open and her finger wagging at the beleaguered staff.

“Did you put an ice pick in my eye?” she bellowed.

“No, ma’am, you just scratched your cornea with the tape.”

“Well it feels like an ice pick has been stabbed into my eye! Did you do this so I wouldn’t feel pain in my stomach? Because I don’t feel any pain down there but my eye is killing me! I can take pain, Martie, you know I can take pain, but this really hurts. I need some morphine for this! Have you put any pain meds in my IV? Did you do this on purpose? What kind of joint are you running here?”

It was a downhill slide from there.

When they finally wheeled Madre into her room, I got to hear this little tirade for myself. It was exquisite, how intently Madre could focus on her eye and ignore her lower body which had stitches and cuts and sutures. That part of the surgery made me squirm all in my intestines but Madre could give two hoots about that. She was pissed off about her eye.

The nurse who completed the transfer from recovery room to regular room and then recovery bed to regular bed got Madre all settled and then scooted quick, fast and in a hurry out of the room. “Here’s a cafeteria menu,” he hollered from the door, “she can order whatever she likes, no restrictions,” and then he was gone.

Madre’s ears perked up. “A menu?” she said. “Can I get coffee, do you think?”

After listening to the menu selections (because her eye was all patched up), Madre selected a quesadilla, brown rice, and carrots (for eye health – not joking). She also ordered a large cup of coffee, stat. The nurse had assured us that her eye would heal quickly and as we waited for her meal and coffee, Madre iced her eye and began to fully wake up.

“This hurts,” she said but she was no longer bellowing. “Wonder what really happened to my eye? I feel weird. How do I come in here to get my guts rearranged but leave with an eye patch? Did they do the surgery? Am I okay?”

We assured her that she was okay, and before long she was. She swilled down the coffee the moment it hit her tray and then attempted a few bites of dinner. She took a bite of quesadilla and happily chewed on that for about eight minutes. After quite a long time of that one mouthful, she said, “You know, I’m chewing but it isn’t really going anywhere.” We greased it up with some sour cream and that seemed to slide it down a little easier.

After a while she attempted to eat the carrots. They were cut into a small dice and with her patched eye and no glasses, she managed to pick up one cube. “These probably taste pretty good but I can’t see the damn things to pick them up. Am I eating them? Are there any on my fork? I need them to make my eye better.”

And that was dinner.

After a while, I left Madre and Martie to sleep it off in the room. I felt content with my mother’s care and her recovery so I slept the sleep of the peaceful dreamer.

Martie, on the other hand, slept terribly on the eggshell-mattressed cot, and was there when Madre awoke and decided it was time to go home.

“Madre,” she said, “you have to wait for them to remove the catheter and then take out the IV.”

“The doctor told me that as soon as I could pee on my own, we could leave. Get them in here so I can do that. And get them in here to get this damn tube out of my arm.” Madre was insistent.

Martie dutifully trotted off to the nurse’s station where they assured her that they would be right in. They were not, of course, because they had other patients to attend to, but eventually, after much persuasion, the catheter was removed and Madre could get out of bed. Madre did her business and then marched up and down the hall with her IV pole greeting other patients and making her rounds.

“I’m ready to go. Will you remove this IV please,” she asked every staff member.

At the nurse’s station she requested a pair of scissors. “I need to cut this line, please. I’m tired of this pole,” she explained. The nurses looked at Martie with some horror and some sympathy.

“No, ma’am, you cannot be discharged until the doctor comes in for her rounds and releases you,” they explained.

Here Madre set them straight. “Oh, no,” she said, “I was told that once I could pee on my own I could go. I’ve done that, twice, and now I need to leave. I have horses to attend to. And a dog I need to pick up. Martie, call your sister and tell her to call my doctor so that she can tell them I can be released. Do that now.”

Martie made the call and I made the call and many apologies were made by Martie and by me. Shockingly, that phone call worked. In no short order, Madre’s doctor called Madre’s nurse and asked, “Is she bucking?”

Yes. Yes, she was bucking.

“Cut her loose,” she said. “Let her go home. She’s just fine.”

Madre was quickly released from her hospital prison, much to the relief of everyone. But, like it happens every time with my mother, the staff cheerfully waved her off with almost hugs and affectionate pats, a little sorry to see her go. She was and is fine. Marvelous, even.

It isn’t often you find a 72-year-old woman who will challenge you the way my mother will challenge you yet do it in such a way that you can’t help but cheer her on. Life with Madre – it’s never boring.

 

You Met The Flintstones, Now Meet The Rubbles

When I was young, my Auntie Anne swept me off on a series of trips that gave me some life experiences I wouldn’t have otherwise had. I traveled to Chicago at age 7 where I had chocolate mousse for the first time and fell asleep every night looking out over the city skyline.  At 12 I went to New York and saw my first Broadway play, Dreamgirls.  I was also offered drugs for the first time and remember saying to the man, “I’m 12!  Are you serious?” At 19 I went to Europe.  There I was transfixed by Michelangelo’s David, nearly starved to death in France because French food smelled weird, and made out with an Italian boy whom I have never forgotten.  Luigi. Good grief, he was pretty.

Luigi, Jimmie, Martie, Alessandro

Luigi, Jimmie, Martie, Alessandro

I look back on all of those trips fondly and while I think Auntie Anne does, too, I also think she spent an enormous amount of time rolling her eyes in frustration with me. For example, I did the following:

  • Turned down an opportunity to see Cats because I very much wanted to watch the movie Beat Street. No, I’m not joking.
  • Fell asleep in the car every time we shut the door and set off on a sightseeing tour of Europe. In my defense I had just finished taking college finals the week before and I was severely overtired. But I missed all of the castles and about a thousand mountain overlooks.
  • Refused all food with hair on it (anchovies). Also, Martie and I campaigned heavily for a McDonald’s trip in Paris. Paris, France. McDonald’s. Even this makes me roll my eyes.

I’m so incredibly thankful for all of those experiences, for any experience Auntie Anne offers me actually, and I’d very much like to think of myself as the Auntie Anne equivalent to Pooh and Tigger. I have not yet offered them a trip to Europe or their very own opportunity to be coerced into scoring some drugs on a New York City street, but I have offered each of them a road trip once they hit an appropriate age.  That age is somewhere in the neighborhood of 12/13, and this was the year Pooh hit the mark.

Now, remember when Woney and her relatives invited me to their family gathering wherein we were scheduled to have cookouts and s’mores and parties and instead we moved furniture? It was with large apologies and assurances of no repeat furniture movings that the relatives re-invited me to a new family gathering, this time at the Rubbles’ house, wherein we were scheduled to have cookouts and junk food and parties, and I was promised that the most strenuous moving I would have to do would be 1) the placing of my air mattress in a location that made me happy, and 2) the elbow grease necessary to move the beer from a chair arm to my mouth. I was encouraged to bring Pooh who only had to perform the strenuous exercise of changing out of play clothes into a bathing suit, and since this seemed to suit us both just fine, Pooh and I took off on our first ever road trip together.

I must confess, I hoped Pooh and I would have some heart-to-hearts during the six-hour drive.  Just really connect.  And while we did have some of that, Pooh, in the same vein as me taking every opportunity to catch up on sleep once I was safely buckled into the vehicle, took every opportunity to catch up on her social media correspondence once she was safely buckled into the vehicle. Every few seconds she’d pluck her phone from its resting spot in the door handle and scroll through Instagram and/or watch a marching band video whilst she sprawled out in her seat that was ratcheted back into the napping position.  Also, I thought she’d want to snap some pictures of the scenery we cruised through to share on her Instagram page but when I looked at her phone later, every image was one like this:

Take One

Take Two

Take Three

Take Four

I suppose there were some moments where I rolled my eyes in frustration but mostly I found it fascinating to watch a teenager just be a teenager in the most teenager-y way, much like how I acted on my many trips with Auntie Anne when I brashly chewed my grape bubble gum and plugged my ears with my Walkman around my giants wings of hair. A whole different world than where I live right now.

Enough about Pooh. Let’s talk about the Rubbles. What a gorgeous lot of people they are and what a party we had.  These are some mere samplings of what those three days entailed.

Minutes after arriving for the weekend, Pooh and I were plied with plates crammed full of food and then hustled into our swimwear for an evening in the lake. I had already met all the new-to-me Rubbles, received quite a few hugs which were polite and sweet, but in the lake I got the full family treatment which just solidified the message that I was part of the clan.  Phred, Woney’s brother, came barreling down the dock and as he jumped over our heads into the lake, beer in hand, he bellowed, “Jimmie, I want to be in your blog!”  He went under, beer still above water (and, despite the cannonball splash, undiluted by lake droplets), and came up grinning, glasses askew.  I almost said, “You need to do something blog-worthy then,” but realized that a cannonball into murky waters while keeping a fresh beer intact was quite enough to have him canonized here.

Another family member, Cousin BamBam (he’s going to be so happy with me), was lured down into the kid-filled basement by promises of I don’t know what, and as I was checking on Pooh I kept hearing him say, “My very conservative family is going to croak when they see this. You just wait.” I couldn’t actually see him but I could hear him and eventually realized he was at the center of a wild flurry of flailing teenage arms, makeup brushes and glitter.  You know that gruesome television show where a herd of wild cats takes down an antelope in one unified play, fur flying and the occasional claw and tuft of hair being thrust out?  It was like that except sweeter, and BamBam emerged from the fray with a face full of makeup and a grin that split his face.  The girls were enormously pleased with themselves at his glittery makeover and he seemed to be pleased as well as he destroyed his corn hole competitors with a very red, very sexy mouth yet in a very manly way.  Didn’t seem to me that his conservative family was all that conservative because no one really seemed to bat an eye or hug him any less, that giant straight, furry, fun man.  He and the girls were just being family, playing together and practicing their makeup skills.

Pretty, pretty

Pretty, pretty

I had a few moments of concern for Pooh, wondering if she’d get along with the other kids that were there, but around bed time she was snatched away to the basement to set up camp and tell stories. She was ridiculed mercilessly for her choice in blanket (Alabama) but since the ridicule was from the kid stuffed up under a Gators blanket, no one took it very seriously.  She was part of the makeup frenzy and part of clean up duty and got just as many hugs over the weekend as I did.  She was never asked to move furniture but honestly, the both of us would have happily participated in that because that is what families do.  The whole weekend was just gorgeous.  These people were just gorgeous.

There’s one more person I want to talk about, one more pseudo-family member, and funnily enough, he didn’t ping my radar at all. I have no special stories about him because he was simply no different than anyone else.  I hugged him and yapped with him and listened to him ask his daughter if she had enough to eat, ask his wife if she needed anything, took the beer he offered to me.   He was easy and fun and just . . . family. His name was Scott, and the Monday after we all returned to our regularly scheduled lives, Scott passed away in his home.  He was young and his heart was enormous, you could tell, but it was not enormous in the way that leads to long life. When I heard the news, I was devastated like any pseudo-family member would be. What a sucky, terrible, awful thing to happen to such a lovely man, such a lovely family.  Only now, three or four months later, can I see what a weird, twisted blessing that was for all of them.  To send Scott home to God with a heart and head full of memories of a whole weekend stuffed full of love and laughter and family – what a nice gift to give.

In summation, I would like to say, “Hey Flintstones! Hey Rubbles!  I love you guys!  I’m so sorry for your loss.  Thank you for inviting me in and giving me so many hugs!  I’ll be in your moving party any time!”

Sunset

Sunset Two

A Recipe, Perfected By Daddy-O, Stolen By Jimmie

Guys, I don’t know what to tell you about Pee-tah’s tooth. I asked him for the story and he’s being all coy now about sharing it. I’m guessing we are going to have to give something up in order for him to share so give it your best shot. Offer him something and see if he comes up off of it. I’m making him a chicken salad. What are you offering?

Daddy-O's

Speaking of offering something, I’m doing something different today. Today I’m offering you a recipe! I never do that which is a crying shame because I’m an excellent cook and also a healthy one despite what my extra hips tell you. I know that many of you are giving me the side-eye at my declaration of “good cook” and “healthy cook” all in one sentence. It’s true, though. I’m good at it but also sneaky at it so it isn’t like you’ll come over for dinner and get tofu braised in sodium free vegetable broth with a side of raw kale and wheat germ puree. Instead you’ll get something like this:

Daddy-O’s Extra Fine Massively Delicious (Relatively Healthy) Stir Fry

Teaser . . .

Teaser . . .

Oh, man, I got a little thrill just from typing that.

I’m pretty sure I’m supposed to give you an ingredients list here and some instructions but I can’t yet. First I want to wax poetic about this dish and tell you that if I get the opportunity to choose the last meal of my life, this is what I’d pick. Squash and I have talked about it often enough during our travels while we are cuddled up on squishy sofas so I’m certain in my choice. I’ve given it a lot of thought. A select few of my friends have experienced this stir fry firsthand but not too many because that means I’d have to share and while I’m happy to share a little of it, I’m not happy to share a lot. I have no idea where Daddy-O got this recipe or how long it took him to perfect it, but I know that our conversations about my visits to him start like this:

Daddy-O: “You’ll be down here for four days? What night are we having stir fry?”

Daddy-O and JiJi visited me for the Labor Day weekend, and it should be no surprise to you that I requested my father labor in the kitchen over my wok until this dish was done. I have no shame. I’m not even embarrassed to tell you that, it’s so good.

Okay, now that I’ve primed the pump, so to speak, below is the ingredient list:

  • Boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • Snow peas, threaded
  • Carrots
  • Mushrooms
  • Green onion
  • Sliced Water chestnuts, drained
  • Baby corn, drained
  • Garlic
  • Soy sauce
  • White wine (something you’d drink, not cooking wine)
  • Chicken broth
  • Cornstarch
  • Salt, pepper, and sugar
  • Cooking oil (olive oil not recommended because of the cooking temperature)
  • Brown rice, cooked sticky
  • Love – I’m guessing on this one because 1) Daddy-O’s stir fries always turn out better than mine no matter how precisely I follow his instructions and 2) I know he loves me lots

Reading that list you can kind of tell that this is more of a method than a recipe, right? I just picked those ingredients because they are what I like and this blog is all about me, so me me me. My recipe. My favorite. My ingredient list in the quantities that I like. Me.

Now, at this point I am required by all foodie blog laws to give you proper cooking instructions but again, I’m going about this differently. Because this is about my favorite food, I want to tell you how *I* cook it. First, about five years before I make this, I ask Daddy-O for a wok for Christmas. This is an important step because not everyone has a wok lying around. Then, about four years before I make this, I ask for a rice cooker for Christmas. This step is not as important but it works for me because one of my friends has one and I am jealous. Next I asked Daddy-O to sharpen my knives over Thanksgiving. This requires some planning as I have to pack them in my suitcase to drive them down to Florida but it is successful in that I get sharpened knives AND a knife sharpener because driving my three dull knives to Florida every time I need them sharpened is ridiculous. It is at this point we can begin the proper cooking process.

  • With your super sharp knife, begin by cutting the chicken into the bite-sized pieces and place them into a bowl. (If you are grossed out by raw chicken like me, have someone else cut it for you.) Mince some garlic (those of you battling vampires can feel free to use as much as you like – I’ll stick with a clove or two) and toss on the chicken. Add some soy sauce (depending on the level of sausage fingers you like, add as much or as little as you prefer), some wine (a ¼ c or so), and then stir the whole raw concoction. Set aside.
This is not appetizing. I am aware. Just wait.

This is not appetizing. I am aware. Just wait.

  • Cut all vegetables into bite-sized pieces and place into a separate bowl. (If you are like Daddy-O, you will have a separate bowl for each vegetable. This makes JiJi happy as she has to wash all the dishes he dirties.) The items that need more cooking time (carrots, onions) should go on top and the easier cooking items on the bottom (water chestnuts, baby corn). Or, in Daddy-O fashion, like the below.

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  • Heat a good amount of oil in the wok on medium high heat. Let it get really good and hot and then throw your vegetables in. You can stagger them if you like which is made easier if each vegetable has its own bowl (Daddy-O sounds pretty smart right about now, don’t he?) so that the cooking time is perfect but either way, in they go. Stir it around while it sizzles and get each vegetable coated in oil. When the heartier vegetables begin to turn bright green and orange, toss in some salt, pepper, and a pinch of sugar. Add some wine and some chicken broth, whatever amounts make you feel good about it, and let all this business cook for a minute or two. Remove the vegetables from the broth and place back in their bowl. Pour the broth into a separate bowl for later use.
I love those hands. My Daddy's hands.

I love those hands. My Daddy’s hands.

  • Heat more oil in the wok. When it gets good and hot, toss your chicken in and cook until it begins to turn opaque. This is when things start to smell particularly yummy because the garlic is now being cooked. Once the chicken is cooked nearly through, add the broth back into the wok. Stir a tablespoon or two of cornstarch into an additional cup of broth and mix until it sludges. Keep stirring that sludge as you pour into the broth. Smoosh all that around until the sauce begins to thicken and then add the vegetables back in. Stir, cover with your wok lid and set the table. Be quick because you don’t want to overcook your vegetables and make them mushy.

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  • Once the table is set, pour yourself a glass of wine and plate up the stir fry over your brown rice. If you really feel fancy you can drive on over to the nearest Chinese take-out place and get yourself an egg roll beforehand but that is not mandatory.

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Viola!

Y’all, I took all those pictures to show you how this is done and I totally forgot to take a picture of the final result. This is what happens when you make stir fry for me, though. I get all giddy and flushed of face and leave my phone next to the empty wok. This half-eaten plate is all that was left by the time I retrieved my phone. Still delicious.

The love was right there, but I ate it.

The love was right there, but I ate it.

So that’s it, guys. My Daddy-O’s famous stir fry recipe that I love more than chocolate. If you make it, I’ll happily give it a taste test to see how it measures up. I’m a giver like that.

Bonus: This is how Tigger uses chopsticks.

Bonus: This is how Tigger uses chopsticks.

Rite of Passage

At the house where Martie and Coach now live is a creek that we used to play in as kids. All of us, Brother Bear, Brother Boo, Martie and I, spent countless hours in that creek, boating, fishing, swimming, bathing, frog gigging. Yes, bathing, even though the cows peeing in the water upstream likely rendered our shiny clean hair less clean. That’s how life in the country works, and if that means we can’t be friends, just remember that you have eaten insect legs and rat hairs (it’s in your chocolate – true story – www.FDA.gov).

Creek

Creek

While we all spent countless hours in that water, the boys were always far more adventurous than the girls when it came to creek swimming. Martie and I climbed down the dock steps to tentatively feel around in the icy water before committing to a full dunk, but the boys took turns swinging off the rope tied to the tree and jumping off the abandoned bridge that covers the water. The wimpy boys jumped from the bridge itself and the brave boys jumped from the top railing, over and over again, never really swimming more than the few strokes it took to reach the bank and start all over again. I don’t remember any wimpy boys, they were all brave, and I certainly don’t remember any wimpy or brave girls. We girls liked our dock steps just fine, thank you very much, and our floats and our tentative full dunks.

Cuzz, Brother Bear, & Brother Boo jumping backwards off the bridge

Cuz, Brother Bear, & Brother Boo jumping backwards off the bridge

Actually, we liked it just fine until one day Martie got a raging wild jealous hair and decided that she was coming off that rope swing, just like the boys. Not the bridge, mind you, but the rope swing which was just as scary because if you didn’t let go of the rope in time, you’d come back to shore and smack into the tree. Plus it was kind of high above the water and you were in full swing and letting go was the hardest part because you couldn’t see what you were falling into. Martie set her mind to it, though, and expressed her intentions and Brother Bear was all in. “I’ll help you,” he said, “whenever you are ready.”

“I’m ready now,” she said, and then marched down to the creek, swimmy suit on, creek shoes tied, chin set determinedly. She clamped her hands on the rope, stepped back to get a good swing, and then faltered. For forty-five minutes. Brother Boo and I were in the creek already waiting for her to leap in. I mean, we were waiting but then we got bored so we got out and then got back in and then Brother Boo jumped off the bridge a few times and then we had a snack. Brother Bear never left Martie’s side despite the temptation of the bridge jumping and the snack having. He never walked away from encouraging her. He stood there the whole 45 minutes until Martie finally said, “screw it” and swung in. (She didn’t really say “screw it” because in our house you didn’t say words like “screw it.” You also didn’t say “shut up” or “yeah” because “shut up” got you a mouthful of soap and “yeah” instead of “yes” got you ignored.) She came barreling up out of that water with her eyes shining and pride just blazing out of her. Actually she cried for a minute when she came out of that water but after that she was a total peacock.

Bridge and rail

Bridge and rail

That rope swing is no longer there as the tree is no longer there. It died and got swept away or cut down after we all left home. The dock remains, though, as does the bridge, and this year when Brother Bear and his family came for a visit, the whole family crew built a zip line. There’s a bicycle handlebar and lot of steel cable and more bravery than I’ve ever possessed to take you from the top of the bridge to the middle of the creek.   (I still like the dock steps and the tentative full dunk, thank you very much.) Brother Bear’s kids were all over the zip line, all over the bridge both top and bottom, back and forth, drop in, get out, do it again, and Martie’s kids watched from the side lines on the dock steps as they tentatively full dunked. They were just fine with that, thank you very much.

Rigging the zip line

Rigging the zip line

Until they weren’t. Tigger, having watched all the fun for the better part of the day and getting a raging wild jealous hair, expressed her intention of riding that zip line and jumping off that bridge, just like everyone else. “I’m ready now,” she stated and then marched over to the bridge, swimmy suit on, creek shoes secure, chin set determinedly. She was in; we were in; everyone was in. Tigger’s daddy, Coach, jumped in first to wait for her at the bottom. Martie waded into the water from the dock steps and waited for her at the far end of the creek. The family and friends we’d invited over crowded around on the bridge, everyone encouraging with anticipation.

Zip line

Zip line

Tigger stepped to the edge of the bridge, clamped her nose shut and faltered. I sat down next to her, dangling my feet over the edge, and we waited. Tigger put her hand on my shoulder, clamped her nose shut, and again faltered. This will not surprise you, but Brother Bear never left her side. He and his lovely wife Shell stood next to her the whole time she wavered, camera sitting on go, just waiting for her to let go. We all waited. For thirty minutes. (Poor Coach – do you know how cold that water is? One other word we are not allowed to say in that house: “shrinkage.”)

I was looking off down the creek at Martie when I felt Tigger’s hand leave my shoulder. She didn’t make a peep. Just let go of my shoulder, held her nose, and stepped off the edge, easy as you please. The hollers and whoops from those of us on the bridge were deafening, and I have to be honest, I got all choked up. Tigger came barreling up out of that water with her eyes shining and pride just blazing out of her. Actually she cried for a minute when she came out of that water but after that she was a total peacock. Shell captured it, and its just gorgeous. See for yourselves.

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Don’t wish you were that brave? To just stand on the edge of your fear, look it full in the depths and let go? I want that. I think I’m going to try it.

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