Saturday, April 30, 2011

(Z) Zuzu's Petals

We are all familiar with the great classic movie, "It's A Wonderful Life".

Every Christmas holiday my family curls up near the tree with a bowl of popcorn and a box of tissue. And then we act as though we've never seen George Baily before- or felt that familiar twinge of wishing we had a "do-over"...of wondering what life would be like if our choices had been different.

There are still parts of ordinary days when I have regrets - mostly about the things I didn't do. What if I had finished college? Pursued my writing or art? Put off marriage and raising a family? Started a healthy lifestyle years ago? Saved my money wisely?

But, yet, I know that all my choices overlap... that they are pieces of a bigger puzzle,woven tightly into my happiness and my well-being... that my experiences are layers of lessons that make me who I am today.

I think we always assume that given the opportunity, a "do-over" would bring nothing but a more desirable outcome. We rarely imagine that changing the past might offer us only heartache and struggle.

But we'll never truly know.

That's why we should embrace every day. Don't wait till it's over to do the things you want to do. Take chances. Be bold. Reach out. Dance.
You lose 24 hours of your life everyday. It gets shorter, older, less full of energy and power.
And you've only got one chance at it.

It took George Bailey a trip back in time to be grateful for the present.And he came to realize that there will always be struggles, misfortune, and unfinished dreams.

Feeling Zuzu's petals in his pocket made him aware of the moment. The now. The chance to make this day better. He suddenly knew that nothing is sweeter than family and friends and the reality of new possibilities.

Hold tightly to your Zuzu petals. 
Grasp the moment.
Be happy. 
Don't live in regret, but rejoice in today.
Because after all, it is a wonderful life!

Friday, April 29, 2011

(Y) Yesterday

Today is brought to you by the letter “Y” 
(And I beg forgiveness from the Beatles…)
Please sing along with me today, won’t you?
I could run and laugh and I could play-
Now I'm thick and soft and turning gray-
Oh, where the heck is Yesterday?
I am twice the gal I used to be-
and there are wrinkles hanging over me-
Oh, how'd I change so suddenly?
Why I
had to grow- I don't know-
I'm not that wise-
I did something wrong, now I long
for thinner thighs.
I was firm and set like hardened clay-
Now it really sucks to feel this way-
Oh, please come back, my yesterday!
How I
got so old, no one's told- they didn't say-
I wonder why -and now I cry
for Yesterday…
I smelled like flowers, bright and gay-
Now it's beans and sauerkraut and hay! :( 
Oh, where the heck is Yesterday?
I could hear and see and dance away-
Now I'm bent and blind and... “What'd you say?"
Oh, how it sucks to feel this way...
There were no chin hairs in my way
Or  those flashes- (hot as Bobby Flay)-
Oh, how did I lose my Yesterday?
I know days will go-And I, with them-
So I'll stay- But I will pray
For yesterday…a.a.a....


Thursday, April 28, 2011

(X) Xylopyrography

David Stanley
Xy`lo*py*rog"ra*phy ( n.) The art or practice of burning pictures on wood with a hot iron.

Remember wood burning kits when you were a kid ? 
You usually got to practice burning a peace sign into a sliver of wood or on a leather patch. The smoke was stinky- and the result ? Not so good...

Many artists have taken that simple tool and created intricate and beautiful works of fine art. 

Here are a few of my favorite examples. (Click on photos to see detail)

Nedra Denison
David Stanley
David Stanley
Dino Muradian
Frank Drummond
Kenan Eroglu
Pierre Larribau

Daniel Wright

Roy Hewson
So- next time your little cub scout asks for a wood burning kit for Christmas, you might indulge him. 
Who knows where it might take him? Maybe to explore xylopyrography!      

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

(W) Wrong Turn

Have you ever seen the movie Wrong Turn? It's a crazy slasher film from 2003 in which a group of deformed, inbred hill-folk go on a killing spree. And a handful of college students are plunged into a torturous and bloody nightmare- due to some bad decisions.  Of course,the primary mistake they make, (as the title implies)- was a wrong turn. 

Setting out on a fun adventure or a fantastic weekend is always perfect in one's mind. But sometimes there are obstacles, detours and unseen changes that alter the ideal trip.

Every single morning of every single day, I lay in bed and tell myself that today is going to be the day
I'm setting out to make a new me
I've mapped out my future in detail -and it includes healthy food, daily exercise, hard work and wise choices. 

It means flossing, moisturizing, budgeting, and being kinder.

I've penciled in days of creativity, volunteering, baking, sewing, and simply meditating. 

I've polished my compass, set my GPS, and made my plans. I've memorized the path in my head and I'm sure how to get there.

But you know what? I never get there. Somewhere along that bright sunny road, I make a wrong turn. 

I'm too tired to floss, too lazy to moisturize, too busy to help someone. Too broke to do crafts, too crabby to be kind, too stressed to balance my checkbook, and too weary to bake.

And all those obstacles make it impossible to continue down that perfect path.

Oh, there are days when I make it to the first rest stop. Complete mornings when I've counted my calories and walked half a mile. And I think I'm doing great.
But then, right smack dab in the middle of the road is a chocolate bar. 
Yes, there's room to go around it- and there are ways to ignore it completely and continue heading straight.
But do I?
I make a wrong turn.

And that's when bad things begin to happen. That's when I throw caution to the wind and live for the moment. That's when my plan is shredded and completely destroyed by foolish temptation.

I'm constantly making wrong turns. 
On days that I've mapped out kindness, some jerk cuts me off in traffic and I swerve onto a trail of road rage and wickedness. 

Those times I'm set on getting organized, I suddenly acquire various body aches- and then sidetrack to a napping spot.

Days when I have plans to draw or paint or write, I see that the roadway needs mowed and weeded and swept- so I do that instead.

Life is a series of wrong turns. 
If you're lucky, there is paradise waiting around an unscheduled bend.

But if you're like me, there is probably a bunch of genetically mutated hillbillies with machetes ... waiting there with a bag of Hershey Kisses.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

(V) Vinegar In Our Veins

I'm not sure the reason for it, but my family has always had a fondness for vinegar. Any type of food that we could season with pickling brine was fair game, and apparently there was always an ample supply of it in the cupboard.

My roots are of Croatian and American Indian, and while researching Croatian recipes, I did find Pickled Pineapple and Vinegar Pie, both which make my mouth water at the mere thought of it. There was also Balsamic Chicken, Sour Cabbage Rolls, and Warm New Potato Salad, which includes vinegar.

Perhaps like the Italians love garlic, we Croatians love the tartness of vinegar. 

Or maybe we're just weird.

One of our favorite treats as youngsters was bologna in vinegar. Mom always bought the thick sliced Blue Bell brand and we would cut it into bite sized squares, drizzle it with vinegar and salt, and have our fill. Even today, I occasionally find pickled bologna in the grocery store and find it just as tasty as our homemade version.

Our neighbor had a gooseberry bush and even those little green fruits weren't safe from our vinegar jar. Although they are supposed to be picked when soft, red and sweet- we plucked them while they were crunchy and sour- only to add an extra wallop of sharpness with vinegar and salt.

We experimented a bit with apple cider vinegar, pouring it on sliced oranges and apples, dipping carrots, tomatoes and cucumbers in it, and simply eating vinegar soaked cabbage with our fingers. And when we were finished, we sometimes drank the leftover vinegar- sipped it like fine wine.

There was a time when I would not even taste a green bean without vinegar on it, and I was appalled and angry that school lunches did not include pickled green beans. My fourth grade teacher made me clean my plate one time and I gagged on every green bean. If only there would have been a shot of vinegar handy! I could have enjoyed recess that day with all the other kids...

As I've matured, my taste in food has also. I rarely crave pickles, seldom buy bologna, and love green beans today without the help of Heinz.

But there are still times when I'll slice an apple, dab it with vinegar and salt and enjoy that sour treat. And of course, cucumbers are not the same without a little rice vinegar added.

Just thinking about vinegar has me wanting to explore and try some more civilized recipes from my Croatian background.

Warm New Potato Salad? 

Sounds perfectly vinegary!

Monday, April 25, 2011

(U) Unidentified Flying Object

There is a personal story I like to share with people - after they get to know me. Otherwise. telling strangers that I've seen a UFO, puts me right there in the same category as old cat ladies, paranoid schizophrenics, and conspiracy theorists.

The evening of the extra-terrestrial event isn't something I think about all the time, but it is tucked away in my memory- nearly as fresh as the day it happened...

One spring evening, my son and I drove into town to pick my daughter up from work. It was a clear night and around 9:00. By 9:30 we were all heading back home, chatting and laughing as we made our way down our country road.

Suddenly we all noticed a bright light that seemed to hang in the distance directly above our house. 
"Helicopter?" I wondered.
"Is that an airplane, Mom?' the kids asked.
"I have no idea," I said, as we got closer.

It looked like one of those spotlights you see on helicopters as they chase criminals through city streets. It was bright and white and hovering above the treetops.

I pulled into the driveway and the kids freaked out. 
"Mom! Don't!"
"Don't what?" I asked, "It's just a light. We'll find out what it is. Run and get your dad."

Of course, jumping out of the car in a panic wasn't exactly the smartest thing to do, but perhaps staying in the vehicle and risking the chance of being "beamed up" wasn't such a wise choice either.

My husband was alerted -and while he was putting on his shoes, my two kids and I stood in the driveway and watched as the light disappeared. Then immediately above us was a large black triangle, about tree height and perfectly silent. It seemed to float in the sky effortlessly and headed south.

My husband made it out to the driveway about the time that it disappeared over the treetops. He saw a vague shape in the sky, but no real details.

So, once safely inside the house, he made us all go to separate rooms and draw a picture of what we saw. He's like that. Very systematic and analytical. It was important that we got our stories straight.

Even to my surprise, we all drew the same arrowhead-shaped object. Black- with a few colored lights. Of course, we were seeing the underside, or belly, of this craft. I'd say it was about as big as a baseball field.

My husband made several phone calls to ask if there were any experimental planes in the area or helicopters performing neighborhood surveillance.
No, there wasn't.

And everyone we spoke to had the attitude of : Lay off the whiskey and dope and the little green men will go away."

One contact that we made about our sighting must have been taken seriously. Because a few years later while my daughter was browsing a bookstore, she came across this book:
(This is just a photo of it. You really can't click to look inside. Available at Amazon)
On page 31 you can read a brief description of our encounter.

The strange thing is, I wasn't scared. I always yell at those people in the movies that just stand around and wait for some creature to zap them with a beam of light and kidnap them for torturous experiments. But I just stood there and watched as this black boomerang floated above our head in the night sky.

So, that's my story. Not nearly as exciting as E.T. or Close Encounters or The Day the Earth Stood Still, but just interesting enough to make a good conversation on a dark night.

We still sometimes tease my husband that the aliens got to him before we arrived home that night- that he was abducted and fit with some type of implant device-
....especially when he is being uncharacteristically nice.

"UFO's are back, huh, Mom?" they smile.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

(T) Three Doors Down (the hall)

There is something to be said for an empty nest. 

No more sticky doorknobs, mounds of laundry, exorbitant grocery bills, or sibling bickering. No more sitting up after midnight peeping through the blinds- waiting for your teenager to return home safely from a date. No more dishing out lunch money, dance funding, or being a 24/7 taxi service. No more setting alarms, watching for school buses, fretting over periods and pimples and popularity problems.

It's almost heavenly how silence settles over the house like warm velvet... How the birds outside can be heard chirping in the treetops...the refrigerator hums...the day is open and free for reading a novel, painting the bathroom, or watching a Gray's Anatomy marathon.

All the beds down the hallway are neatly made. There are no giant backpacks blocking the doorway, no wrinkled jeans thrown across the floor, no lights left burning to keep the electric company in business.

I sip my coffee, my feet up on the footstool, a fresh magazine nearby ready to read and coupons waiting to be clipped. 

But, I gravitate to the three doors down the hall. Empty bedrooms that once held blooming children. Kids that grew overnight like fragile flowers. Teens that filled the house with laughter and music and all things sacred.

I touch the doorknob to Erin's room. Enter. See her many picture frames soft with friendships...

She was my first. Always the one with the gentle heart, the compassionate soul...the just-right amount of shyness and spunk. She has my eyes and I miss seeing them each morning, ready to start a new day. She was my shopping companion, my sounding board, (my partner in diet crimes!) ...

Next spring she will be married... Pull that apron string a little thinner and build a new life of love and dreams and babies of her own. But she will always be here in this room...

I go into Becca's room. Although married almost twelve years ago, I can still see her applying makeup, trying on clothes and talking on the phone past bedtime. I hear her silly giggle...her crazy demands...those humorous faces that would lead us all into fits of laughter. She was always stubborn, rebellious- but with a kind heart that shone through that tough exterior.

She has embarked on a new life. A new town. New people and places and loves that take her further from this place called "home".
All that's left of her in this room are the glowing plastic stars on the ceiling. Still shining. Still a beacon of light.
Just like her...

Across the hall. Jake's room. Memories flood back of Penny Hardaway posters, baseball gloves, hunting camo, four-wheeler magazines and Ninja Turtles....I can still see him sleeping in...snoozing past the alarm and dreaming of boy things..

When was the last time he slept here as my child? Not as a college student, home on weekends- but as a young man that still enjoyed Mom's goodnight kiss, my dry pancakes and dumb jokes?...
He will be married in September. But some of his love will always breathe within these walls and his handsome smile linger forever here. I am so proud of him.

I go back to the kitchen and pour myself another cup of coffee. My heart is thick and full of bittersweet memories. And a tear rolls down my cheek.  

Oh, but I know how blessed I am with these children!

Behind the three doors down the hall, I can still hear them blooming.

Friday, April 22, 2011

(S) Social Anxiety Disorder

Because I feel that the subject of social anxiety needs to be heard, I am re-posting an entry from the A to Z  Challenge last year -where I wrote how this disease personally touched my life. Please take time to click on the link below and come back here to leave a comment, if you like.Thank you.

Today I'm referring you all to
a post I wrote last year.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

(R) Rescued Treasures

One of my favorite pastimes and great joys in life is finding cast off treasures or second hand items and "re-love" them. If I had a hundred dollars to spend, I wouldn't head to Macy's or Ruth's Steak House or some designer shoe store. I'd be digging in the dust and cobwebs of some barn sale, thrift shop, or weekend flea market.
Over time I've collected some things that I consider valuable- if for no other reason but that they make me happy.
Yard sales, Goodwill, second-hand stores- here is a photo album of a few of my rescued treasures...