Friday, January 30, 2009

Cushy Job

These people post their hours as M-F, 8-5. Twice in the past week we have gone to the IRS office to fetch forms that are not available in the hall on the form rack. The first time it was 4:30 p.m. Office closed. Second time it was 1:02 p.m.. Office closed. I barged my way into the office next door just as an IRS employee was leaving. She actually blocked my path from entering and asked if she could help me. Yes, I said. I need forms and the office next door is rarely open. Well, she said, they take 30 minutes in the morning to open the office before opening to the public. Then they go to lunch from 1-2 p.m. and take 30 minutes before closing to close their office without the public. Is this information posted nearby, I asked? No. That's the only answer I received. Someone has a cushy job, methinks.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Twisted Marmee had a Half Cow

This is me, Aunt Rhody, or Marmee if you prefer to call me by my grandparent name, doing an easy yoga pose. For the past three years I have gone to Body Flow classes by Les Mills, and to be a bit 'punny', it's quiet a stretch for me. These classes are mostly attended by 20something ladies, many of them lifetime athletes. There are also a few 30-40 year olds in great condition, a few in every age bracket who are far from well conditioned athletic form, and then there are the Mature Marvels like me. You may be surprised to learn that sometimes over half the class is filled with men, ranging from 20's to 60's. One of the instructors is male, the others are female. Three of the instructors are married, two have given birth to two children each. The guy who teaches is also a full time high school teacher--English, not PE. All of these people are incredibly strong and flexible. My body has played a violin for over 50 years and my torso is shaped around a violin. It's a little bit like the Asians who bind their daughters' feet when they are babies so they will grow small and shaped to fit those itty bitty shoes. Only it's my arms, shoulders and ribs.

In addition to my funky violin curved torso I've had left knee surgery twice and an additional injury to same mentioned knee. Last spring I had a diagnosis resulting in 4 weeks of physical therapy for my lower back and my neck.
It's a little twisted, but I can do the pose above with no problem. On a good day.
This is one of my favorites, usually done at the end of hip opening stretches, or after hamstring stretches. It's Happy Baby Pose. Really! If you close your eyes as the model is doing, no one can see you in this awkward position.

Side Angle Pose is one I can actually accomplish for some odd reason. Just replace the body and subsitute wild curly silver hair for the ponytail and you'll have me pictured perfectly.

This is definitely not me, but I can do this. It's Warrior One. Sometimes if my yoga mat is not exactly at a right angle to the planks in the floor, I get disoriented, however.

The photo above is how I do a plank most of the time. It's a "Girl Plank" I guess.
That's OK. I was a girl once.

This fotosearch model can do a REAL Plank. On a good day, so can I!

This is Crow Pose. This one has never happened for me, but a surprising number of people in my classes accomplish this easily and hold it with confidence. I'm happy if I can do a Hindi Squat to replace this.

At the risk of seeming arrogant, let me say that I look JUST LIKE THESE PHOTOS below when I do the following three poses. Except...I'm not thin and my hair hasn't been this color for the past 30 years, and I birthed four children. But other than that, I'm absolutely just the same in Forward Fold, Tree on One Leg, and Warrior Two.

This is one of the poses I do best. I look just like this in Staff Pose..except my hair isn't blonde and I'm not thin and I don't wear a sports bra and mini shorts when I go to class. So, except for the white hair and extra pounds and T shirt and baggy pants, I look exactly like this. Really!

The following poses, Side Plank and Bow, almost kill my little violin-playing wrists and grumpy lower back. My doctor actually forbids me to do Bow.

See, even these guys have to tag team to get it accomplished. And they are not in the "Mature" age group .

This is the pose that is defeating me. The lovely lady below is doing Cow Face. Notice her perfect knees, folded over one another to form a cow face? See the faint hint of a smile on her face? My face looks absolutely nothing at all like that when I attempt this pose.

This is called Half Cow. It produces light cream, 1/2% milk, and smooth, creamy thighs when perfectly executed. Mine are not anywhere near that. Neither is the expression on my face.

When a man does Cow Pose, do we stil call it Cow? Or is it Bull Pose? I look just like this! Except for the hairy legs, topless chest, perfectly crossed knees. And I DO clench my fists but I managed to keep my head on so I can grimace in pain.

Well, the motto of many of the instructors is to feel a bit longer and stronger at the end of class and I can testify that I do, even though I'm not a Crow, or a Lady Plank, or a whole Cow. I'm still a whole Marmee, Twisted and Half Cow.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Delicious Disaster

Every Monday at noon our Emmaus Reunion Group meets for lunch/sharing/prayer. On the Monday closest to a member's birthday we celebrate with cake and candles and a few small gifts. It gets a little crazy from time to time with Peggy's penchant for trick candles, those that rekindle themselves after being blown out. And the cards and gifts range from personal to goofy to downright sappy. But we have fun! Yesterday we enjoyed Amy's birthday celebration and I offered to bring the cake. The cake pictured above is NOT that cake.

I was really excited about this cake. Her favorite is white cake with buttercream frosting--just like a wedding cake. Key lime pies are a close second. Anyway, I found a perfect recipe for both white cake and buttercream frosting and enthusiastically set up my kitchen, softened the butter, whipped the egg whites, prepared the pans, sifted the flour with the baking powder and salt and set out the milk. I only had soy milk, but I've baked with it before and all was well.

The egg whites more than quadrupled in volume and even when folding them into the batter they tripled the total volume of the batter. I should have been forewarned. I wasn't. I had a minor mishap while preparing the egg whites and managed to keep yolk out of the unbeaten whites, so I thought my troubles were over. The batter was so smooth and creamy and just to be cautious I filled three, rather than two pans and smoothed it all out perfectly. About 10 minutes before the prescribed baking time was finished, I took a peek inside the oven.

The two stainless steel pans looked like they contained souffle. The batter had risen more than two inches above the rim of the pans! It was a giant disaster waiting to happen. By the time I could unlock my legs the batter started to deflate, since I had the oven door wide open. And then it began to overflow the rims into the bottom of the oven. The batter began to burn immediately and then the smoke alarm started to beep, which made Scooter the Sheltie crazy. With two pans overflowing around the edges, the centers began to sink. I shut the oven door cautiously and decided to cut my losses and let the cake finish baking, both in the pans and on the floor of the oven. Nasty!

Removing the cakes from the oven, I decided they could be salvaged if I trimmed the layers carefully and made extra frosting for filling between the layers. I allowed the cakes to cool and turned out the "extra", baked in a disposable foil pan. It looked fine. Then I turned out the first of the two baked in my best pans, and over 30% of the cake stayed in the pan, and I don't mean in a nice triangle wedge either. It came out in chunks. But they were seriously tasty chunks! So, I waited a bit longer for the third cake to cool, hoping it would be perfect, but no. It was sticking in the middle of the pan. Tally: one semi perfect layer, two that rose to great heights, fell to a crater-like center with edges that resembled chef's hats over the edges of the pans.

I thought perhaps as the cakes cooled they would trim out evenly and I could cover a multitude of sins with frosting. By this time I had burned batter in the oven. Cake crumbs on the counter tops and the floor. A sink full of dishes. Egg drippings on another counter top. Pans and sieves and ingredients and more butter softening on another counter.

I began creaming the butter for the frosting and it was beautiful. Added a bit of powdered sugar and watched it fluff. Added a tiny bit of cream, a teaspoon each of vanilla and almond flavoring and reached for the final cup of powdered sugar. I don't know if I just klutzed out and missed my timing, or if the sugar spilled into the bowl before I could adjust the mixer speed, or if I just bumped the side of the bowl before I turned the speed to it's lowest setting. But the sugar hit the frosting in the bowl at high speed and suddenly there was a fountain, a column, a geyser eruption of powdered sugar going straight up to my ceiling. It covered all the pans, ingredients, cabinet doors, counter tops, floor, fruit and veggies, and me. Sugar dusted the Venetian blinds, the window and its sill, the stove top and the counter behind me. Scooter was having a buffet off the floor.

With my delicious frosting in hand I wielded a spatula and began spreading the bottom layer with buttercream. It seemed too thick to spread. So I returned it to the mixer and added a bit more cream. This consistency was perfect. But the cake was so soft and crumbly that it would NOT spread evenly. I tried and trimmed and tried and crumbled and tried and finally I decided Amy deserved a beautiful cake and United bakery would be just the ticket. I took the frosting and made a two layer cake wreck and an additional lopsided one layer frosting blob and served a giant piece to Muffin. Two hours later the kitchen was clean and the dishwasher running. The wreck is absolutely delicious.

Monday morning I called the bakery and reserved a white cake with buttercream frosting. Then I made coffee. When I removed the creamer from the refrigerator I noticed that an avocado in the fridge had powdered sugar all over it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Historic Day

When I was a little girl, born at the half century mark, I remember thinking that 2000 was so far away that I surely would not be alive. Could not possibly live to be that old! I grew up in a culture still influenced by Southern customs, where our town had a section called "n-town" and my schoolmates spoke Spanish in their homes and struggled to learn to read English. We traded biscuits and warm tortillas, wrapped in foil after being freshly buttered, outside the school door on our poorly equipped playground early in the morning. Our teachers were all Caucasian, had little training in teaching reading as a second language, cross cultures, or special needs children. They did the best they could with the knowledge they had, but were totally unprepared for the changes on the horizon.

Graduating in 1968 I witnessed first hand the violent changes and difficult birth process of freedom for people of color. I honestly did not know what to think of Dr. Martin Luther King. I detested the marches and demonstrations, but wanted equal rights and thought people should just shut up and act normal all over the South, not comprehending the depths of emotions or the depth of injustice on either side. I suppose I thought everyone would just straighten up and treat each other equally if the right authority told them they had to "be nice". Yesterday I read Dr. King's Letter from the Birmingham Jail, and I was so deeply moved. How could I have ever understood unless I had watched my own children turned away from playgrounds, shops, buses, stores? MLK was a man of great intelligence, deep conviction, prophetic vision, and most of all, great, great, godly courage.

His "I have a dream" speech from the Lincoln Memorial is today completed on the other end of the National Mall on the steps of the Capitol.

Not only am I alive to see this historic event, but I have walked on the steps of both buildings. I am so blessed! Although my political views have differed greatly from those of our new President, I admire his courage in making the journey on the road laid for him by Dr. King.

Our Joy and Mike had tickets for the inauguration in the standing section, given to them by the Senator for whom she works. At 8:00 a.m. she emailed from her Blackberry that they were at a standstill in the tremendous crowd and were unable to see ahead to the problem. There they stood at 1st and D Streets, tickets in hand, for more than two hours. Whether the problem was the long lines for security or just a mass of humanity that prevented movement, when they saw a break in the crowd, they decided to cut and run. They are in a warm Senate building office watching a TV.

May God protect and give wisdom to the new President. May no weapon formed against him prosper and the fear of the Lord be the beginning of his wisdom.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Cold and Dry

It's so cold that our shrubs are freezing and drying up.
It's so cold that my pansies want earmuffs.
It's so cold that my dog is asking for a heater at night.
It's so dry that same dog is sleeping by the humidifier.
It's so dry that the birds are searching for runoff from the sprinkling systems for bath water.
It's so cold that we're using the garage for a refrigerator.
It's so dry that blinking your eyelids sandpapers your corneas.
It's so dry that violin pegs are slipping out of tune on a daily basis.
It's so dry that the Mojave seems humid.
It's so dry that I have to take a sip of water before I can yawn.

Some of the above statements are true. The simple truth is that we need rain, O Lord!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Quiet Sunday

A rare day for us--Sunday with no added responsibilities, trips, or emergencies. Muffin taught Sunday School, although he would have benefitted from staying in bed all day. On Friday he dropped in to the new clinic in town, since his doctor is in another city, and was prescribed antibiotics to take along with the cortisone injection. The doc also ordered salt water irrigation of the sinuses, and after three days of following instructions....he feels no better. In fact, worse. To say that I'm concerned is an understatement.

We had a bowl of homemade Chili's Enchilada Soup, complete with tortilla strips as a garnish. Read the Sunday paper. Watched a bit of football. Took a long nap. Grilled chicken and fish and spaghetti squash for supper and for the week. Downloaded Michael W. Smith's new CD, on which a friend is playing the violin. Finished cleaning the kitchen, folding the weekend laundry, yada yada yada. That's a quiet day for us.

Best part of the day was our church service. Our pastor felt led to bring our music minister and his wife up front for a blessing. They have two children, three and two, and are expecting a baby girl in a few days. As they stood with their hands open, the congregation came forward and put money in their hands--all sorts of money, but only bills. It was such a blessing for us to bless them! Teenagers and small children and elderly folks and everyone inbetween stood in a long line while T & L stood with their hands open to receive our blessing from God to them and their Baby Girl. My favorite kind of quiet Sunday!


Today Muffin and I attended another funeral for one of the Sunday School class members. He has taught the same class, members in their 70's and 80's, for 14 years. Last week I received a call from the prayer chain that a sweet member in her 80's, 89 last August, had a massive stroke. She had never married and her brothers would have the final decision concerning life supports. While I know that was a difficult decision, anyone who knew her would be certain that she would prefer to go to heaven immediately. Her nephew by marriage officiated at the funeral and it was truly a wonderful service, complete with a slide show of her life, family, friends, one class of students she taught from the many years she was a third grade teacher.

I knew her as Frances, at church and with friends who are her contemporaries in clubs and partners in bridge playing. I would see them out around town at music performances and museums, at meetings and luncheons. They were always smiling and seemed to have little inside jokes, but were never exclusive. One of my music teacher colleagues, also Frances' good friend, has Alzheimers and yet Frances would bring her to meetings, church, and performances just to get her out and away from her usual environment with her daughter. What patience! I didn't know until the service that she earned a Master's degree from Columbia by traveling to NY for many summers while she was teaching in TX during the school year. I learned today at the funeral that Frances' family called her "Diddy". I love that! It was a child's mispronunciation of "Sissy" and it stuck. Her family, one after the other, talked about the fun they had at her house, the loving care she gave to her Mother, and the road trips she still made alone in her car, getting lost in Dallas. They reported that she always trusted God to get her where she wanted to go and would just call a family member and say "I'm lost. Tell me how to find you."

One thing is certain. Diddy knew where she was going when her life on earth ended. And she is there, with Him, rejoicing. What a blessing!

Friday, January 9, 2009


Please don't assume the McFamily is sickly or prone to infirmity. We're actually quite healthy and live long lives. My Grandparents were 91, 87, and 86 when they went to heaven. All except Pappy, who died with leukemia before I was born, possibly because of something that exposed him to gasses or chemicals in WW1. It's just that we have some allergies and this has been a BAD year for allergy triggered illness and infection. So, today, following a decent workout at the gym we drove to the nearest walk in clinic and Muffin saw a doc-in-the-box. No surprise. It's a recurring sinus infection. The wait was very short and the diagnosis swift. One cortisone injection and an antibiotic prescription later, we were on our way to see the fine friends at the pharmacy.

So, don't make a public announcement, but we're all using drugs. I am three capsules short of finishing my antibiotic and I feel very good. Quite energetic. Fine as frog hair. Scooter is taking daily half tablets of Deramax for doggy arthritis. His liver is not functioning normally so he also gets a tiny ball of peanut butter with a tablet to boost liver function. Or, some days I hide it in cheese sauce. Yummy! He does tricks for those. Now Muffin gets two-a-days of Cipro for a week, because his nose is....well, we won't elaborate in polite company.

Yesterday, Nannie turned and reached for something and her upper rib produced sharp, fiery pain. No one would say it out loud, but with arthritis, nerve compression, and osteoporosis as her constant companions, the worst fear was a broken rib. However, it appears to be an accute attack of arthritis. No easier to live with, but hopefully less permanent and damaging. Dr. Will, for some reason, decided she should attempt to take a cortisone dose pack, just to relieve the inflamation. But she reacted immediately with chills, body aches, nausea, and general intolerance. Good stuff if you can take it, but awful if you can't.

It's such a beautiful day; 80 degrees in January with a light breeze. Clear sky and bright sunshine are my drugs of choice today. And, laughter is the best medicine of all. "A cheerful heart does good like a medicine." Proverbs 17:22 " A cheerful look brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones." Proverbs 15:30 "A happy heart makes the face cheerful." Proberbs 15:13

As Ralph, the 45 pound robin would say "CHEER-UP!"

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Marmee’s Day Out

After attending a meeting of one of my professional organizations this morning, I ran a couple of errands, and then jetted home to start some laundry, check the mailbox, put away a few items, and scratch Scooter behind the ears. Then I gathered up something precious—the shadowbox displaying my Daddy’s barber license, his scissors, combs, and shaving brush. After several years of display elsewhere, I hung the box on my wall about two weeks ago. One night this week I heard a terrible crash and found it in the floor. The glass didn’t break and the nail did not fail in the wall, but the hanger was shallow and the box wasn’t properly seated on the nail. The weight of the box and its contents cooperated with gravity to produce a chip in the top of the frame and to dislodge all the contents of the display except the brush. The expert framers at a local store will replace the backing, reposition the items, examine the box and replace it if necessary, and call me before permanently closing the back and replacing the shallow hanger with a wider, sturdier wire hanger. When asked to asses the value of the shadowbox contents, what could I say? Priceless? Irreplaceable? One of a kind? Fifty-six years of Dubbie’s life condensed into one box? Impossible request!

Walking away from the store left me lightheaded. But, of course I hadn’t had lunch either. I purchased the Albuquerque Turkey at Schlotzkys and drove to a shady place where I listened to NPR, dined and contemplated what I had just done. So, I prayed and left it all in God’s hands. Then I went to Target.

There is a chunk missing from my yoga mat, which is three years old. I bought another one, but it’s too thin. Then I bought another one, and it’s too much—can’t balance on its spongy surface and it won’t stay rolled without its strap. So, like Goldilocks, I was on a quest for the perfect mat. I found many at one store, but they packaging either didn’t describe the thickness or wouldn’t allow the shopper to “squeeze” the fabric. The ideal mat for me needs to protect my knees and wrists, be very sticky so the surface facing the floor is secure, and should roll easily for storage. I do believe I scored at Target, and the mat was----drum roll, please—ON SALE. Did I mention that I found the ideal decorative pillow at the framing store, also ON SALE? And three lighted Christmas garlands for next season at----ta da!—80% off the regular price. Can you say “Prosperity”, “Favor”, “Blessings” ?????

Maybe two years ago I allowed myself such a day out, but I don’t really remember it. After Daddy got sick I didn’t allow myself to be away for long unless I had a specific reason, such as a rehearsal. After buying Scooter some food, looking through a couple of other stores just for fun and bargains, making no further purchases, I drove home. Three plus hours of shopping and looking around gave me a new perspective, and I had items to show for my time, as well. When I was much younger and my much younger daughters infected me with cabin fever, I would often spend Mother’s Day Out just roaming through stores, looking at pretty dishes and linens and antiques. I always ended my “window shopping” by purchasing something for the girls, however. I think I’ll call today “Marmee’s Day Out”. It could catch on with the senior set.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Stepping Up, Wising Up, Shaping Up

In 2008 my word for the year was “The Word”. I did my best to learn from God’s Word, studying with my Wednesday Morning Girls the Beth Moore Stepping Up beginning in January. We were so blessed by the six week study that we repeated it beginning in March. Those Psalms of Ascent lifted me right up the steps of the temple into His presence!

In September we began Wising Up, the Beth Moore DVD study of the Proverbs. I definitely felt wiser when we finished in December. Now it’s 2009 and I need a shape up. Today I pummeled my body at the gym, riding a recumbent bike and walking on the treadmill, plus resistance training. If I have a shred of energy after teaching I plan to attend my Body Flow class. I saw the lead instructor for Flow at the gym and she told me they are adding 6 new Flow classes, for a total of 12. Hopefully I will be able to attend 5 or more per week and really stretch myself. I would love to be able to accomplish a decent “cow pose” by the end of 2009! So much for shaping the body.

For the brain shape I’m playing “Twirl” on Facebook. Very addicting, but excellent for honing the word skills. The player is given 6 letters, scrambled. You have a finite time to form as many 3, 4, 5 and a minimum or one 6 letter word as possible. I’ve had to look up some of them that I don’t know. At the end of the time period, all the possible words appear in the blanks, just to inform the player of how successful, or unsuccessful, you are.

To further shape my brain I’m reading Dr. Gary Chapman’s Five Love Languages. It’s an excellent discovery for married couples about how to keep your spouse’s “love tank” filled.

Shaping my spirit is best left to the Holy Spirit, but there are ways I can present mine to His. I am memorizing scripture, praying while working out my body, and next week will begin the Esther study with the WMG’s. I’m certain that my spirit won’t need a heating pad and Advil after the workout like my body does.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Out with the old, in with the new

Toss 2008! It’s all used up. Toss the Christmas leftovers! Too late to use them. Toss the wrapping paper, tissues, worn out decorations, and 200 pounds of old paperwork—gone to the commercial shredder. Load up the extra clothing and send to Hurricane Ike relief. Put the outdated computer, glass, plastic, newspaper, cardboard, and magazines in the recycling bins. Save the Christmas cards to be used for gift labels. Keep the antique decorations and wall hangings for next year. Box up the garlands and stockings and florals and put them in the attic. Launder the Christmas linens and store them away for 2009. File all the concert and recital programs for future reference.

Uncover the recent photographs of the Grandchildren and hang them prominently on the wall. Assemble the new model airplanes and display them on the shelves. Open, iron, and hang the new curtains in two rooms and observe how it changes the appearance of those spaces. Whip up a fresh batch of dark chocolate chunk cookies and celebrate the New Year. And don’t forget the black-eyed peas!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

McFamily Christmas: Part 4, The Food (New Years too)

I’ve mentioned gingerbread men, shortbread, and the Christmas Eve food already— tamales, Spanish rice, chips with guacamole and salsa. This post will describe other foods that make a regular appearance at McFamily Christmases.

All my life my parents loved to make jams and jellies, as well as homemade candy. Daddy specialties were divinity and peanut brittle. Both were just melt in your mouth good. He and my Mom together would make peanut butter fudge and chocolate fudge. But their signature pieces were Buckeyes and hand dipped chocolate crèmes. Oh my! Shut my mouth! Just one taste is impossible.

This year sweet Abigail helped my Mom with her candy making, baking, and jam and jelly cooking. We each received in our stockings our favorite jam or jelly—wild plum, apricot, mesquite bean, strawberry, and on the list goes. It’s delicious on bread, peanut butter, toast, waffles or pancakes. Or just right out of the jar!

Nannie also brings pecan pie for Christmas Eve/Day. It is the yummiest. It never lasts long. Our most favorite dishes that she makes for every family gathering are these:

Macaroni and cheese (the creamiest you ever tasted), mashed potatoes (even when she says they are bad, they are really good), and Nannie bread. The bread is a recipe with lots of whole wheat flour and wheat bran, makes six loaves, and bakes up soft. Even the crust is soft. It is the ultimate comfort food. Tastes great with butter and some of that jam. Or just with butter. Or without butter. Nannie bread is lovely. We all have the recipe, but no one makes it like Nannie, except maybe Abigail. More about her in another post.

New Year's Eve our church has a prayer service from 10-12 and then breakfast, which is singlehandedly cooked and served by one amazing man. I know this will make your mouth water, but tonight he served both Quiche Lorraine and Sausage Quiche. There were pigs in blankets with raspberry sauce and sweet and sour mustard. Angel light biscuits with jams, sticky buns, and of course......drum rollllllll, please.....BLACKEYED PEA SALAD.