Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The best candy bar

Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don't. Truer words have never been spoken. I'm usually not the--nut in my candy bar--kind of person; the same can be applied to my cookie. Let's just say I am a purest when it comes to confectionary delights.

I do like nougat. Yes I do. Milky Way and Three Muskateers hit the spot pretty well, though I've heard complaints that the fluffy nougat gives other folks some head-aches, to which I reply, "Whaeffa." That's me talking with a mouth full of fluff.

I do not like dark chocolate, or mocha. There's just something about that kind of bitter in my sweets that makes me want to get sick. If I want bitter, I'll go grab a hot cup of coffee, not eat it for a snack.

The real issue is those thin, insubstantial candy bars that they sell for the same price as the larger ones. You know, Kit Kats and Twix bars. How we've gone by without a serious revolt I just don't understand. When you're a kid rushing to the Quickie Mart with only a dollar allowance in your hand, you need to know that your candy bar is going to deliver the goods. A candy bar should take more than five minutes to consume, and fill you up until at least an hour before dinner. What if something bad happens and it's your last day on earth? You don't want your final legacy to be a measly chick-0-sticks! Right?

No, you have to take it easy. Think hard. Caramel takes a long time to devour, and so should be the first requirement of any candy bar purchase. Then think width and thickness of chocolate. Mounds has coconut. Coconut takes forever to chew and un-wedge from in between the spaces of your teeth. Peanut butter also takes a while to consume. And so, I say, the true candy bar connoisseur should look for something thick, with caramel, peanut butter, and lots of coconut. Add a crispy cookie base and we've got a winner.

Oh Damn, I just remembered Crunch Bars.



Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Frozen cheesecake

Every other Wednesday of the month was payday for Mom, who often struggled to make it financially with three kids at home. After receiving that paycheck every fourteen days, she went to the bank on her lunch hour and then raced to slip the IOU funds back into a little leather money pouch at work. That night we'd all take a trip to the local grocery store located in Spring Hill's one and only strip mall located by the old nursing home. It seemed big at the time, but compared to the huge superstores of today, the place was small and very poorly lit. But it had things you rarely see today, a full on meat department with blood covered butcher leaning over his counter to talk to us kids, an ice cream counter back by the water fountain, and lastly, a manager tower that looked over all three cashier stands. Big stuff.

Mom always had the same shopping list, with nary a violation. Apples, bananas, oranges, turkey bologna, cheese slices, dry wheat bread in plastic brown bag, milk, frozen orange juice, trash bags, eggs, ground meat, Grape Nuts cereal, oatmeal raisin cookies, flour, margarine, cat food, at home perm set and rollers, frozen turkey loaf, hamburger helper, tuna helper, can of tuna, candy orange slices, and last but not least frozen Sara Lee cheesecake. Sometimes she'd let us get one of those huge swirly colored balls in the cage, or the magnetic game where you used a pen to draw metal shavings on a goofy guy's face. That was after much begging. Marshall and Cathy were masters at getting what they wanted. I was a lonely observer hoping for a bit of luck to grace my step. Being the youngest, I quickly learned the rules: that whatever was theirs was not mine, and whatever was mine was theirs as well.

That night, after putting everything away, we would pig out on snacks and go to bed with aching bellies, then it was back to starvation mode for the rest of the two weeks. There was an allotment of two to four cookies per kid, but Marshall usually ruined that by sneaking in the pantry and eating up mine and Cathy's extra share. He also had a nasty habit of eating cake mix out of the bag. We were told to forgive him as he was a growing boy and you know how they were. No, I didn't, and I wanted my cake mix back so I could make a beautiful, three decker cake like the one on the box!

I can still remember every detail of that store, and the happy, excited feeling of having a full cart. It meant life and joy and hope. It meant that, even though Dad was gone and we were alone now, we would make it. Mom was making it happen. The days of him knocking her tooth out, and spanking us every afternoon for getting fingerprints on his bible were over. No one spoke the words out loud, but it was agreed that occasional starvation was much better than daily abuse. Sneaking to the side of the house to tell my friends to go away because I was scared, was all over.

It was a little comfort to be part of that picture world of Betty Crocker and Mr Wimple's "Don't squeeze the Charmin!" That night our TV set flickered, showing a world of happy families who had everything. Their TV sets were blazing color episodes of Mork and Mindy. Ours was flipping black and white stripes, with foil around the antenna. All I can say was, it was okay. Times wouldn't always be great in the future, as they never can be. But for the moment, we were making it, and that . . . was something.


Monday, September 28, 2009

Leave me alone, memories

Why is it that every time fall comes around I have to go through this horrible/wonderful melancholy ache? Memories from all the moments of my life come rushing in at me, demanding that I stop my usual thought process of kids and cleaning, writing and caffeine or food. I get it. Life, for all its bad moments, was pretty cool and worth remembering, but I have things to do. I can't always push pause just to remember the day Kelly Yelton and I pushed her dad's hot rod through the fall parade when its engine stopped working. I can't stop folding the clean sheets just because a picture of Julia at one year with the wind blowing through her baby fine, feathery soft hair under a clear blue sky comes into my mind. Or Liam when I brought him home from the hospital and the world had changed from hot and dusty, to a cold wind blowing crisp leaves through the backyard.

Every memory has its own shock of pain that flashes inside me relentlessly, telling me the obvious: that life is constantly changing, growing. Children . . . babies grow and you can't ever go back to that bittersweet joy that is so pure and new. You must accept that they are on a track that leads them away, every moment, every day, every year.

And the friends I had, and the memories we shared which seemed so solid and unbreakable, are now just faded photos inside my thoughts.

I will ache. And time will change.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Brother and Sisters

Marshall was the oldest of us three, Cathy was the middle child, and I was the youngest with my little red curls and fat cheeks. We lived in a 1970's style house on Franklin Street in Spring Hill, Ks surrounded by blocks and rows of other 1970's houses that all looked pretty much the same. Ours stood out with its strange and hideous paint job of split pea soup color and white shutters beside the front living room windows.

Marshall's room faced the street, and was full of Star Wars posters and figurines strewn around our curly, flat patchy brown carpet which covered the entire floor of the top level of the house, excepting the kitchen where a sickening yellowish patterned vinyl floor stretched out menacingly, poorly reflecting the light coming through our back door.

Being the oldest, Marshall had certain rights. He had his own room--although his closet was filled with all of Mom's cocktail dresses from her times as a United Airlines ticket agent in New York. The record player was in his vicinity, plus most of the library of books and records that all of us kids wanted access to. Needless to say, being caught in his room was not a good thing. Quietly placing a disc upon the old turntable, I'd sit back to relax and listen to the same old story of Hansel and Gretel making their way through a dark forest until morning when a beautiful candy covered gingerbread house appeared, and just as the cackling witch popped into view, so did my brother--leaning into the room, just like the witch leaned out of her front candy cane adorned doorway. Cackle, "What are you doing in my room!"

"I, uh . . ."

"Get out!"

"Mom said I could come in here." A lie. Mom was at work and had not made her morning call yet.

Physical violence was usually next with a quick pinch of the neck and a drag through the toy and dirty, socked filled floor space. "Ow! I'm calling Mom!"

"Go ahead!"

That retort meant that I actually had to go through with the call, which would make me a tattle-tale and probably bring no results other than breaking up the painful arm twist for a few seconds while the call commenced. Rushing down to the green rotary phone which hung next to the back kitchen door, I began to dial Mom's work number at Spring Hill's little library on historical Main Street.

"Hello?" Her warbling and alarmed voice already knew who was calling, I could tell.

"Mom. Marshall won't let me listen to records in his room!"

There is a pause, then the sound of her putting something away--probably a half-read paperback or package of Mrs. Smith's cookies from old man Kuhn's store across the street. "Tell him I said you could stay in there and listen. Did you clean your room today? Don't forget to set the hamburger out, and make sure you don't watch TV today, I want you to help each other clean out the basement." Oh no! All of a sudden it had turned into a lecture. Darn that Marshall.

"Okay Mom. I love you."

"Love you too." Her phone clicked ten blocks up across town leaving me alone to deal with HIM.

"Mom told me to tell you that you are being bad and she is going to take away your army set unless you let me listen to records."

"She did not."

"Yes she did--ow!" Another neck pinch. Time to employ Cathy, who was in the living room painting her nails and watching Gilligan's Island reruns. "Cathy, help!"

She looked up at us and then back at the flickering screen. "I'm busy."

"Thanks."

An evil laugh slid out of Marshall's mouth, throwing my defensive thoughts into a helpless spin. He had won. I would not get to find out if Hansel and Gretel ever escaped the mean old witch and made it back home with pockets full of candy and gold. Never mind the fact that someone should have called CPS on their rotten parents . . . The only thing I had left to do was show that my dignity was still intact, despite my own personal failure against age and size and gender.

"Well, I'll get you back!" A threat--possibly a bad move which could only bring a preemptive measure of instant pain and or duct tape. Marshall just stood there and laughed, then made his way up to his room with an obvious click of the door, which meant I'd be locked out all day with no hope of entering or chance of retaliation. The only thing left to do was go grab some carrots and join Cathy for the last few minutes of Gillian trying to figure out how to escape a gorilla protected cave.



Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Summer is Gone

I like fall, I really do. I love the bright colors of orange and red against a bright, cornflower blue sky, and the crisp, shivery wind that runs through the heated sunlight and summery grasses. But I don't like what fall is up to. Not at all. It--in a very sneaky way--is getting me ready for a long, dreary, gray, cold, yucky winter. Like a mother slipping peas into her child's meatloaf, fall is slipping in the blanket of depressing days that make me itch inside relentlessly all the way into spring.

The only thing I like about winter is Christmas and when that is over, so am I. Checkmate. I have my eyes closed, thinking ahead, forging past all the icky stuff until I see that first crocus pushing its way through the hard, half-frozen earth.

Summer is such a seductive, beautiful time. The grasses in the fields are swaying gently, calling all of us--the kids, the dogs, and myself to come out and walk and dream. We're hot, breathless, running, laughing under the sunlight. Bare feat are stomping over ant domes, through the butterfly flight patterns, through the lacy web of gilded wild flowers. Then we rush inside and gulp down as much water as our stomachs can hold without looking like drunken sailors, then we rush back outside and jump in the swings. Up past the ground, then back down--the wind combing out hair out and in, tickling our cheeks and creating rushing thrills through our middles.

Summer nights linger and whisper promises. "I will never leave. This is how it will always be." And the fireflies confirm it with a confident show of beautiful, glittery dance. The locusts buzz loud then soft, louder then softer. The train goes by--roaring--and a dog barks three blocks away, and all the stars watch us playing outside; laughing together, looking up in response.

And then . . . the patterns begins to weaken until one little leaf falls off a branch from the apple tree. Then another. The bean plants turn dry and start to bend back toward the first spot of their birth in the dry, spent earth. There's no more haze of sunlight glossing up the tops of the tall oak tree after dinnertime, and the ice cream truck stops making its call for evening sales.

Then, the cricket who usually sits out next to the weeded shadows of the kitchen door begins to slowly dim its song, night after night until at last, he has given up and faded into death.

I sigh.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Another Rainy Day in Kansas

I don't like extreme heat, but I am not enjoying this constant stretch of cloudy, rainy weather. Winter is coming and I absolutely dread the short and miserable days ahead, and I was hoping for a decent fall to help get me through until at least late November.

Sure would be nice to see a little sun today. Or tomorrow.

I'm going to turn into Sylvia Plath, I'm so depressed.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Fine tuning that old query letter

Well it's not that old but it feels like it. If it was a car, it would have its second set of tires and a funky seat cover from the auto department at Wal-Mart.

Some really great folks from Absolute Write have given me great tips and I mucho appreciate-o.

The bad news is that I already sent out my old query to about seven different agents. Bummer. I have had two rejections and am still waiting on the others like so many writers out there. When I got my rejection yesterday it really had me down for a few hours, but I am not one to stay down forever. My life has taught me to keep trying no matter what no matter who, no matter how bad it seems.

I don't know why I want to write so bad and why I'd want others to read my work, but I do darnitt, I do. I want people to hear about my characters and love them the way I do. I want them to feel the town I laid out and experience its strangeness and funky ethereal quality.

Talking about loving a written character, I was watching a show yesterday and there was this rock n roll guy on there that reminded me of Jesse -- the third party in my trio of main characters in BEAUTIFUL OBLIVION. And I was actually having heart palpitations because of the resemblance. Wouldn't it be strange if your characters could come to life and you could meet them? There'd be trouble for sure. Yep. And lots of good times.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Rare Performance

Today a salesman knocked on my door and like a fool I answered it, only to be met by the same pitch of buying magazines to help kids in less fortunate situations. It's a good cause and if I had actual money I would totally buy me some Rolling Stone, but . . . I'm broke right now.
Anyway, so, he gave me the spiel and he was actually very nice and I really wished that I had some money but I had to tell him no. He asks me what I do for a living and I tell him that I am a mom and writer and songwriter and he wants to hear me sing. So . . . I go grab the guitar. And I sing. It's the first public performance I have given in years. How strange, right?

He said that he liked it and that I should perform all the time, which made me feel pretty good. Funny how you're feeling all down in the dumps about yourself and your talents and then some random sales guy lifts you back up.

I'm Poor and Live in Johnson County

"I'm Poor and Live in Johnson County." My mom used to wear that T-shirt when we were kids. You have to understand that Johnson County, for the most part, is an affluent area thriving with huge brand new houses and a major shopping district. I grew up in the small town of Spring Hill which wasn't quite as rich, but had some folks who could qualify as such. The town was just on the edge of the county and acted as a good mix to both splendorous living and country hick attitude. I didn't really see it until I got into high school and noticed that certain kids had nice brand-new cars and brand name clothing. Now that I am grown up and look back it makes me laugh out loud that Mom had the audacity to wear that shirt in front of what she considered snooty folks. Not only that, but it was bright yellow and she didn't always wear a bra. GO MOM.

After Dad left--after the big fight--we had our problems with money, but Mom was a determined woman and made sure we had a house and some food in the fridge. She worked at the local library carrying out the duties of librarian/social services worker, passing out government cheese and powdered milk to those in need. Sometimes we needed it just as much. Let's just say that I know what that cheese tastes like and it ain't spectacular, but you know . . . it was food. Though I did hate it when Mom put powdered milk in the empty plastic jug thinking that we would not know the difference. She also would mix cereals when boxes were almost empty. Picture a seven year old skipping down the steps only to find their breakfast a horrible mash of yucky bluish milk poured in fruit-loops and raisin bran. YUCK.

She received her paycheck two times a month, on Wednesdays, though sometimes we did not make it. I'm talking eating dry spaghetti and ice cubes for snacks. On those times when we were low on money and food, she would take IOU's out of the cash box at work and then re-pay it when her check came around. Criminal? She always paid it back. Gutsy, yes. She did what she had to do and it all worked out. We ate.

I can still see her wearing that bright yellow T-shirt standing above me at the baseball park, with the sunlight shining through her wind tousled red-hair. It's such an organic, beautiful memory. Mom and I haven't always had the best relationship, but I can say that I do love her so very much. She was, and I am. And that's that.

Happy Blechdays!

photo credit: arbyreed Mucus Containment System via photopin (license) Have you had it yet? You'd know if you'd had. I don&#...