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Sunday, November 12, 2017

HAPPY VETERANS DAY!

The discussion continued around Veterans' Day.  Is it a celebration or a commemoration?  In England, we always commemorated on the day set aside, which is known as 'Remembrance Sunday'.  In the USA, the veterans are, I suppose, 'celebrated', and to that end, saying "Happy Veterans' Day", is acceptable. 

I continued to wear my poppy 'with pride', and pinned it on every day.  Two people asked me, "Why", in different ways.  My husband, who sees this red symbol for a few days each year, said to me, "What is the purpose of the flower"?  I did not quote the poem, "In Flanders fields", but told him that it was a symbol of remembrance.  "Do you have Veterans' Day in England?" he asked. Quite sure that we had the conversation before, I resisted the usual, sarcastic quip, of "Ours was the original", which is usually followed by, "Yes, but we came in and won it for you", which is always succeeded by, "Only when it was nearly over!" and so on, and so forth.  Obviously, the banter is banter, and we both have nothing but the utmost respect for the military, on both sides of the pond!  The second person to ask was a neighbour, who had been to England a couple of times, the most recent visit being in August, and had seen various memorials around the country, with the wreaths of poppies.  I told her that I wore it as a commemoration, but in retrospect, it was a celebration of the freedom that was given by those we commemorate.  It was only later did I find out that the poppy was not actually a symbol created by the British Legion, but one adopted after a female professor of the University of Georgia was (apparently) inspired by the words of a poem, written by a Canadian, "In Flanders Fields the poppies blow, between the crosses, row on row".

Due to Veterans Day being on a Saturday, our local county courthouse was closed on Friday.  This meant that our office was technically closed and the staff were allowed a day off!  I did offer to fore go my extra holiday, but Dana insisted that I go and 'enjoy' myself.  "Is it really a day for celebration?" I asked, although to 
'enjoy' is not necessarily tantamount to 'celebrate'.  

Friday morning started the same as most other mornings in my household, with Dana going into the office early, and me taking care of whatever routine job was set out for that particular day.  As usual, I got started on something that was not 'routine', and ended up having little time to actually finish the dedicated task.  However, it was indicative of the freedom I have due to those for whom the poppy is a symbol.  I do not have to stick to a routine, I thankfully have the ability to chose to do so!

Traveling across from one county to the next, my red car rattled along the road, and safely delivered me to the front door of my daughter, whom was waiting with a cup of coffee.  We had planned to go and see the film, "Goodbye Christopher Robin", but it was only showing at three cinemas, none of which were in the vicinity of either of our homes.  Instead, we thought we would travel around the warehouses that we usually frequent on a Saturday, but those in a different town.  

Costco by any other name, as the poet said, (although I think he used the term, 'a rose',) would smell as sweet!  The aroma of samples, especially entering the Yuletide season (which is upon us with a vengeance,) drift through the air devoid of subtlety.  Gingerbread, and cinnamon sticks to the clothing, as ale and cigarettes would in a beer garden!  "Happy Veteran's Day", said the elf from behind the counter, handing out pancakes with a hint of maple syrup and an abundance of mixed spice.  "Is it happy?", both my daughter and I responded.  Of course, the freedom to dress like an elf and offer small pieces of fried batter soaked in sugary goop, would imply that it is, indeed, very happy!  I was rather inclined to ask, "If it is Veteran's Day, why are you dressed for Christmas?" but chose not to get into a deep and meaningful discussion with a person wearing green striped tights, and a leaf for a hat!  The author of 'A rose by any other name', would have been able to cast this vendor in another of his plays, although we were as far away from Midsummer on this particular continent, as we could be!  

The outlet mall was not busy.  Despite the courthouses in both counties, (Samantha's home county and mine,) schools were not closed, due to the actual day being on Saturday.  There were 'Veteran Day' sales, and I am sure bargains were to be had, but I was in search of a new hand mixer, and Walmart did not carry the model I was wanting.  I was disappointed, at first, that the store we visited did not have the make I was looking for, but soon recovered, realising that the choice on the shelves was vast, and a choice could be made. I was having rather a philosophical day, and I had decided to embrace my freedom, and the ability to make choices based upon those who have died so I could have liberty.  I bought another brand, one which I have bought before, and one which is considered to be of reasonable quality.  

After our successful trip to the outlet mall, we headed back to another warehouse.  'Sams' by any other name, would smell as sweet.  Sugar and spice, and all things nice, were on sale as well as an array of lights, trees, statues and other things that divert from even the most diverse of 'seasonal' objects.  Is it a bird? Is it a plane?  Goodness only knows.  However, whatever the object, it did commemorate the fact that those who gave us freedom to celebrate the day, (this side of the pond,) fought (and I quote) "The never ending battle for truth, justice and the American way".  My poppy, despite the origin, commemorates the same on the other side of the Atlantic.  We all have the freedom to have an inflatable 'Santa' flying a helicopter, with a dog atop, and not a reindeer in sight!

I came home, after enjoying my complimentary 'festive' Starbucks beverage, (I chose caramel, as opposed to gingerbread and cinnamon,) with a detour to Walmart.  "Where can I find the space-saver bags, please?", I asked the assistant.  She looked at me with the 'deer in the headlights' vagueness, and shrugged her shoulders.  "What does she want?", asked another assistant, as if I was not there.  "Space saver bags", I repeated, and explained that I was looking for the storage bags that were filled, and then had the air sucked out of them, with a vacuum.  The first lady shrugged again, the second lady pointed to the handbag section.  I went in search, as I was sure they carried the item.  A third lady, presumably noticing my 'deer in the headlights' vagueness, knew exactly to what I was referring.  and took me to them.  As I returned to the check out, I was quite indignant.  I was going to show the other two women the bags and let them know that they do stock them, and where to find them.  However, my eye caught the top of the leaf on my poppy, which had curled inward.  Freedom!  My attitude was not the same as when I entered the outlet mall.  My philosophy was waining, and I was not celebrating, nor commemorating those who had given their lives so that I could have liberty.  "These are what I was talking about", I said with a smile. "You can find them by the hangers, if anyone else needs to know".  A discussion ensured, with laughter and merriment, fit for any festivity, and the two ladies were most thankful for my coming back to let them see what it was I was trying to explain.  I felt better for the experience, and they did not have to suffer the condemnation of a contentious woman!  

Once home, I set about unloading boxes of stuffed animals, which had been moved from place to place since my arrival in Texas, and by the time Dana arrived home, I felt as if I had also completed a days work!  

 Our Saturday was a usual Saturday.  "Happy Veterans' Day", said the reindeer with an elf's attire.  "Is it a celebration, or a commemoration?" we asked, once again.  The reindeer in elf's clothing was not moved, and continued to announce her salutation to all that entered the store.  She was giving away pieces of cake, so we did not hinder the experience.  

Dana and I went out for dinner, and upon responding that he was indeed a veteran, was thanked for his service.  "Ten years army", he said, when the young girl asked him, "Which branch?"  She asked where he was stationed, and the conversation ensued with him telling her that he came from a very military family.  I sat wearing my poppy with pride, smiling at the remembrance of my grandfather, who was in, or around Flanders fields!  We did not partake of the specific 'free' meal for veterans, as we had the freedom to decline, but as my husband did serve his country, and a substantial discount was applied to our bill.  "I was not involved in active combat", he said to me, as we were eating.  I told him that without the 'air traffic controllers', the planes could not go to where they needed to be, and those that were involved in 'armed combat' would not be afforded that benefit.  He concurred and accepted the generosity of the establishment with graciousness, and I beamed with pride.  

The Queen stood on the balcony overlooking Whitehall this morning, as her children and grandchildren placed wreaths at the cenotaph, to commemorate those who gave the United Kingdom of Great Britain their freedom.  I wore my poppy with pride, and enjoyed the freedom of going out for breakfast, and then a walk around my complex.  It is too cold to swim today, although there is nothing stopping me, should I wish to take on the elements!  

I celebrate my freedom, and commemorate those who gave it to me.  Perhaps that is the way to look at it.  As the poet says, "If ye break faith with us who die, we shall not sleep, though poppies grow in Flanders fields".  Our freedom was paid for with a price, and I am able to sit here and write about the frivolity in which I partake, whist those who lay in Flanders fields, who gave me the ability to do this without so much as a 'by your leave', will never be able to read ........... another story!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

DEEP IN THE HEART OF TEXAS!

I received an email letting me know that I had won tickets to the 'Rodeo Event', on the Saturday following my return to the USA.  I had entered the contest in the hope that I would win, (naturally,) but moreso because I thought it would be good to do something different upon my return from my impromptu visit, given the reason for the impromptu visit.  Like watching a 'James Bond' movie on a Sunday afternoon, I wanted to have a couple of hours where I could escape!

The email gave me two options.  I could pick up the tickets from the radio station, or meet the representative at the event, whereupon she would personally hand them to me.  Much as it would have been nice to meet the lady with whom I have correspondence on what has become a reasonable regular basis, I was looking for an excuse to leave the office for a while, and this was it!  I replied saying that I would collect the tickets, and she responded asking, 'how many?'.  I knew that Samantha, no matter how tongue in cheek, would say, "I wanted to go there", so I asked if it would be possible to have four.  The following response was that she could push it to six if I would like, as a couple of people had 'passed' due to other commitments. I responded with thanks, and drove to the location to collect the swag!  

Jerry was the third recipient, and he was rather excited.  "Wow.  It is for Bulltober fest!", he commented.  I concurred, and wondered whether this event was going to be enjoyable.  Being  part of the Rodeo, I was quite sure that it would not involve harm to any of the animals taking part, but this was not going to be the same event as the Rodeo which we attended last year.  Would I really now be able to say, "This is not my first Rodeo!"
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Arriving fifteen minutes before commencement, we had to park some distance from the entrance, which gave us the impression it was very well attended.  Samantha and Edward had already taken up occupancy at the far end of the arena, so that they could see 'head on' as the contestants came out.  We sat with them and waited.  

Edward was slightly disappointed, as although this was not my first rodeo, it was his, and he was looking forward to munching on the famous roasted turkey legs that are usually on offer at these events. There were several opportunities to purchase 'barbecue', but no fowl drumsticks!

Five people hovered in front of us, wondering where to sit.  They finally agreed that this was a good position and asked if the seats were reserved.  Hearing a non-native accent, I commented, "Are you here on vacation, or do you live here?"  One of the two females looked up, in with excitement.  "An accent!", she exclaimed, in a tale-tell antipodean tone.  During further exchanges, we found out that they were from Western Australia, and were on a six week trip around the USA, and had decided that when in Austin, they should partake of a typical event, and that is why they were at the Rodeo.  "We have these at home", the first female said as she took her seat.  "You haven't lost your accent, then", said the second female, as we chatted a little more, and I said that I had been here for thirteen years.  "Have you lost your accent?", she asked Dana.  "I don't have an accent", he said, in his deep southern drawl.  This caused a blast of laughter to emit from the first female, and we continued to chat until the proceedings began.  
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It was not 'bull fighting', I am glad to say, but more 'bull taunting', although the bulls appeared to be quite happy to take part in this 'sport'.  The idea was to 'jump' over the bull, at least once during the allotted time, and to have the bull chase the contender in the ring.  "We don't have this at home", announced the Australian female.  "Is this what you guys do for fun?"  Dana explained that I had won the tickets, and felt it pertinent to let the entire party know that it is 'What she does.  Win things", and then said that we had not really known what to expect.  He made her shriek with laughter again, as he commented, "This is what we do...we have arenas for stupid people!".  He apologised immediately, explaining that he was not really a fan of the 'sport', and did not wish to cast aspersion upon those taking part, but the Aussie lady thought this too was amusing.  Once it became apparent that the bulls were obviously enjoying this event, those who were not knowledgeable, began to settle down and enjoy the show.  

The crowd roared with laughter, as the bulls repeatedly refused to do as they were coaxed to do, and failed to go back into the pen.  One bull appeared to be 'playing to the crowd', as he almost exited the area, and then ran out again, appearing to 'take a bow'.  He ran from corner to corner, lowering his head, and scraping his hoof along the ground, and then reared his head up again, and mooed in victory.  The 'owner' appeared on horseback, but failed to cajole the animal back to the pen.  The contestants all appeared to be attempting to bring him back into the fold, but he was not going to be denied his moment of glory.  

Those who were on the 'public address system', were enjoying the show, and taking the opportunity to play tunes that best suited the situation.  Eventually, as if enough was as good as a feast, the bull trotted back to the other end of the area, turned once more to say, 'cheerio', and exited amidst the further roars and cheers from the crowd.  

It was as if a gauntlet had been laid down.  Once the bulls had 'seen off' the contenders, many of whom did manage to 'jump' over the bovine beasts, they proceeded to commence their 'victory' laps, and took their time in leaving the arena.  The event, which should have taken ninety minutes, was heading into its third hour, and there was nothing the presenters, nor the contenders, nor the organisers could do about it.  

Perhaps it was not every one's idea of fun, and I do not think I would attend a repeat performance, but it is obvious that the organisers of this event have a great respect for their animals. (No doubt there are those that would disagree.)  The stars that night, were big and bright, and I was back 'Deep in the Heart of Texas'!

We did not stay for the concert, as it was getting late, and it was rather cold.  I had, fortunately, worn a jumper over my thin shirt, and a jacket atop, together with boots and a hat, but I was beginning to feel the wind whip through to the core.  I had brought a jacket for Samantha, who had called me after leaving her house to say that she had failed to dress appropriately, and only when she was on her way to the event did she realise she needed a coat!  It was, after all, October in Austin, and no one (not even, it would appear, those with degrees in meteorology) can predict the weather, one hundred percent of the time!  
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We left before the prizes were awarded, and walked, briskly, to the car, heading out to grab some dinner, ironically, at Texas Land and Cattle!  However, the restaurant that has been an Austin landmark, for decades, had permanently closed at the particular location where we had chosen to eat!  It was as if the bulls had really had the last laugh!

The temperature rose back into the mid 80's by mid-week.  Jerry had been given tickets to two football matches on Saturday, and did not attend Bulltober Fest after all.  However, he had given the passes to his son's boss, who apparently had wanted to go to the event, but was unable to purchase tickets!  I was pleased they went to a good home.

As usual, as I am grateful, and was brought up to say thank you when given a gift, I sent an email to my benefactor, expressing my appreciation for the opportunity.  I have received replies in the past to tell me that they do not often get a tribute of gratitude, but more often than not, receive complaints.  Personally, I have no objection to words of advice, should they be worthy, or constructive, but if I am invited to attend an event, gratis, at my request, (e.g. entering the contest,) if I do not enjoy said event, I would simply not attend again.  However, I digress (to a degree!).  The following day, I received a 'thank you', for my 'thank you', and the most sweetest of all replies, and I quote, "It warms my heart to know that we have allowed you and your family some fun in Central Texas. You have always been so gracious and I truly am excited when I see your name pop up in our random draws".  I must say, I was moved!  I was sorry that I did not wait to collect the tickets from my benefactor, and meet her face to face.  

I gave away my prize for Saturday.  Tickets to the Polo match.  Much as I would have loved to attend, it was to take place during the day, and I knew it would not be a suitable time, but as I was actually emailed the passes, rather than offered to accept or deny the opportunity, I downloaded them and gave them to George, one of our servers, (as he had taken his kids to the event in the summer, and commented on how he would like to go again,) and to the 'girls' who live next door, who also said, "We wanted to go to this last year, but couldn't!"  I replied to the email with thanks!

Our clocks 'went back' today, and as the sun will be setting earlier, I shall have to see whether the summer has really gone, and whether it will be time to hang up the aquatic attire for another season.  I have a feeling I shall be like the bulls in the pen, being taunted by the water, and then expecting the applause once the event is over!  Time will tell!

My mother has returned home from the rehab facility, nearly two months after her entry to hospital, and appears to be delighted that she is now in familiar surroundings.  Elise (who is still my heroine) has arranged for an amazing care package, so she will not be alone, and I feel quite inadequate in expressing my debt of gratitude.  

Next week, another debt of gratitude will be given, and that is to all the fallen soldiers, and giving thanks to all those who are still protecting us with their lives.  Veterans' Day, (or Armistice Day as it is known in my native land,) is on Saturday.  I shall wear my poppy with pride, and remember those who made it possible for me to attend events like the Bulltober Fest, and the Polo match, but moreso, those who gave their lives to give me the option to say, "No!" if I did not wish to take part.  I shall continue to express my thanks, all week, and into .......... another story! 

Sunday, October 29, 2017

ONE DAY I'LL FLY AWAY!

I must, firstly apologise, for not contacting anyone when I was home last week.  Yes, I was home, in England! The reason for my visit was to 'check in' on my mother, who had decided, once again, to 'throw herself to the floor', and fracture several bones.  If that was not enough, she put her head down (again) to save her hands, and was treated for cranial bleeds.  Thankfully, she is making a good recovery, but a necessary 'emergency' visit was deemed.  

My sister, Elise, who is my heroine, as this has fallen upon her shoulders, found it amusing, fortunately (for me) when my mother told my aunt that 'the girls have been marvelous'.  I have turned into the prodigal daughter, and the fatted calf was slaughtered, proverbially, of course, upon my return.  Although I was only there for a total of seven days, I hope I managed to make life a little easier for Elise, and I know it was 'a little'.

The flight was booked about a week after the kids had left to go home.  Flights from Austin for the week after were decidedly few and far between as well as being very expensive, and the same could be said for those coming back in for the previous week.  It was after I received my confirmation that I realised I would be gone for Austin City Limits, the F1 Grand Prix, and perhaps the most important event, (although I doubt it would affect the airport,) Dogtoberfest!  I would not be able to watch Frank get intimidated by dogs of all sizes, and forget to 'strut his stuff', due to anxiety!

Image may contain: one or more peopleIt was a very busy week prior to my departure, and along with packing and making sure all my work was completed, I had to make a cake for my daughter.  I had no idea what to make, as I had exhausted my repertoire.  However, a song played on the radio a couple of weeks ago, and I commented that I was surprised that she knew the words.  "It comes from one of my favourite films.  Mr. Holland's Opus".  Eureka!  An idea!  The remaining dilemma was how to transfer the idea into dessert!  Knowing my daughter's sense of humour, I giggled from the inauguration of the thought to the lighting of the candles.  I made a large round cake, and four smaller triangles, covered them in home-made fondant, and marked the latter with 'a', 'e', 'i' and 'u'.  The large round 'o' shape, simply had 'Mr Holland's' written upon it, and attached was a handle.  She looked, and then I said to her, "What do Americans call their handbags?"  She looked, and then laughed heartily.  "Mr. Holland's 'O' purse!"  Fortunately, she loved it!  Those around us were slightly baffled, but that did not matter!

Dana was heavily burdened with work on Monday, but thankfully on the day I departed, it was not as grueling for him.  However, I took with me a copy of all my 'cookie cutter' documents, so that I could perhaps help with the paperwork, whilst away, if nothing else!  Tuesday morning started with me being very calm, but gradually things started to fall apart. My 'motion sickness' wrist bands were not in their usual place.  As I land, on my final flight of a journey, I put them, very carefully, in the front pocket of my backpack.  When I get to the destination, or home, I check that they are safely tucked away in said pocket.  They were not there.  I could not think what had happened to them, and panic started to set in.  Samantha arrived to collect me and offered a solution.  I could buy some more!  I have not seen the same bands as those that I am used to, but she convinced me that we would be able to find a replacement.  We did find replacements, but they were not the same as I had misplaced.  However, I was at least in possession of 'a pair' of bands that promised to keep me from feeling queasy. When we returned to the office, Richard 'face-timed' before I left, and asked if I could get some mints, that were on sale in both pharmacies we had visited!

Not the best route, in my opinion, I took off from Austin to Dulles. I sat on the plane, unable to access the airline 'app' so that I could watch a film, for three and a half hours, crocheting, and watching my battery run down, as my phone 'kept trying'.  Even when I stopped looking, it kept trying to connect!

Thankfully, the flight landed early, and even more thankfully, the gate was open.  I felt as if I was on a roll, as the gate where we stopped was not far from the gate where I was to take off.   Austin airport, (every possible shop,) did not have the mints my son wanted, but as I sped along the terminal, I noticed a small concession stand.  "Four!  Can you not buy them where you live?" Hmm.  Well, yes, and no!  Yes, I can buy them in Austin, but they did not have them at the airport, but 'no', I did not think I could get them in England.  The saleslady had lost interest at the first 'and', looking out for anyone else who wished to make a purchase! 

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I went to the lounge, to collect my thoughts, and instead collected a cup of hot water with a few pieces of ginger added, and then filled a cup with tiny cup cakes, (where else should they go?) and an apple.  Making my way to the gate, I saw that the lines had already started to form.  "Group one?" I asked the man standing in line.  "Yes, right the way to the back", said the English accent. "There is a queue.  You will have to get to the back!"  I did not respond, despite my desire to do so.  We were all going to get on the plane, and I would naturally take my place at the back of the line, but his attitude was rather unpleasant.  As I stood waiting, two women arrived at the gate.  "You will have to go to the back", said the Englishman.  "There is a queue".  One of the ladies looked at him and said, "Okay, who put you in charge!"  A low level ripple of laughter came from the line.  "It is called courtesy!", responded the Englishman.  "Yeah, and you aint got any!  We are all gonna get on the plane!"  Although the lady was starting to move to the back of the line, he did not stop.  "Manners.  It is all about manners.  We were here first".  The lady's friend called to her not to respond, as it was not worth the effort.  After all, he was not going to arrive at his destination any quicker than the rest of the passengers.  He continued to mumble.   Once aboard, I struggled to lift my case into the overhead locker.  

Arriving in London, I tried to retrieve my case, but the lady that had been sitting under the locker would not move.  Everyone pushed past, and eventually, there was a lull, so that I could haul it down.  I wondered how long I would be able to continue this practice, without help. (During the flight, I had tried to retrieve my phone, and asked the steward to help.  He had said, "No!", then added, "You have to keep jumping up until you reach it".  I laughed, as did he!)  I made may way out through customs, and looked for Steph and Jamie, as she said she would be waiting with the crowds of people looking for loved ones.  She was not there, and I assumed it was because I had landed early.  A few minutes later, I spotted Richard.  He had taken the day off to chauffeur me around. I was surprised but not suspicious, despite him seeming a bit on edge.  "Now everything is okay, but.....Grams had another fall last night".  It appeared that my mother had been given the 'all clear' to walk on her own during the day, but had to be supervised at night.  Although accompanied to the bathroom, she was left to her own devises and missed the 'frame' when trying to stand.  

Elise was at the bungalow, and we discussed the best way forward for my mother, before going to visit her and presenting her with a 'fete accompli'.  

Apart from a plaster across her nose, Mum looked pretty good.  The senior nurse was particularly concerned about the previous night's events, and was asking for details, as the lady in the next room was asking if my mother thought she had a 'case to sue'.  We told mum what we had discussed, and she appeared to be in agreement.  

Richard suggested that rather than stay on my own, I should 
'bunk down' on his sofa for the night.  Steph mentioned that she was going to go swimming at 9am, and I gladly agreed to join her.  "No, tonight", she corrected me, and I did not think twice before saying, "Yes!"  After dinner, we went to the leisure centre and swam 900 metres!  It was just what I needed to clear my head and relax my tired bones.  I slept very well, as their sofa was much more comfortable than the futon on which I normally sleep!

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing, shoes, child and outdoor"Is my grandma still here?" was enough to make my day start with a large smile!  Ollie was delighted to see me, and despite the very early hour, I was just as delighted to see him.  After breakfast, a short playtime and quick showers, we left for school!  Although not happy to have to go, Ollie was bribed with some fun time when he came home and the promise that Grandma would be around later.  

Mum's house was very cold.  It did not take long for me to get used to the warm climes of Texas and develop a hatred for the damp mornings of October in England.  They did not bother me when I lived there, and I would always be the first to chastise those who complained, but having not been at home in October for 13 years (my first trip back after emigrating) I was sympathising with those whom I used to scold.  The first thing I did was turn on the heating, and then set to work.  

Although we had discussed the possibility of mum moving into 'sheltered' accommodation the day before, having slept on it, all three of us (Elise, Mum and myself) had realised this was not the way forward, and reverted to 'plan B'.  I removed the larger objects from the bedroom I usually call 'mine', when visiting, and started to clear out the cupboards, so that if necessary, it could be used by a carer.  I made some coffee, courtesy of Joe, who had deemed it necessary to send me on my way with half a pound of his finest wares, and remembered that mum always has provision for emergencies.  There, in the cupboard, was a carton of 'long life' milk, which was just what I needed!  I put some washing in the machine, and continued to find new homes for objects that needed to be rehoused.

My mother is most protective about her car, and although when she first fell, the probability of driving again was virtually non-existent, (as was a complete recovery, and in some circles, mortality,) it was now looking likely that she would be able to pick up where she left off, at some stage within the near future.  Therefore, she was reluctant to let me drive it.  "She will take it on airport runs", she told Richard.  I advised her that I had no intention (never mind that there was no time permitting) to become a 'ride-share' driver, and then reminded her that in order for me to drive back from, and then to the airport, would require someone leaving the car and then picking it up.  I was also not going to be gallivanting (as she tends to call it) all over creation, as very few people knew I was in town, and this was purely a visit to see her!  I would be going from Richard's house to hers, to the hospital, and back again!  She finally agreed to amend the insurance so that I could take advantage of the idle vehicle, rather than hire one to sit next to hers!

I took my laptop to the hospital, together with the 'dongle', so that I could connect to the Internet, and spent three hours chatting to my mother, preparing documents for signature for various people around the state of Texas, accessing the different courts for 'case' information, and speaking to 'professionals' regarding a 'discharge' date.  By the time it came to leave, I felt as if I had done a days work!  Mum was just as exhausted, having received several phone calls, taking part in occupational therapy exercises, and having her blood pressure taken several times.  I drove back to the bungalow, and then on to Richard's house, to bath the kids!  I was exhausted, but it was a good exhaustion!

Jamie had not had a good night, and we had some quality time whilst Steph took Ollie to school on Friday. It was a good bonding experience, and a therapeutic release before heading out to repeat yesterday's performance.  Steph made dinner, and Richard opened a bottle of wine.  After three sips I was giggling like a three year old, and entertaining my hosts!  "I wish we had something sweet", said Steph.  Richard offered to walk to the shops, but I then remembered the 'cup' cakes, which were in my bag.  They were still very fresh, and hit the spot!

I met Elise on Saturday and we finished the cleaning.  Considering my mother is not really a hoarder in the sense that I am, we threw away a lot of things that she was adamant she would never use again. "What's a salmon kettle?" Samantha asked.  I tried to explain but gave up, as it had been put into the rubbish bin and would be crushed on Monday when the refuse gentlemen arrived!

Image may contain: foodI enjoyed my dinner on Saturday night.  Richard and Steph were able to enjoy a 'date' night, and I had picked up some supper from Sainsburys.  I simply cannot find 'shredded duck with pancakes', nor a really good 'chicken korma' in the wilds of Texas, and could not make up my mind which one to have.  I bought both, and thought I would decide once it was time to eat. I also bought a dessert, (profiteroles with salted caramel sauce,) and a bag of real bite sized kit-kats.  I declined the offer of a glass of wine whilst they were gone, as I knew I needed to be in full possession of all my faculties if I was in charge of the boys!  When the time came, I enjoyed both dinners, (which I thought were rather small portions, so I did not feel guilty,) the dessert, and half the bag of kit-kats!  I watched old comedy shows, and before long Richard and Steph came home, and then I enjoyed the rest of the wine!

The routine for the next few days were the same, although I was a little late getting to the hospital on Monday.  I visited my aunt, who had also undergone surgery, about four days prior to my mother, and my uncle, who was the cause of my aunt having to undergo surgery.  He had taken a tumble, and she had broken his fall, with her hip!  Lesley, my cousin, arrived about half an hour before I left, and then I had to go to the supermarket to collect a paper for mum. By the time I got to the hospital, mum had already rung Richard and Steph to enquire as to my whereabouts, as my phone was 'busy'. I had been talking to Samantha, and had not realised that my tardiness would cause an investigation!

Saying cheerio on Tuesday was quite emotional, but I promised I would return in December, as usual.  It was also quite emotional putting Ollie to bed, as I have had so much quality time with him this year.  However, he did rise extra early on Wednesday morning, which although was not good for Steph, was a blessing for me!  I gave them all a big hug which would have to last for two months, and got into the cab which had been ordered to take me to the airport.

My flight was uneventful, fortunately, as I was rather the worse for wear.  I had developed a chill and was not feeling particularly good. I ate breakfast at the airport, and then lunch on the plane.  I ate snacks, and then a cottage pie, without feeling the need to correct the hostess and tell her that technically it was a Cumberland pie, due to the cheese on top.  I drank coffee, ate biscuits, sipped sparkling water, ate a salad, and drank some more coffee. The 'chill' did not affect my appetite!

The immigration officer noticed the last stamp in my passport.  "How long were you out of the country, ma'am?" he asked.  I told him it was only for a week, and then said that it was an emergency visit, and why.  "Oh no!  How is she doing now.  That is bad!"  It was nice to see some compassion after the business was completed! I retrieved my cases, emptied my airport purchases from my carry on into my larger case, and gave them back to the officials, whom I hoped would send them through to my next flight.  Then I went through security, and finding the lounge closed for refurbishment, walked to the next concourse.  Soup, hot chocolate, crudities, salad and cake were all unnecessary, but I was bored!  I also felt lousy!  My next flight was delayed, but only by fifteen minutes.  I spotted a fellow passenger from my previous flight, also eating. "We didn't get enough on the plane, did we", I said, with a smile. She agreed! "It's here, so why not", she said, also with a smile.  She and her husband were going on to Arizona to stay with her niece, who emigrated several years ago.

"Hey, we are all gonna get on the plane.  No worries", said the girl behind me, as a man apologised for 'pushing in'.  What a difference to the other guy, I thought!  Welcome to Texas, y'all!  We ain't nothing if not polite!  

I did not mean to throw the water, nor the ice, over my neighbour on the plane, but I misjudged the glass.  It was not a lot of water, but it was cold, and he spent the whole of the flight wiping at his leg. A little excessive I thought, but perhaps he was from out of state!  "Let me get your case for you, ma'am", said a nice helpful gentleman as I said I had to go backwards along the aisle to retrieve my two bags.  Welcome to Texas, y'all!

Samantha was at the exit, with balloons.  I was so pleased to see her and almost collapsed as I gave her a hug.  She said that Dana needed the extra time to 'shut up shop' and get home at a reasonable time.  We collected my bags, as I explained why I was getting evils from the man whom was my chair neighbor, and we then headed out to go home.  

Home.  Yes, I was home!  My home away from home!  The visit had been spontaneous, traumatic, gratifying and a blessing.  All the emotions had taken their toll and by Friday my voice had completely left me.  I did manage to whisper to my mum, and take a call from my son.  Mum is due for discharge very soon, and is quite alert.  She is a little nervous, as is to be expected, but has been told that she is almost back to full mobility, and can drive when she feels like it!  My heroine, 'aka' my sister, has put the wheels in motion for her return home, and arranged some care.  She sounded a little more confident for which I was grateful!  As for me, I was looking forward to a nice, peaceful weekend. 

However, the best laid plans etc., did not occur.  I received an email on Friday.  "You have won...!"  I had completely forgotten about the contest for Rodeo tickets!  It also appeared that a couple of people had not been able to accept the prize, so would I like six? Samantha and Edward gladly accepted, and Jerry was most excited.  We were all going to Bulltoberfest.  What did that mean?  Well, I think with the epic that I have written, that can be explained in ............. another story!



Sunday, October 15, 2017

THE FACT OF THE MATTER!

I started to read a 'new' book last Sunday.  As we are reaching the end of the 'swimming season', I was conscious that I may not finish it until next year.  Having started one the previous Saturday, I thought I had timed my summertime leisure activity rather well.  With maybe a couple of weeks left to take advantage of the pool and a modest time of relaxation, before the days when I force myself to swim as the temperature dips, but have to race back to get dressed, as it is too cold to 'sit', I calculated the amount of pages, divided them by my usual speed, and came up with the total of three weeks.  I failed to take into consideration the author, and how addictive his books can be.  Instead of the six days I had allotted, I finished in less than three.

Last Sunday, the water was most inviting, and after my 'prescribed' amount of laps, I sat myself on the chair, having saturated myself in bug spray, and started to read.  The new book was also rather intriguing and whilst I am not as familiar with the author, I found I could not put it down.  Moving further and further along the edge of the pool, from chair to chair, I read and I read.  Fiction it was, but as always, in most 'thrillers', there was an air of possibility, with an edge of probability, and perhaps even a 'truth' weaved into the storyline.  The characters names are always announced as 'imaginary', but I often wonder, (having written a thing or two myself, in the fable area,) whether they are based upon anyone, even loosely!

Fiction was on the menu for the week.  We have been receiving calls claiming to be from a social media site.  The first caller asked if they could have our 'opening' times.  Without giving the question much thought, as it was a generic question, I gave an answer.  The next question was asking about operating procedures and staff.  It was then that I asked 'Who is calling'.  I told the caller that I was not interested in updating information on a site where my details are not listed!  I waited not for the reply!  The phone hardly had a chance to disconnect before it rang again with the same display.  "Hey, can you tell me your opening hours?" came the cheery voice. I asked who was calling.  "Heather", came the reply.  "And where are you calling from, Heather?" I asked, attempting to confirm that she was from the same entity.  "From my desk, um in my office", came the reply.  Confirmation!  "And where is your office, Heather?" I asked, wondering what the next answer would be, "In California", she announced.  Once she finally told me her reason for calling, I repeated that I was not interested in updating my information on a site where we were not listed.  

The temperature on Monday was rather pleasant, and I came home at lunchtime to swim, although reading was not on the agenda.  We were very busy at work, and I stuck to the regimen of pure exercise and return!  

Considering Monday was a national holiday, and the postman had the day off, it was extremely busy.  Columbus Day, or Indigenous People Day, (dependent on where you live dictates the name - I live in Austin, and the city council voted last week that it should be the latter, whereas my daughter lives in the next county over, so her postman receive a day off for the former,) does not cause the closure of the courthouse in our county!  Therefore, no matter the name of the day, we are open for business!  Our hours are the same as always, should anyone wish to update a listing that does not exist!

It was too cold to swim on Tuesday.  The temperature dropped considerably, and I took a short walk around lunch time, just for a change of scenery.  The phones were surprisingly quiet during the morning, but the afternoon saw a flurry that would have turned a few snowflakes into a blizzard!  Once home, I set about making dinner.  Instead of taking a few minutes between flipping the meat on the grill, to catch up with a bit of fiction, I spent the time sorting through paperwork that I had brought home from the office.  Mashing potatoes and reading used to be an oft enjoyed pastime, but times have changed, and the past is in the past!  I had hoped that a few fictitious characters would have appeared during the day, and cleaned my kitchen, as I had made some pastry in the morning. Despite wondering, as a small child, a to the validity of 'The Borrowers', and the 'Brownies', I now know that they are no more than someone's imagination, and wonder why, as parents, we set our children up with such notions!  (I jest of course!)  

Respite was enjoyed on Wednesday, as I took myself to Joe, and enjoyed a cup of coffee with him and Gail, before heading across town to get my nails painted.  It was as if I had never deviated from my routine!  I sat as I watched Michele, my genius nail technician, transform the ends of my fingers from mere skin covering to brightly coloured works of art.  I could have become a fictitious character, right there and then, known for my disguise as 'Elaborate Nail Lady'.  (Woman is so 80's!)   Instead, I drove back to work, with a detour to the supermarket to retrieve some bagels and croissants, not wittingly attempting to exploit my new pseudonym, but managing to get a few, "Wow, your nails are amazing!"  Just call me En-el!  I doubt the name will catch on!  

I had prepared dinner before leaving the house in the morning, and as I arrived late, I did not go for a walk, and a swim would have been out of the question!  The phone rang during the afternoon, and the display showed the name of the well known social media site, being used as a front for a fictitious entity.  This time, the creators of fantasy had developed a new approach.  "Hello, I need to come and see you, so can you tell me your opening hours?" said the voice that emitted through the speaker.  "Normal working hours", I said, in my kindest, sweetest voice.  "But I have a restaurant and I want to know if I can have some papers served, and I want to come and see you".  This was rather an elaborate ruse, but I was willing to play along.  "Where is your restaurant?", wondering if they even knew my location.  "I can tell you when I come to see you if you let me know your opening hours".  I repeated that they were normal office hours.  Obviously, there is a reason why I need to verbalise the exact time we officially open and close our doors, as this appeared to be of no use to the caller.  When I was informed that their restaurant was in fact 'downtown', and when asked, 'where', there was a pause before they answered, 'Austin'.  I repeated that we are officially open during normal office hours.  "What is the name of your restaurant?", I asked, but I was informed that all could be discussed face to face, if only I would furnish them with the details they required.  I told them that I was not willing to do so, and suggested they find someone who would!  No sooner had I clicked the off button did the phone ring again and the display showed the same name.  "Hey, I need to know your office hours".  My response was, "Why?" and the caller became speechless.  Once he regained his composure, he reluctantly told me that he was from a particular social media site, wishing to update my profile.  "But we don't have a listing on your site", I said, honestly.  "Oh, okay!" he said, and we hung up, presumably at the same time!

I did not have any time to read on Thursday, nor Friday.  The work of fiction that I am enjoying was looking more and more likely to enter hibernation before completion.  My pseudonym did not get a chance to appear, nor did any of the characters that are supposed to come and tidy my house, but I did get one more phone call.  "Can I have your opening hours?" was responded to with, "No!" and a replaced receiver.  This appeared to be the only answer needed, as more than twenty four hours went by and another call was not received.  I would imagine that my number has been placed in the 'hold' category, and may meet up with my book in some fictitious non-space!

Saturday was a beautiful day.  The sun shone, the temperature rose, and I went to the shops in a summer garb!  Elaborate Nail Lady whisked around the supermarket, with elegance and speed.  My new disguise must have worked, as I was recognised by no one!  I came home and got ready to spend an afternoon with my book, in an effort to delay the inevitable hibernation!  It appeared that the dog, who was in Dana's charge during the morning, had walked in some newly laid tar which had been spread on the car park at the office. His feet had been washed thoroughly, but not before he had managed to 'spread the joy' on my bathroom mat.  Even En-el could not remove the tell-tale signs, and summoning The Borrowers or the Brownies would not have made a difference!  Harsh chemicals would have to be my solution, and I cannot think of a fictitious way of making that sound any better!  

I did manage to put a good dent into the amount of pages remaining to read, and there is a remote possibility that the book will be retired before it has to go into 'winter mode'.  I moved along from chair to chair, and finally gave up moving, when a dark cloud prevented the sun from emitting as much heat as was necessary to keep me comfortable.  Sitting in a wet costume, (swimming, rather than pseudonym,) can become rather uncomfortable if the temperature is not just right!  

Dana and I went out for dinner, and then on to Samantha and Edward's house, as my daughter was hosting her own birthday party!  It was not, thankfully, a costume party, as it was last year, but I was in character, as always!  We stayed for a couple of hours and then left the younger generation to their own devices!  

Once again, the weather has dictated that an afternoon by the pool is out of the question, and the turned down page of my book will stay in place for the foreseeable future.  This proved to be slightly advantageous as I have to prepare a cake for the belated birthday celebrations at the office tomorrow.  Although I like to think of it as more of a work of art, than fiction, I have to be less than factual when my daughter asks, "Did you make anything for Monday?"  Fact or fiction, I shall continue onward in ............. another story!

Sunday, October 8, 2017

ALL YOU CAN EAT!

As the summer starts to leave, and the days start to become slightly shorter, my nemesis (or should I say, nemeses, although apparently there is no plural,) has started to attack with a vengeance.  

Despite the temperature dropping, albeit only slightly, sitting in the shade after a swim has become an invalid option, and I found myself, last weekend, moving at intervals, to the next chair, to stay in the warm.  However, by the time I get to the last chair in the row, a variety of things start to hover around and all blemishes on my skin appear to make up the word, in insect and arachnid, 'Buffet!', and in smaller freckles, 'All you can eat!'  

Insect bites are not 'indigenous' to the land that has adopted me, but they are different.  After spending a night with ice packs strapped to both arms, as other methods of relief proved to be totally futile,  (anti-itch cream, cortisone, baking soda, etc.,)  I inspected the areas that appeared to be raised, and whilst there was only one puncture mark on my right arm, there was the tell-tale sign of 'fangs' on the other.  I am quite certain that this was not caused by a 'vertebrate', as no matter how small, they are rather easy to spot!  
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The ant that fell from the tree the previous week did not survive the journey as far as my arms, but was stopped around the shoulder area.  This was after he had received his 'money's worth', chomping on my cheek and neck.  With the lack of sleep, and slight delirium that had attempted to engulf me, I resembled a creature from Bram Stoker's novel, with large red marks which looked like they had been caused by fangs of something not human!  

"Did you suffer when you lived in England?" someone asked.  The urge to answer with a sarcastic remark was incredibly strong, as the ripple of poison surged along my arm, causing me to wince, and then scratch furiously.  I wanted to say that 'suffering was a way of life', but decided that this would not be understood.  Instead, I responded that I was, indeed, considered to have 'sweet blood', in my native land, and had been the victim of many a small 'gnat'.  However, I did not think there was ever a time when I was attacked by an ant that was nearly half an inch long, nor did I receive the venom of a troupe of eight legged creatures, who decided that I should be made the example of what happens to anyone who murders other members of their kind!
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For most of the week, I went to bed with an 'ice pop', (a different flavour each night,) wrapped in a thin piece of materials, held in place with a hair tie, strapped to each arm.  Acting like splints for the first half an hour, they finally gave way and allowed my limb to bend, before they melted and were discarded around the fourth hour past midnight!

When I am tired, or somewhat 'out of sorts', tolerance is not the first virtue out of the gate, and the sarcastic gene rears its head, and heaps scorn upon unsuspecting victims.  The slightest misunderstanding becomes a giant dispute, and the language barrier becomes wider.  

Whilst I am not one to use profanity as a rule, I have become aware of certain words that are not used here, and have no 'translation'.  Unfortunately, my husband has been apprised of these, and when I say them, he accuses me of having a 'potty mouth'.  This phrase in itself is normally enough to bring forth another 'unknown' term of abuse, and the cycle continues until I find one that has not been uttered before in his presence.  I have had reason, this week, to scrape the bottom of the barrel and have been most prolific in all sorts of slang.  As the itching continued to manifest, patience subsided and a whole extension of unknown expletives followed. 

The week was very busy, work wise, with Samantha and I still 'covering' three jobs.  I received a call from one courthouse earlier on in the week, to say that they had some papers for us to collect. One of the clerks at this particular courthouse, very kindly, set up a 'box' for us, so that our representative in that area could separate our papers from his own.  I asked if the papers could be put in our box.  "You what now?"  This is a very odd phrase, and one to which, although I am accustomed, caused a temporary surge of irritant.  "I what when?", I answered, knowing that this was probably not a good idea.  However, surprisingly, it was enough to make the person on the other end of the phone more eloquent.  "You want it put where?"  Mistake number two, but I did not succumb to vulgarity, despite the lack of integrity I was displaying due to the pulsating bumps along my arms.  I had been experiencing strange elevated trails along one arm, from the puncture wound downward. I blamed this for my immodesty!  We finally understood each other and he asked my name.  I gave him my first name.  "What is the first letter of your second name, ma'am?"  I wondered if he had perhaps received a bite to the ear, when he replied "B", after I clearly (or at least I assumed it was clear) stated, "M".  There were several letters that could have been mistaken for the letter "B", but only really one that would have the same sort of sound as "M".  I decided that "B" was near enough!

As the irritation subsided towards the end of the week, and I decided that sleeves would be a better deterrent than any spray sold in the supermarkets, my mood started to improve.  I felt that, perhaps, a truce had been called between me and the arachnid world, and that the ants had found a new focus.  At least for the moment, the 'buffet' was closed.  However, I must have done something to restart the war by Friday!

"Can you have them call the guy?" was a request from one client, on Friday, as they were desperate to have their 'star' witness served with papers. "He is willing to accept the subpoena, and we need you to love on him".  The term 'love on', does not really translate.  It does, in my Englishwoman's mind', produce a more lurid vision than it obviously means over here!  I sent my server an email.  "I hesitate to say this, but they really want you to 'love on him', as he is their star witness.  In my English mind, this sounds pretty disgusting, but I suppose to you, it is okay".  She did not understand my objection to the term, although Dana laughed heartily when I told him what I had written.  My server send me an email about half an hour later to say that she had, indeed, 'loved on him' and served the paper.  My mind shut down for fear of explosion!

I did not heed my own advice on Saturday morning, and went sleeveless to South Austin.  Samantha had read about an event that was taking place, at the a well known deli.  In honour of their birthday, they were trying to gain entry into the Guinness Book of Records, for something or other, and she had signed us up!  The temperature was not excessively hot, but my arms burned from all the scratching they had received.  The event, due to start at 10, was a bit of a non-event at that time of day, and despite the publicity, no one had thought to share with the participants that no one was going to arrive until 11.  We left.  However, it appeared that the 'buffet' sign had reappeared, and before we had finished our shopping, I found myself scratching my shoulders.  

I swam for a while and then sat in a chair.  Retrieving my can of repellent from my bag, I sprayed, and sprayed.  So much so, each time I took a drink from my water bottle, I could taste the rather putrid liquid that had been expelled from the nozzle.  The only thing that the spray appeared to do was highlight the 'remodeled and refurbished' sign that new blemishes had spelt.  Clouds had covered the sky, and whilst there was no sign of rain, the false appearance of sunset had given encouragement to a whole new range of those wishing to feast!  
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Dana and I went out for dinner, and without thinking, I asked if there was seating on the terrace.  There was!  I kept my hat on and huddled under a shawl, despite it being so mild.  We returned home to watch the University of Texas football team, win in 'second overtime' against one of their nemesis.  I cheered, in between scratching furiously at my shoulders.

As I sit and wonder whether I should actually risk going for a swim today, I am wondering if the message written in bites actually reads, "Welcome to Texas, y'all", as I do not think I have ever been the victim of so many different species.  (The different sizes and appearance of puncture wounds would indicate that there is a variety.)  I can only hope that none of them are 'endangered', as no matter the meaning, the only 'loving on them' I shall be doing will be with a sharp, fatal slap!  

No doubt, this physical irritant will be short lived, and a new eatery will be sought once they get bored.  "Eat onions, or jalapenos", came advice from someone.  "The smell from your pores may be a natural repellent".  Perhaps in Alaska, but these are Texan!  It would be like offering them nectar!  
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With Halloween costumes on sale throughout the shops, I am now wondering if my only way forward is a disguise!  I am very much hoping that my arms will not be restricted by ice splints by the time I come to write ............ another story!

Sunday, October 1, 2017

GIVE ME JUST A LITTLE MORE TIME!



After another fun filled weekend, I was not ready to go back to work on Monday. However, needs must, and I went in around six thirty in the morning so that I could leave a little earlier in the afternoon.  Samantha had promised to take Richard and Steph to the range, as Monday is 'ladies day'.

I did manage to come home for half an hour at lunchtime, and watched as my elder grandson finally swam unaided, and a reasonable length.  He was rather pleased with himself, and we all applauded with enthusiasm.  
Bringing work home with me would have been a good idea, if both boys were asleep, and if I had managed to work out how to use the programme that I have on my computer to generate paperwork!  As I found the 'allow to edit' button, which I pressed, and found I was now able to work at the speed I am used to when creating a document, Jamie started to whimper, and Ollie asked, "Where's my mummy?"  At least I would be able to take advantage of this at another time!  With a folder full of work, still undone, I had other priorities.  "Perhaps we should go for a walk", was a suggestion that was approved by my elder grandson.  
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Walking up the hill in our complex, on a Sunday morning, is reasonably tough.  However, walking up the hill, pushing a 'stroller' containing two small humans, is slightly more burdensome.  One of my neighbour's spotted me, and shouted words of encouragement. "Push, push", he said, as he jogged across the road in front of me.  I could not answer as I was putting all my energy into doing just that!  Once at the top, I managed to catch my breath, and then realised I was going to have to come down the steep hill, keeping hold of the 'stroller', and keeping my balance.  I was not sure which was more difficult; going up, or coming down!

A phone call from my daughter, letting me know that they intended to go to the mall, from the range, was not unexpected.  Yes, I was managing quite well on my own, thank you, and no, I was not panicking, as there was nothing to panic about.  We were just about to have a bath, and then some dinner.  I was sure that by the time they arrived home, everything that needed to be accomplished would have been accomplished.

Bath time was indeed accomplished.  My bathroom did resemble the changing room at a public swimming pool, after a whole school had used it when competing in a gala, and forgotten to take their wet belongings with them, but the task of bathing was done!  

Dinner was the easy part.  I had the pasta already prepared, and I just needed to heat it up.  Keeping two small individuals occupied whilst trying to get it ready was a slight challenge, as watching one attempting to crawl  into the bookcase was easier than keeping an eye on the other, who seemed to be able to 'transport' himself from one end of the room to the other without taking a step!  "What does this do?", was responded to with the now familiar words of, "Don't touch!"  With both boys sitting on my kitchen chairs, one in a high chair attached, I took up my position on the 'ice chest', and fed the little one as the bigger one fed himself.  "Can I have some of Jamie's?" was a question I had not heard before.  Usually Jamie is happy to finish what Ollie doesn't eat, but it appeared that my macaroni cheese had won first prize once again!  

A phone call from my daughter to say they were leaving the mall and on their way to pick up Edward, was not unexpected.  They would be a little longer than anticipated, but they were finally on their way.  Yes, I was managing quite well on my own, thank you, and no, I was not panicking, as there was nothing to panic about. We had had our bath, and were just finishing dinner!

By the time the entourage reached home, Jamie was asleep in his chair, and Ollie was playing in his cardboard castle.  The house looked as if it had been ransacked, but happy faces indicated all was well.  The shopping trip had been successful, and everyone was hungry.  

I suggested we go to Jim's as it was easy to get to, there would not be a queue, and it was getting late.  Although Samantha and Edward are not partial to the diner, Richard and Steph were not averse, and Dana was in agreement.  We took two cars, and got there quite quickly.  Beckoned to a large booth in the back, we all walked down through the restaurant and took our places.  The waiter was new.  Very new.  In fact, I am not sure whether he had actually taken anyone's order before us, and I was not sure as to his writing skills.  He was certainly not familiar with the menu, and was finding it hard to keep up with the pace!  All orders were given, and someone asked if we could have an order of mozzarella sticks to begin with, as well as an ice-cream for Ollie.  Our waiter nodded, and then went to place the order.

"What sides do you want with yours?", he asked Edward, after Edward had given his order, with usual Edward precision.  He repeated his request, and the waiter nodded and returned to the counter.  "What sides did you want?", he asked Steph as he reappeared at the table, without us noticing.  She repeated her request, and once again, he returned to the counter.  He returned four more times to ask the rest of us individual questions.  I started to giggle.  
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After an inordinate amount of time, and lack of refills for our drinks, Dana caught our waiter's attention, and asked if our meals were coming any time soon.  Without hesitation, he answered, "No", and went to walk away.  Steph and I started to giggle.  He turned, and came back to the table.  "I just asked the chefs, and they said no", he said, as if this was perfectly acceptable.  Fortunately, he saw fit to go and report our unruly behaviour to the manager. Danny is a great manager, and has often come to sit with us, whilst we are having dinner.  Although I am not accustomed to this in most places, it is 'what he does', and it is accepted by all.  Danny's response was to firstly go into the kitchen and 'chivvy up' the chef. He then came to our table, made sure our drinks were refreshed, and double check on what we ordered.  The meal came out very quickly afterwards, minus the mozzarella sticks. They were nowhere to be seen, and by that time, it did not matter. Dinner was delicious, despite being rather long in arriving.  

Although work was busier than usual on Tuesday, I took a lot of time off to spend with the kids.  We met them at Chick-Fil-A for lunch, as raindrops started to fall.  We watched as Ollie spent most of the time with other kids in the play area, and Steph questioned the airline about her seats for the return flight, which had been selected by the airline without the thought of her travelling with an infant.  After nearly an hour of asking why she was not able to secure the relevant seat needed to house the bassinet she finally gave up.  The rain started to pound the pavement, and we headed out for a final trip to Walmart.  

Samantha and I returned to work in the afternoon, and I did as much as I could in the short period of time left.  We returned home, and the rain was still pouring.  "Can we go swimming?" asked Steph.  "Don't see why not", I responded.  We walked down to the pool, in the pouring rain, and jumped in without a second thought. "Will your neighbours think you are mad?" asked Steph.  "They already do", I responded.  I told her that if they saw someone in the pool, they may wonder a little, but as soon as they saw the white cap, they would say, "Oh it's only the Englishwoman"!  We swam for about fifteen minutes, and then heard a slight thunder rumble, which started to become more frequent.  Electricity is not our friend when in the water, so we quit.  It had been a good experience.

Dinner was at the Iron Cactus, and Ollie asked if I could go into the kitchen and show them how to make 'cheesy pasta'.  I took that as a great compliment!  We all enjoyed our meal, and it was ordered, served and eaten far quicker than the previous evening.

Wednesday was a sad day.  After breakfast, we returned home, and Samantha and I occupied the boys while Steph and Richard packed away their belongings.  We all drove to the airport, and the nice lady at the check-in desk made sure Steph had an adequate seat, and blocked off the third seat in a separate row so that Richard and Ollie could have a little more space.  We walked them to the security area, and watched them go through, waving continually. One of the guards started to wave back.   We smiled through tears, and responded to his gesture.  When they finally were out of sight, Samantha and I walked back to the car, eyes blurred, and noses sniffling.  It had been a wonderful two weeks, but all good things have to come to an end.  I returned to work, and put in a couple of hours before heading home.

With Ollie telling everyone 'howdy y'all', and asking for 'wadder', together with Steph and Richard thanking us with a 'Ma'am' and 'Sir' at the end of the sentence, I felt that they had mastered the necessity for changing language very quickly, something that I have resisted, unless absolutely necessary.  They both agreed that the break was, indeed, a vacation, and the weather had been perfect for almost all of the trip, allowing them to take advantage of the pool, and surrounding parks.  They had visited so many places I knew not existed!

Thursday was a little strange.  I packed away the cardboard castle, deflated inflatables that we had taken to the pool, washed a mountain of bedclothes and towels, and vacuumed, dusted and cleaned before going to work.  I left around 10am, had my nails painted, and then returned and worked until 7:30pm.  My kitchen still needed some attention, but I was not going to rid my house of all memories on the first day, and went to bed thoroughly exhausted, with a repeat performance to take place, minus the nails, and including a lunchtime walk to the shops, on Friday.  

Saturday morning I felt a little lost.  Samantha said she would not be arriving early, and I wandered around wondering what to do next, as if I had not had a routine for years.  However, after a while I managed to pull myself together, and 'upstairs' returned to pre-visit times, with everything back to 'standard operating procedure'. A trip to Costco, Dollar Tree and Walmart brought me back to reality with a big bump.  I swam, and read for a bit, in the afternoon, although my concentration was not at full capacity.  

Fall has stormed in with a vengeance, and the temperature has dropped quite dramatically.  The need for cardigans and jackets has become apparent, and the leaves are starting to turn colour, before dropping in scores from the trees.  The sky, although a beautiful blue, has taken on that 'end of year' watery appearance, and the mornings are reluctant to ease in before seven thirty.  It is as if the weather knew my family was going home, and is commiserating.  

Next week is going to be busy.  No visitors, no unusual activity expected, just work.  Without the extra 'man' to fill the desk that was vacated a month ago, I am having to 'fill the gap'.  There will be no doubt a few minutes here, or there, to breathe, and I shall take full advantage.  As normal service is resumed, I shall be back here, same time, same place, for ..... another story!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

COOKIE MONSTERS!

I was not ready for work on Monday morning.  Samantha had gone in early, but I had made up my mind to spend the 'wake up' time with the boys.  As there is a giant ocean between us, the opportunity to say 'good morning' to my two grandsons was not going to be missed.

Once in the office, I realised that the phrase 'can't have your cake and eat it too', has never been more apt.  With so much work piling up, I knew that I would have to divide my time in a way I would have preferred not to!  I wanted to go home and play.  However, Ollie had a horse riding lesson planned!  With one man down at the office, Samantha and I were going to take it in turns to help 'cover'.

Having a freezer full of food, I decided to make dinner on Monday night.  We are in Texas.  We eat beef!  I was going to do the traditional thing and grill some steaks.  

Considering we officially entered the beginning of fall, the temperature was hot, and the pool was delightful.  I arrived home a little after four, and met my family down by the water.  Laps are not really a possibility when a three year old is determined to learn to swim.  However, exercise is exercise, and making my way around the pool edge, hands on the sides, and feet parallel with my shoulders, is enough to build muscles somewhere!  I have never had much use for the 'survival' option, but this, apparently, is a crucial aspect of how toddlers are taught to keep their heads above water, literally!

The steaks were cooked, apparently, to perfection, and I was rather pleased with myself.  I had mashed some potatoes, made some macaroni cheese, rice and corn salad and a green salad, just for good measure.  My husband, who is my biggest fan, told me that he could not have had better in any restaurant, whilst my son-in-law, ever my biggest critic, told my husband (in humour, of course...I hope) that he had obviously not been to many good steak restaurants!  A good time was had by all, and whilst the kids had planned to go out for the evening, by the time we finished dinner, they were all a little too tired.

My routines went out of the window, and this did little to improve my organisation.  It did bring me to the conclusion that in order to know what day it is, I have to stick to my roster!  

Days rolled into days, and although I can remember the details, I cannot place them in order!  Ollie 'made' cookies for poppa Dana, and was really rather good at following instructions.  He carefully poured the ingredients into the bowl, a little at a time, despite his propensity to pour everything in at once, under the assumption that it would make the biscuits quicker, including the cooking!  We slopped the blobs onto the prepared trays, and I put them into the oven, turning on the internal light, so that he could watch them rise, which he did. Leaving his watching spot for only seconds at a time, to check on something 'very important', he returned and gave me a full report! Poppa Dana thought they were the best cookies he had ever tasted, which was all the three year old English boy wished to hear!

I did not join them for the visit to the zoo, although I would have dearly loved to do so.  It was, I believe, a very good visit, however, as Ollie got to feed Alan the Giraffe, and a goat, whose name was not remembered.  

One cannot come to Texas and not have fajitas!  The trip to the store was very interesting.  I simply went for some meat (as I realised my purchase over the weekend would not feed six of us. Being programmed for feeding two, I did not think coherently!) and some soured cream.  "Can you get....while you are there...would you mind....", were but a few messages I received.  I did not answer my daughter's text quick enough, and received a call to reiterate her request.  "What do you want now!" I said, rather too loudly, as the check out girl was passing my wares across the conveyor belt.  She looked at me with large eyes, and a big smile.  The aggression and impatience had completely passed her by, and despite my fear that she thought I was being rude to her, she simply said, "Wow, I love your accent.  Where are you from?"  What a blessing!  

The trip to the Olive Garden restaurant was definitely a 'trip'.  The waitress was adorable, and very sensibly, they put us in our own little section, which was like a small bedroom.  Amazingly enough, (although, I am sure this is not new, but there is no need to be too specific,) the children's menu is an 'Ollie' menu.  Obviously, this has no connection to the name of the restaurant!  The fact that their ravioli on the kids menu, is called 'Ricky', was even more of a treat for the little lad!  

Image may contain: tree and outdoorLate night shopping was on the agenda for Thursday evening, and Grandma was on duty again.  Feeding and bathing two children was exhausting, but reminiscent of a bygone age, when I did the same deed every day. However, like 'riding a bicycle', it is something you never forget how to do, and the operation became swift.  Chicken nuggets and fish sticks are two inventions that should have been given an award!  Completely uninterested in their nutritional quality, I fed them to the boys, with my own 'cheesy pasta' for good measure.  

It is interesting, too, how as a mother, I was concerned about the amount, and content, of films and television programmes my children absorbed.  As a grandma, I think that you can't watch too much!  Once again, we watched Moana another dozen times!

The biggest challenge of the week was when Richard took Steph out for their anniversary.  "Do you mind if we stay out for the night?" he asked, before they arrived.  As a married man of 32, I said I did not have a problem with him not coming home.  "Will you be alright with the kids, overnight", was responded with "I have done it before, you know", without thinking.  As the day approached, I wondered if I was really up for the task.  Why I was so worried was beyond me.  

Leaving work at three was probably the biggest challenge, but I managed to get my desk reasonably clear.  Driving downtown was not particularly busy, but the return journey would be quite a different story.  I was very diligent, and decided to attempt the 'back way', which proved to be a much better route, and surprisingly enough I did not get lost!  Keeping parallel to the main highway, I sped along and finally reached home in record time!

Samantha had volunteered to help, as she does not see her nephews very often, and this was a big treat.  We took them to the pool, and swam until thunder stopped play.  Although there was no rain, and the rumbles paled into insignificance, it was probably time to head upstairs.  After bath and supper, and a bedtime story, it was time for me to sit down and have some dinner.  Dana had gone to my favourite fast food Mexican cafe, but it had closed its doors forever. I was rather sad.  Instead, he went to a less preferred one much nearer home, but it was welcomed.

Saturday morning started with the predicted, "Where's my mummy and my daddy".  Bribery is a grand parent's prerogative, and the promise of a cookie was enough to get Ollie to come downstairs to have some breakfast.  "Don't want breakfast", came the next comment, which I had also predicted.  After the 'terrible twos', come the 'negative threes', where everything that is asked is responded to with a very definite, "No!"  However, it can also be said that my grandson now thinks his name is 'don't touch'!  Not particularly bothered by the fact that things might get broken, I am more concerned about the harm he will inflict upon himself.  As I told one of my daughter's friends, as a grandparent, I am a lot more anxious about the children's safety, but will feed them anything!  
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Jamie was fed his porridge and Ollie was frowning.  I made some French toast.  "Don't want French toast", was followed by, "Did you just put that in egg", and then "Did you just flip that over", and then, "Can I have some".  Two slices later, he decided he rather liked French toast, and asked if he could have some more.  'Auntie Matnee' arrived shortly after breakfast, and dressed the little boys while I got ready myself.  In Texas Longhorn regalia, they certainly looked the part!

A trip to Costco was followed by lunch at Chic-Fil-A, and then a 'run around' in the restaurants kids' area.  Climbing up steep steps, and sliding down tubes was enough to run out some energy!  "Don't do that!" said another mother to her child.  When she asked if her son could hear her, and asked if she could have a "Yes ma'am", Ollie looked rather confused.  I did not try to explain to a three year old the difference in language!

The pool was once again the saviour of our day on Saturday, when Samantha and Steph went to get their nails manicured.  Samantha had collected her brother and sister-in-law from downtown, and had taken Ollie with her.  Dana came down to 'help' with the boys!  

Image may contain: 2 people, swimming and outdoorThe birthday party on Sunday was very successful.  It as rather disappointing that more children could not attend, but those that did had a great time.  Samantha had invited a few of her friends who had kids, to celebrate, albeit a month late, Ollie's third!  The pool was completely vacant, and the kids, and parents, enjoyed splashing around for a couple of hours.  I had taken my 'prize' grill down, and Edward was in charge of cooking burgers and hot dogs.  We also had cake!  By the time everyone had left, we were almost ready to leave, but two of my neighbours came down to complete a work project that one of them had to complete, which comprised of a photo shoot of people enjoying themselves in a summer setting.  We obliged, and were rewarded with the main content of the promotion, which was champagne. It was a shame that the guest of honour was not old enough to enjoy!

We finished off the evening, Texas style, with a 'take out' from Rudy's Bar-b-q, and ice cream!  

With only a few days left of their holiday, I am feeling quite emotional at having to see them leave.  However, it has been an experience for Dana, and he finally got to meet my grandsons, and become a grandfather.  He has done very well!  Watching Ollie imitate his 'poppa', has been quite the treat.  If Dana lays down to play with the dog, Ollie copies his pose.  If Dana calls the dog, his 'Buddy', so does Ollie.  

I will have a lot of reorganising to do when they leave, but I think I will be rather reluctant to put the house back to normal!  It has been so much fun.  However, all good things come to an end, and I am grateful for the time we have had.  With lots of photos to remind me of fun times, and memories, I shall have trouble keeping dry eyes to write ............. another story!