Guess My (In)Famous Relative!

Several years ago my older sister was complaining about how we weren’t related to anyone famous.

“There’s no one we can brag about,” she said. “We’re just a bunch of farmers and teachers.”

“Au contraire,” I said in my worst French accent. “We are indeed related to someone famous.” (Or rather, infamous.)

I gave her the name, she looked him up in the encyclopedia (this being pre-Google days) and read his entry. Then she closed the book solemnly, looked at me and said, “Maybe you’re related to him, but I’m not!”

Sadly, I find I can’t continue sharing my family history on this blog without mentioning this relative of mine (the one I’m related to but apparently not my blood sister). As I comb through all the papers listing my family from both sides, the name is there. Like, heavily there. From way back. And as it would be folly to ignore it, ignore it we shan’t.

But I’m not going to just tell you his name either, cause that would be boring. Instead, I’ve devised a little game for you. Below are six clues, with illustrations!, to help you figure out his name.

To begin with, you need to remember that half my family is Norwegian and the other half is German.

Got that? Okay, let’s play!

  1. He was born in 1887 to a prominent, wealthy family

Quisling's parents

2. He may have been a bigamist; he was definitely a fascistQuisling married
3. At the end of WWII he was tried for war crimes, found guilty, and was executed by firing squad

Quisling firing squad


4. Afterward, nearly all his relations changed their nameQuisling family
5.  His surname is now a wordQuiisling devil
And now for the last clue…
6. He was not GermanMe teaching

If you know your WWII history, this should be a snap. Just write his name… no wait, don’t do that. We want the non-history buffs to have a sporting chance.

How ’bout this: Put the first letter of his last name in your comment, that way I’ll know that you know, and our non-historians will get an extra clue. I’ll give the answer on next Wednesday’s post, and give a shout out to all the people who guessed correctly (with links to their sites if they have one).

PS: My apologies to Older Sister. You can run from the truth, but you can’t hide. Not when your little sister has a blog.

Three Word Challenge in Text: My Thematic Response Using Untoward Reasoning

A few weeks ago, a certain blogger by the name of Brian of Bonnywood issued a challenge. He’d give me three words, and I’d write a story with said words.

Seemed easy at the time. Then I saw the words: Thematic, Untoward, and Reasoning.

I’m sure you’re as shocked as I am. I mean, I don’t know what I did to the guy, but clearly he had it in for me.

What’s more — now get this — he added, “And I challenge you even further by suggesting that a recipe and/or Norwegian kinfolk be involved in some way… ”

Honestly!

I decided I needed to have a chat with the guy. I sent him a text:

Brian 1

Brian 2

Brian 2 and a half

Brian 3Brian 4

Two hours later…

Brian 5Brian 6Brian 7Brian 8Brian 9

You can read about Brian’s challenge here.

(Hint: he’ll accept your response in text.)

Ratatouille in 5 Minutes, With Help From Trader Joe’s and No Help From My Cat

Plus, a brief history on the founding of Feeding on Folly…

Recently we dined at Macaroni Grill. I won’t say it’s my favorite Italian restaurant, but their complimentary herb bread is lovely and they know how to grill salmon right.

bread

However this time, not being in a salmon frame of mind, I ordered their Ratatouille instead. Have you tried it? They serve it over grilled polenta, which I find inspired. (I don’t get out much.)

Anyway, the other day at Trader Joe’s, I saw they have polenta and *angels singing* I was inspired! For less than $10, I had all the ingredients needed to make a copycat recipe of Macaroni Grill’s Ratatouille.

And given how I hadn’t shared a recipe with you all in… let’s see… going on a year now? Unsure. It’s been awhile, I know that.

Funny how it used to be such a regular feature of this here blog, and now it’s but a distant memory.

Anyway, I gathered together the ingredients and prepared for the picture. Merricat rushed over to help.

Merricat 1

I swear this cat knows when I’m holding a camera.

Merricat 2

So the main ingredient to look for, the one that makes this recipe so darn easy peasy, is in Trader Joe’s frozen food section. It’s called Misto Alla Griglia, and it contains grilled eggplant, zucchini, and red peppers.

Now of course you could buy fresh eggplant, zucchini and red peppers, or pick them from your garden should you be so lucky, but that would add on extra minutes and then this wouldn’t be 5-minute Ratatouille, would it?

Oh, Merricat walked behind the ingredients! Quick, take a picture!!!

Merricat 3

So now you see what the Misto Alla Griglia looks like. Also, you’ll need their polenta which you slice in thick rounds, and a can of their Organic Tomatoes “diced in tomato sauce”. I already had the fresh basil, onion, garlic, and jar of capers. (You can skip the capers if you don’t like them; I think they add a nice peppery taste.)

Back when I was regularly sharing recipes on this blog, I learned how to write some code so the recipe would appear in a nice little box with its own print button. But I don’t remember the code and I’m too lazy to look it up, so you’re out of luck. Sorry.

Here’s an interesting tidbit: the reason I added recipes when I first started blogging had nothing to do with the name “Feeding on Folly” and everything to do with my insecurities as a writer. I believed that if I didn’t offer something helpful – such as recipes – no one would stick around and read my little stories.

Okay, so you’ll want to let the Misto Alla Griglia thaw a little. The veggies are in large pieces, but they’re easy to chop once they’re partially thawed. While they thaw, chop half the onion and mince three to four garlic cloves. Saute in olive oil until softened.

Merricat monitored the thawing for me.

Merricat 4Once the onion and garlic are softened, add the can of tomatoes, the chopped Misto Alla Griglia, and two tablespoons capers. Add some Italian seasoning — maybe a couple teaspoons? — and salt to taste. Keep over medium heat until hot, a few minutes or so. As it cooks, fry or grill the slices of polenta.

I bet you’re wondering how I came up with Feeding on Folly for my blog name, am I right? Glad you asked.

About the time I was puzzling and puzzling until my puzzler was sore over what to name my blog, I was reading a collection of James Thurber’s essays called Lanterns & Lances. In the forward, he explained his main purpose in writing:

“Much of what follows, therefore, is my own attempt, in my own little corner of the struggle, to throw a few lantern beams here and there. But I also cast a few lances at the people and the ideas that have disturbed me, and I make no apologies for their seriousness.”

I rather liked that. You might say I was inspired. And I was particularly fond of the alliteration with Lanterns & Lances.

Alliteration is something that tantalizes my thoughts and sustains my soul.

I set out to find my own and spent an inordinate amount of time doing so. Eventually, in a moment of happy luck, I landed on Feeding on Folly. Nervously, I did a quick internet search to see if it was taken. It wasn’t, but I found this:

The discerning heart seeks knowledge, but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly. — Proverbs 15:14 NIV

So there you go. Bible approved.

Also, cat approved.

Merricat 6

To serve (the Ratatouille, not the cat), put two fried slices of polenta on a plate, spoon the ratatouille over them, top with fresh basil and shredded Parmesan if desired and serve with garlic toast.

Ratatouille

To recap, I may from time to time, as the mood strikes me, continue to share recipes with you. But as dropping their weekly inclusion hasn’t seemed to adversely affect my readership, and no angry mob has appeared at the Feeding on Folly doorstep, we’ll just let that ship sail.

As for dear Thurber, I don’t know how many lantern beams I’ve thrown and I’m terrible at casting lances, but the folly I’ve witnessed has fed this blog well. Thank you for the inspiration, good sir.

For the record, this Sunday — April 1st — marks my 3rd year blogging.
So there, person who told me I couldn’t do it!

Oh, wait… that was me. 😜

More on My Family History: The Cheaters, Lovers, and Jerks

If you remember, a few weeks back I told you about a book I found called “Pioneer Memoirs” — a home-published item made by some of my relatives on my dad’s side. I’ve been having fun looking through it and I’ll probably be sharing a few things with you as the mood strikes me. (Consider yourself warned.)

Pioneer Memories

In the back of the book is a “pedigree chart” that ends with the birth of my grandmother, whom I was named after. So that’s cool.  (I’m feeling a little like a show dog at the moment, what with my pedigree and all.)

Included with the “pedigree” are some short bios for the earliest ancestors, at least the ones they could find something about. The farthest back they were able to trace the family is listed as Generation I. It’s a guy known only by the name Anders, as his son was named Jakob Andersen (Andersen: son of Anders) and since the son lived during the early 1500s, they’re guessing Anders lived in the late 1400s.

Personally I think this is cheating a bit, genealogy-wise, but whatever.

Okay, so in Generation II, that’s where we meet Jakob Andersen. Old Jake was the minister of the Fyrisdal parish in Telemark County in southern Norway in the years 1532 to 1557. Interesting detail: in 1532 he was a Catholic priest. According to the records of the Fyrisdal church, Jake was “the last Catholic priest and the first Lutheran minister in Fyrisdal.”

He switched over to Lutheranism in 1537, got married, had a baby, and yada-yada-yada, here I am. Lovely how that turns out, don’t you think?

Anyway, this family history doesn’t really get smoking until Generation III. That’s where we meet Jakob Hansen Morland, born in 1619. According to the bio, he served as a parish pastor from 1653 to 1672, then as a parish pastor and dean from 1683 to 1697.

Notice the break from 1672 to 1683? The break in his ministry, we are told, was due to his “suspension from clerical duties because of a violation of church regulations, involving marital irregularities.”

Now what do you suppose is meant by “marital irregularities”?

According to the bio, he was married twice. His first wife died, they think in 1670, but no date is given for his second marriage. Was remarriage considered an “irregularity” in the late 1600s, or was something else afoot?

Interesting. Highly interesting.

Reading on, we learn the names of Jakob Morland’s children: Sivert, Hans, Susanne, Barbara, and Alhed. We get an extra tidbit on Alhed. It tells us, “she married out of her class, her husband, Jon Norby, being a peasant in Nissedal.”

You know what this means, don’t you? Alhed married for love!

I can see it now: Alhed, youngest daughter of the wealthy parish minister, is walking to the village of Nissedal. She crosses the lane and there by the mill is the young peasant boy with piercing blue eyes, Jon Norby.  💕

We learn nothing more about Alhed, though I want to believe they were a happy couple. Do you suppose her father approved? Somehow I have my doubts.

The bio continues:

“After having lived in retirement at Utabjaa in the Børte district, Morland became pastor of the Vinje parish in 1676 by royal appointment, but his peasant parishioners refused to accept him and locked the church door.”

Whoa!

Picture this: the proud minister arrives in town on a snowy Sunday morn, wearing his splendid robe. His wife by his side, they walk through the quiet village and approach the church. He has no suspicion anything is amiss. He takes hold of the large church door and pulls. It won’t budge — it’s bolted from inside! Are those voices he hears? He pounds on the door… What’s that they’re chanting?

Morland no more, Morland no more!
(in Norwegian)

Oh, the impertinence!

What do you think their main gripe was? Did they get wind of his “marital irregularities? Did they hear how angry he got over his daughter’s marriage to their good man, Jon Norby?

Or maybe it was the fact they had no choice in who their pastor was, and these peasants were tired of being pushed around!

Power to the peasants!

Sadly, this mini-peasant revolt was short-lived:

“However, after the authorities had imposed fines on them for their temerity, Morland was installed in his pastorate, and in 1683 he was promoted to the office of dean.”

Well, dang! First the peasants aren’t allowed to choose their own pastor, then they get fined for trying to take a stand.

“Of Morland it is said that he was thrifty, aggressive and strong-minded, so that at his death left several farms in both Upper and Lower Telemark.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m totally siding with the peasants on this one. My great-great-great-etc.-grandfather sounds like a real jerk.

But that Jon Norby sounds like a hunk. 😍

Cooking with Ignorance, Incompetence, and a Little T&A

Saturday morning, while seeking a recipe for salt-free scrambled eggs, I found myself caught in the eternal autoplay loop of YouTube, over which I had no control whatsoever. To my knowledge it may be playing still. I’ll check later.

(Yes, I know there’s a cancel button, but for reasons that shall soon be made clear, I was not in full possession of my faculties to hit said cancel button.)

Here’s an interesting fact I learned last Saturday: There are many, many cooking videos on YouTube, most done by people with absolutely no idea how to cook.

Now please don’t get me wrong; it is not my intent to shame them. I mean, hey, if they’re willing to make a video for all to see, more power to them. Were I not so camera shy, I might join them. But for now at least, I’ll leave them to it.

Dr. Sylvia something-or-other shall not be challenged by me.

This was the first video I watched, and I must say, I was intrigued. For Dr. Sylvia — just what she’s doctor of, I know not — claimed she would show me how to make zero salt, zero fat, and zero calorie eggs. Sounds tricky, right? Especially as I’m fairly certain eggs contain calories. But the beauty of Dr. Sylvia’s video is that she doesn’t give a damn.

The first thing Dr. Sylvia tells us to do is to melt butter in the pan. As in actual butter.

After that’s good and melted, she instructs us to add two thick slices of cheese.

Zero calorie eggs

There were other things she added, but I think at this point I blacked out.

You know how it is when you’re reading an essay on grammar and the first sentence has a grammatical error? You keep staring at it and staring at it until you’re weeping softly and questioning your will to live?

Before I knew it, autoplay brought me to Geoff from Canada. I had high hopes for Geoff. First of all, his name is Geoff. And second, he’s from Vancouver.

I mean, if you can’t trust a man from Vancouver, who can you trust?

On the other hand, one would think if you’re making a cooking video, you might tidy up your kitchen a bit. Or at least tuck in your shirt?

Geoff

But maybe that’s just me. In any case, my faith in Geoff did not falter. I was certain he would lead me to scrambled egg nirvana.

Then he dropped the bombshell: “I feel I should warn you I haven’t made scrambled eggs for several years.”

What the hell?

Again, maybe it’s just me, but If you haven’t made scrambled eggs for several years, shouldn’t you practice a few times before hitting the record button? Seems reasonable.

Nevertheless, if my YouTube selections are any indication, practice rounds are not the norm. I saw more burned eggs and fishing eggshells out of bowls than any one woman should have to see.

After awhile, YouTube sensed my interest in scrambled eggs was waning and led me to other breakfast options. It was here that I was treated to the culinary skills of one Alexis Ren.

Do you know who Alexis Ren is? Neither did I.

Turns out she is what is known as an “internet celebrity.” She has 11.8 million followers on Instagram and 393,000 subscribers on YouTube.

(Just between you and me, she didn’t get these followers based on her culinary skills.)

First thing Alexis does is get a mixing bowl out of the cupboard. 

Again, this seems pretty basic. If you’re making a cooking video, shouldn’t you have the items you need in front of you? I mean, my gosh, even slovenly Geoff from Vancouver managed that!

Ah, but had Alexis Ren gotten the bowl out of the cupboard ahead of time, we would have missed this:

Alexis Ren makes pancakes!

And now we know why she has 11.8 million followers on Instagram.

(Her pancakes looked positively awful, by the way. But I got the feeling no one cared.)

Her video brought to mind another one I saw about a year ago. A couple of young, very fit looking women were making butternut squash soup in their Vitamix. Or at least I think it was butternut squash soup. Honestly, I’m not real sure because… well, the fact is they were wearing bikinis. They call themselves Blender Babes.

You know, it’s an interesting thing. I like men. Always have. Yet even for me, boring ol’ hereo that I am, sitting there watching those bikini-clad chicks? I could have cared less what they were putting in that damn blender.

All this leads me to believe that what my blog has been lacking is a little T&A.

Now the T, well, I can’t do anything about that. I’m of the mind you deal with what you were given and I wasn’t given much. But the A — ah, the A, my friends! I’ll have you know that in my younger days, I heard comments about my A fairly often. Mostly from construction workers who felt moved to inform me that it was a “fine piece” of A.

I have been led to believe that among a certain class of male individuals, this is considered a compliment. No doubt it is the sort of compliment to which Alexis Ren and the Blender Babes aspire, and I dearly hope they find happiness in their quest.

As for me, if I should cast off my camera-shy tendencies and seek “internet celebrity” status, is my A “fine” enough for cooking videos?

Alas, I fear two children, time, and an ardent love of pie have taken their toll.

Shame, that.

But I long to help others who seek YouTube glory. Therefore, I’m thinking of sending a few tips to Geoff in Vancouver: Tidy the kitchen and ditch the shirt. 

That should help him out big time, don’t you think?

Bet My Kitchen Floor is Cleaner Than Your Kitchen Floor

Mine’s so clean you can eat off it!
But please, don’t eat off it, okay? I just mopped. (Use a table why don’t you?)

The other day a coworker and I were discussing kitchen floors, as you do, and I told her something I’ve never told anyone before. That being, my method for cleaning said kitchen floor:

  • As I move out chairs and sweep the floor in preparation for mopping, water is boiled. Actually boiled (five minutes in microwave)
  • Big heavy duty gloves are donned (as though I’m refinishing furniture)
  • I grab my special microfiber cloth (Professional quality for everyday cleaning!)
  • I take in hand a spray bottle of cleaning solution (scented with lemongrass and ginger)
  • Hands and knees, people, hands and knees! (Better to get all the corners)
  • Finally, although my kitchen is small, I change the water midway through (Because who cleans their floor with dirty water? Not this gal!)

The entire operation takes slightly more than 10 minutes. I know this because of my five minute boiling sessions, you see?

The reason I’ve kept my method quiet for so long is that I knew it was a bit neurotic. Bordering on nutzo. But here’s the thing: this coworker of mine, this coworker whom I love, she looked at me with admiration. I believe she took notes.

She even agreed with me when I told her my theory. That being, if my husband were to mop the floor and see the dirty water that resulteth, he would think to himself, “Huh. Guess the floor was dirty. Good thing I cleaned it.”

While as I look at the dirty water and think, “Oh gawwwd! How did I let the floor get so dirty?! I’m a terrible housekeeper! *sob*

I’ve given some thought as to what causes this difference between the sexes and I think I know the answer: I blame the commercials.

There are certain ads from my childhood I can visualize perfectly. There’s the mom standing in her kitchen. A young boy races in, the family dog bounds in behind him, the muddy prints on the floor.

Mom shakes her head with a slight scowl on her face. In a flash the mop is out — because what else would she be doing with her life? — and in one swoosh the floor sparkles. Literally.

The mom smiles, joy fills her heart.

Or how about that Pinesol commercial where the young mom is worried what the neighbors will think if her house isn’t clean enough?

The message being: Your neighbors and friends will judge you. The women you have lunch with, the mothers of your children’s playmates, they see your filth and they judge.

I saw commercials like this over and over again.

Speaking of Pinesol, does anyone else remember the commercial where the Pinesol lady (or was it Lysol?) enters a home saying, “This house looks clean, but it doesn’t smell clean!”

What kind of woman goes into another woman’s house and says that? Why was she not stabbed in the first commercial? Her bloodied corpse carefully bagged and disposed of in the woods… the floor cleaned until it sparkled… the woman of the house smiling.

*sigh*

That was the highlight of every cleaning commercial — the payoff. It came at the end when the woman stood in her now glimmering  kitchen or bath, her hand stroking the shiny surface, the look on her face — ah yes, the look. No orgasm can produce that look, my friends. This was all joy and peace and everlasting fulfillment. “My floor is clean,” the look said. “My life is complete.”

This is what was being sold to us and we bought it. Well, most of us bought it. Some missed the memo.

My daughter, for instance. Daughter missed the memo.

It’s probably my fault; I believe I misplaced her memo. Probably when I limited her daytime television viewing to one half-hour noncommercial show.

In spite of this, somehow, life goes on. Her place is a mess, but somehow life goes on.

But for those of you who share my cleaning neuroses, I want to leave you with three thoughts:

One: While a clean home is nice, it is not a measure of who you are. You are more than your kitchen floor. Remember that.

Two: When you meet a woman with a messy house or apartment, don’t judge. You don’t know her story, you don’t know her abilities, you don’t know her priorities. Contrary to what you may have heard, cleanliness is NOT next to godliness. Especially if it makes you smug.

Three: There are downsides to neurotic cleaning. For one, it limits your time for more creative pursuits. For another… well, I’ll let Carol Burnett explain:

A Letter Home to Norway, circa 1848

I was sorting through a cabinet I don’t normally sort (or look at for that matter), when I came across something I didn’t know I had. It’s a copy of the book, “Pioneer Memoirs and Stories of the Jacobson Immigration and Pioneer Life.”

You say you never heard of it? Well, that’s probably because it was something my family in South Dakota put together and published themselves. Using a copier, I think.

I leafed through the book and I must say, after the Norwegians totally crushed it at the Winter Olympics, leaving everyone wondering, “but whyyyy?!” and most people crediting their wealth, healthy lungs, and the fact their babies are born wearing skis, I found this publication interesting. It’s the story of my dad’s side of the family, how his great-grandparents left Norway to make a better life for themselves in “Amerika.” It even includes a picture of their place in Norway (please pardon the poor quality):

Norway homeSafe to say my family was not a wealthy one, but who knows? Had they stuck it out in Norway, maybe our lot would have improved and years later I would storm the winter Olympics and cross-countried my way to a gold medal or two.

I mean, that mountain right behind the shack? Looks like mighty fine training ground, don’t you think?

In any case, included in this “Pioneer Memoirs” is a letter my great-great-grandfather wrote to his family back home. A footnote says the original was typed out by someone in Norway, who sent it back to family in America and in 1974, my dad’s aunt Charlotte (aunt Lottie) translated it to English.

There are several items to make note of: 1) his listing of prices and wages show a clear head for business, 2) the gender wage gap; ah yes, we’ve come so far, but we’ve still a ways to go, 3) the formal way he addresses his family (no nicknames for this bunch) and, 4) as much as he praises “Amerika” he clearly misses his family very much.

Muskego in Wisconsin
the 27th August 1848

Dear father,

The 29th of May we left Norway; five weeks and three days over the ocean to New York and from there to Milwaukee two weeks. I went to Hans Thorgrimson Thveden who is doing well and is in good health. We were all well and healthy during the entire trip, both on the ocean and on the inland sea (Great Lakes).

I am sure I will never regret having made the trip here as we have not talked to anyone who has such regrets. We are all happy that we came. Here there is no lack of provisions for living, and there are good wages for both men and women. A man can earn one or two dollars a day, a girl five to six dollars a month. Pay for a man is from 17 to 25 dollars a month. A blacksmith like Niels Jermunsen Egerude could earn 30 or 40 dollars a month.

Living is cheaper than in Norway. A bushel of wheat costs 2 to 2½ dollars, rye 1 dollar a bushel, a pound of butter 1 dollar, and a pound of pork ½ dollar. A cow costs 14 or 15 dollars and usually a calf comes with it. I believe that if my brother Halvor Abrahamsen Krokanne could come over you could live better than you do in Norway.

My wife Gro Jermunsdatter is well, and we are happy that we have come over here. If my brothers could come they would live better than in Norway. Jakob Thorgrimson Biorktuft and your brother Niels would I think live much better here than they do in Norway and their brother Ole Thorgrimson also. There are good wages for tailors. A suit costs 3 dollars and so on for all tailoring.

I see that I have praised Amerika too much. I suppose things are about as usual in Norway. To Jermun Torjusen Stens… try to come to Amerika rather than to stay in Norway. Here there are good wages and living is cheaper. I ask that you will be so kind as to greet my brother Thomas Abrahamsen. Tell him that I am well, and happy that I came to Amerika. I wouldn’t wish myself back in Norway even if I could get the Norder Hadeland gaard (farm). I am sure I will live better in Amerika without a farm than I would in Norway with one of the largest farms. The 6 dollars I lent Mattis Helleksen Krokan at Milan I have been repaid by Kittil Thorsen.

I close my letter this time with warm greetings to you my old father and mother, to brothers, friends, relatives and all acquaintances. Also from my wife Gro warm greetings to everyone.

Jakob Abrahamsen Stenbøle

Jakob was 37 years old when he came to Amerika, his wife Gro (Lord, how I love that name) was 46, his oldest son, Abraham (Dad’s grandfather), was 12. After a short stint in Wisconsin, they settled on a farm near Decorah, Iowa. A good sized farm, larger than he could have gotten in Norway according to “Pioneer Memoirs.”

Decorah farm
I don’t know who took the photo, but I’m awfully glad they included the horses.

So although my Olympic chances were shot all to hell when they got on the boat, it looks like my family did okay coming to Amerika.

And let’s see, it’s now 3:00 pm on this 28th day of February and my outside temperature is… 65°F.

Current temperature in Oslo: 9°.

Great-Great-Grandpa: you win this round. No regrets.

A Belated Birthday Celebration Involving Second-Hand Clothes, a Stoned Clerk Named Ryan, and Several Doggies

Celebrating your birthday after the fact can be glorious for the simple fact that it usually involves mother’s guilt. And mother’s guilt is a powerful force to behold.

So it was that after my week-long convalescence – a week where no celebration, nay, no smiles, were deemed possible – Daughter was treated to a Belated Birthday Celebration which included a trip to our favorite consignment shop, stopping at our favorite coffee/sandwich shop where our clerk may or may not have been stoned, eating lunch with five pooches, one of whom wore a tutu, and arriving back home at that perfect moment when you know — when there is no doubt — that magic is real.

The day was a beautiful one. Before we left, Daughter held up two CDs for review. She always lets me choose our travel music. I’ve yet to come across a CD of hers I don’t like, as her music leans toward alternative and quirky, and that suits me. I point at one: “Tallahassee” by The Mountain Goats.

“Good choice,” she says. Three songs later, we’re at the consignment shop, A Second Look.

I love this place. Just about everything you can think of is at this store: clothing, jewelry, housewares, home furnishings, electronics… I once bought a pink-checkered chicken at this place. I didn’t know I needed a pink-checkered chicken until I found it there. That’s how great this store is.

Pink checkered chicken

Another great thing: the longer items are there, the deeper their discount. Big signs throughout the store give you the day’s sale:

Items Dated before 1/28: 25% off
Items Dated before 1/4: 50% off
Items Dated before 12/21: 75% off

Sometimes you get lucky and find several “must-haves” at a deep discount. Other times you find squat. But it’s the thrill of the hunt, that what matters. That’s why you go.

For this trip, Daughter only found one item she could not live without, but oh what a find: a metallic snakeskin print scarf!

As for me, I found two cropped pants that fit me perfectly, even though they were mislabeled as “6” when I’m clearly still a “4” (*yesIamsoshutup*). I also found two lovely comfy shirts, perfect for lounging around the house in the evening sans bra. You can never have too many of those.

Our purchases competed, it was time for lunch. Fortunately we didn’t have far to go, because our favorite lunch spot is right in front of A Second Look. It’s called 32nd Shea, because it’s on the corner of 32nd Street & Shea. Clever, right?

And get this: it’s in a remodeled Fotomat. Remember those old drive-thru spots where they’d develop your pictures? That’s where this place is.

32nd Shea

You place your order at the register, a huge chalkboard above displays the menu. Ryan takes our order. He’s leaning on the counter at an angle, typing everything we say onto the screen. With each item he says, “You got it.”

“We’re gonna split the Veggie-Tarian sandwich.”
“You got it.”
Daughter adds, “I’ll have a tall iced coffee with rosemary syrup honey.”
“You got it.”
I say, “And I’ll have a large tropical iced green tea.”
“You got it. Do you want soup or chips with the sandwich?”
“Um…” We look at each other, Daughter shrugs, I say, “Chips.”
“You got it. Do you wanna eat outside or in?”
“Outside.”
“You got it. Remind me of your name again?”
“Christi.”
“Christi. You got it.”

We find a table on the patio and take our seats. Daughter comments on Ryan. “I love him,” she says. “He was so tired he could barely stand up straight.”

“I thought he was stoned,” I say.

“Even better,” she decides. “And I love how he says, ‘remind me of your name.’ I bet he says that to every customer. Remind me of your name? We’ve never met, good sir!”

She decides to write a short skit for her play-writing class featuring Ryan, the stoned sandwich shop clerk. As she makes notes on her phone, I survey the other customers on the patio. It’s a full house, people and pooches alike.

Forgot to mention: 32nd Shea is dog-friendly.

We dined with no less than five pooches: a German Shepherd behind me, a Golden Retriever to my left, a Mixed Breed with a worried expression, a Shih Tzu in a Tutu, and on my right was one of those dogs with the long ass name. The King Charles Cavalier Bowling on the Green Spaniel (or something like that).

Behind Daughter, the group with Worried Mutt was involved in some sort of project. They took up two tables: a tall long table where they sat, as well as a short round one where they piled all their magazines. For they had heaps and heaps of magazines.

Patio at 32nd Shea

There were about four or five women at the long table. Really I’m not sure how many because people were wandering to and fro with abandon. In amongst their cups of coffee and lunch orders were glue sticks, poster board, construction paper, and other arts and crafts paraphernalia. I’ve no idea what they were doing, but it seemed to be causing great stress for their Worried Mutt.

Do you suppose they were doing it wrong? Or maybe they were going about it too slowly, and Worried Mutt feared they’d be late for their afternoon crochet lesson? Honestly, it was so hard to tell, and sadly, I did not get a chance to interview the dog and find out.

And while it could have been my imagination, the Golden Retriever seemed concerned on Worried Mutt’s behalf too. Though that’s just the way of Goldens. They are a caring breed, taking the whole world on their shoulders, trying so hard to alleviate our burden. I happen to know our current political divisions trouble Goldens excessively. They are doing all they can to help, wagging their tails so energetically, but look deep into their caring eyes and you’ll see. They are troubled.

One breed you will never find troubled, not one iota troubled, is the King Charles of Upper Bucklebury and Bob’s Your Uncle Spaniel. I swear, the pooch who was dining on my right could barely make the effort to raise his head, much less worry over our sad political state. And why should he? His companion, a woman who exuded wealth from every pore, kept him on her lap the entire time and only stopped patting him long enough to offer him a morsel from her BLT. I’m telling ya, that dog’s got it good.

Meanwhile, the Shih Tzu in the Tutu made its way through the lunch crowd, visiting table after table, acting with great certainty that all would be charmed by their presence. For indeed, we were.

Its person, an older woman wearing a fanny pack (Daughter says all owners of Shih Tzus are old; it’s like a law) referred to the dog in the third person: “Do we want to say hello to the people? Let’s say hello!”

So they did. They said hello.

Dog wearing tutu

I said hello back. It was the polite thing to do.

The only one who seemed displeased by the Shih Tzu in the Tutu was the German Shepherd. It was… how shall I put it?… it was as though he considered it a personal affront that there should even be a Shih Tzu in a Tutu. He maintained his dignity, of course. Was careful not to show the slightest amount of agitation. But even so. You could tell.

Our sandwich was wonderful, by the way, as were the drinks. We lingered as long as we could. Honestly, I was hoping an unveiling of the arts and crafts project was imminent, but alas, it was not to be. On our way home we made two stops, one to pick up the necessary ingredients for strawberry shortcake, and the other to pick up dry cleaning (hey, it was just one block over, okay?).

And now we come to the most special event of the day — in point of fact, it is the entire purpose of my writing — when we pulled into the driveway and I shut off the car.

You know how it is when the song you’re listening to ends at the exact moment your ride is over? You put the car in park and… duuummmm… the song ends? It feels like you’ve attained perfection. As though everything came into place and magic is in the air. Well, that’s the way it was for us, only it was the last note of the last song on the whole CD!

Total MAGIC!

It exists people, it really exists! All you have to do is look around and view the world with fresh eyes.

And maybe look into the eyes of a Golden Retriever while you’re at it. Lord knows it can’t hurt.

Screen Shot 2018-02-20 at 3.25.34 PM.pngNote: No Goldens were troubled in the making of this blog post.

Timeline of a Near Fatal Illness, AKA Bronchitis, *CoughCough*

Note: Every other blogger might be blogging about Love and Valentine’s Day and chocolates and warm and fuzzy and smootchy stuff like that there. I’m not, cause I’m sick. Your pity is appreciated.

Day One – Friday

Unlike most weekends, I actually have plans for this one. Saturday morning is the VNSA book sale. All year this charitable organization receives donations of used books, cds, movies – scads of stuff – enough to fill to abundance the exhibit building at the Arizona Fairgrounds. It’s every bit as much fun as you can imagine.

VNSA

Also happening, Husband returns home from a five-day visit with his family.

Friday afternoon, approximately 12:27 pm, Mountain Standard Time, I cough.

It is the first of many coughs.

Day Two – Saturday

My sleep was fitful, full of strange dreams involving angry people, lost pets, and Gene Wilder on the beach with a metal detector. In the morning I take my temperature: 100.4.

I stare at it. The thermometer is an old one. Have we ever changed the batteries? Damn thing is broken.

I think all this while coughing.

This is a terrible time to be sick. Which begs the question, is there a good time to be sick?

“Oh, I see I’ve nothing planned for the second week of June. Say Universe, how ‘bout we reschedule for then, yeah?”

I do not go to the book sale. I go back to bed, wake up at 4:30 pm, Husband is home.

“You don’t look good,” he says.

“Nice to see you, too,” I say.

Day Three – Sunday

Morning temp: 101.2.

Husband says we have a transportation issue, so it works out well I’m sick and won’t need the car.

So glad this is working out for everyone.

Why is there illness in the world? Why is there suffering? I should write about this. A deep, profound piece. People will be enthralled. I’ll bring comfort to millions

Reminds me of a Bible class we had a few years back, the woman leading it looked like she walked off the pages of a Coldwater Creek catalog. There was a visitor to our church, a Southern Baptist from Georgia. She was an old college friend of one of our members.

We were studying the book of Job, and I said how I had a class on it (it was a month-long course at a Lutheran school). The professor said if you take the first part of Job and the last part and put them together, you’ll notice they’re the same style and sound like a parable. Most scholars believe that’s what it was, a story people told about being faithful in bad times and God rewarding them because of it. But something about it must have bothered the writer of Job, so he split it into two parts and added his poetry in the middle, with Job’s friends voicing the conventional “wisdom” and Job questioning it, pointing out flaws in their arguments. And isn’t it great, I added, that we have something like this in the Bible? It’s like saying, hey, it’s okay to have doubts. It’s okay to get angry and question things. God can take it.

The woman from Georgia… well, you would have thought I had horns sprouting from my head. “What the Bible says is exactly what it means and if it says there was a man named Job, then that’s good enough for me! Everything happened just as it says! I don’t know what you teach around here, but at MY church, we speak the truth!”

After the class was over, I heard her ask her friend, “Who is that woman?”

“Oh her? She’s our minister’s wife.”

Am I rambling? I feel like I’m rambling.

Day Four – Monday

Morning temp: 101.5

The earliest the doctor can see me is 1:15. I soldier on, brave in the face of this treacherous, vile malady. Patiently awaiting my time, hoping hospitalization does not prove necessary.

He’s new to the practice: a Dr. Berkowitz, a lean man with salt-and-pepper hair.

Isn’t that always the case? When you look your worst, you get the best looking doctor?

He gives my scourge a name: Bronchitis.

How terribly common. I was hoping for something with a little more heft. Scarlet fever, perhaps. Malaria. Bubonic plague.

On the office wall is a drawing of the respiratory system. A picture of healthy bronchial tubes and ones like mine.

Bronchial tubes

How lovely.

He writes a prescription for antibiotics, Husband drives me to Costco. I must look worse than I thought. As the woman at the pharmacy counter writes down my information, she looks at me and says, “I’ll put urgent on this.”

Dear me.

Day Five – Tuesday

Morning temp: 99.6

Daughter’s birthday. You know your kids are getting older when one of the items they request is bedsheets. We also gave her good quality markers for her drawings, and a small voice recorder for when she’s working over something she’s writing while pacing outside (a common occurrence at our house). She loves the recorder and plans on calling it Diane. (Daughter is a Twin Peaks fan.)

We have no cake for her, no plans on going out, no special meal. What sort of mother gets sick on her daughter’s birthday? A terrible one.

Due to incessant coughing, my stomach now feels like I’ve done several hundred sit-ups. Wouldn’t be so bad if I actually got a flat tummy out of it. Not likely, as the only thing that sounds good right now is pancakes. As I eat my so-so pancakes, I listen to the latest podcast from This American Life.

Bad move. It’s on Real-life Rom-Coms. I’m not what you’d call an overly sentimental gal, but… well, give me a fever and tell me a story of a guy screaming into his cell-phone, “ILOVEYOUILOVEYOUILOVEYOU” and running like a madman down Ludlow Street in New York?… soon I’m a blubbering idiot, sobbing away, teardrops falling into the maple syrup.

Day Six – Wednesday

Morning temp: 99.0

Valentine’s Day.

Aw, crap. Not only am I sick on Valentine’s Day (albeit improving), I wrote a post about being sick on Valentine’s Day. Probably looking like crap while I did it.

What kind of blogger posts about her illness on Valentine’s Day?

A sick one.

Sneeze

Tell ya what, do you want something lovey dovey sweet to listen to? Try this American Life podcast.

Only don’t do it while eating pancakes.

*coughcough*