There are some who start their retirement long before they stop working. -Robert Half

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Funeral Duty

A few weeks ago, an event of epic proportions struck the quiet lives of the residents in our small town. For the first time in Owensville history, the board outside the funeral home was completely filled, and still there were more funerals that wouldn't even fit. In fact, there were five funerals in one weekend. We* concluded that we have never seen anything like it.

*We=The Church Ladies and me as we tried to figure out if we could make post-funeral dinner for all of them. We ended up only doing one dinner. And it's a darn good thing, because I'm pretty sure I would have been the last Church Lady standing by the end of the day.

Since moving to Owensville, I have been welcomed as one of "The Church Ladies." You know, the ones that always cook the meals, volunteer for things (like belles), take care of the church garden, and make the applebutter? That's me. Maybe it's because they like my company or maybe it's because I'm young and I do what I'm told, like wash dishes and go around to ask people if they need drink refills. Who knows? Anyway, one of our Church Lady duties is post-funeral dinner duty, which means, if you didn't catch it, that we make a meal to serve the funeral guests when they return from the cemetery. I usually miss participating in this job duty since most funerals are during the day and I have a job, but the Infamous Weekend of Five Funerals is a different story.
When Grammy, Mom and I arrived that weekend, we first attended a funeral. We sat right by the organ and the back door, because when it was over, we had to hustle over to the church to start getting things ready for the meal. Then, my job duties went a little like this:

Julie's Church-Lady-Post-Funeral-Dinner Job Duties:
1) Get more turkey, bread and cheese. Right when we arrived, a crisis was upon us. There were more people at the funeral than we were expecting. So, after laboring over numbers and estimated serving sizes, we decided that we needed more, so Grammy, Mom and I were sent on Operation Get More Food. First, however, we called ahead to the deli/bakery/liquor store to tell them what we needed, and since I'm the Church Lady that doesn't need bifocals, I read what the shopping list said to one of the other Church Ladies who dictated it over the phone. Then, while I was utilizing my bifocal-less vision, Mom and Grammy left me and went to the store without me. Luckily, and since nothing is really that far in Owensville, the deli/bakery/liquor store is less than a block away, so I just walked up there and met them. Now, if you were doubting our confidence in this establishment, doubt no more. When we walked in the door they had everything we needed ready for us and all we had to do was pay for it. They must have known we were in a bind! Anyway, I ran back to the church, bags in hand, and arrived just in time for the Church Ladies to start arranging it all on plates. Crisis averted.
2) Make Sure the Pies and Other Homemade Desserts are Fully Stocked Duty.
3) Don't Add Any More Plates to the Line Without Telling Someone Because That is How They Count How Many People Came Duty.
4) Dishes Duty. Need I say more? Honestly, I like doing dishes, so this doesn't bother me at all. Plus, post-funeral dinners seem to stress the Church Ladies out so I feel it is best that I just stick with the sink.

It was eventful, that's for sure.

Whenever there are funerals in town Grammy, Papa and I talk about death a lot. That is one very different part of living with Grammy and Papa as opposed to living with my sorority sisters. Whenever I go visit my friends, we talk about what we want to do with the rest of our lives and we go to weddings and baby showers, but when I come back to Owensville, Grammy, Papa and I talk about who just moved to the nursing home or who just got a hip replacement and we go to funerals. The contrast kind of gives me whiplash. Anyway, while talking about death at dinner with Grammy and Papa, Grammy told us that when she dies she wants to be cremated so we can have her funeral whenever is convenient for us and we don't have to worry about all this quick planning because she wants us to have a big party. We asked Papa what he wanted when he dies and he just looked at Grammy and said:
Papa: I'll decide when you're gone.
Grammy: Maybe I'll just fool you all and outlive you!
Papa: I don't think so.

He's so optimistic. It must run in his family. Grammy was telling us about Papa's sister Betty and how Betty goes to Las Vegas every year and always wins big so that she can pay for her trip the next year. Aunt Betty says you just have to go in there knowing you're going to win and you will. Apparently it's all in your head. I guess Papa just tells himself that he's going to live for 10 more years, so he will. I guess I'm just going to have to think of something wonderful to convince myself I'll do!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Blood Pressure.

We seem to talk about health issues a lot in our little house on N. 4th Street because:
1) I'm going to study public health next year.
2) Almost everyone we know has some sort of health problem.
3) We want to stay healthy. I mean, Papa still has to make it through his 8 more years of healthy living!
4) Grammy is a dietician, I got my undergrad degree in nutritional sciences and Papa sometimes pretends he's a doctor. That's when we call him Dr. Green.
The other night I walked into the kitchen and Grammy was taking her blood pressure. Apparently, she went to the doctor the day before and her blood pressure was something like 160/80, and since she's never had high blood pressure, she came home and decided to monitor it herself. She sat down and adjusted the cuff and her blood pressure came out to be 109/73. I told her she must have been having a very stressful day. She thinks the doctor should have double checked it. I tested my blood pressure, even though I hate getting my blood pressure checked. When I was little, I always wanted to try the blood pressure machine at the grocery store, but I guess my mom said I wasn't allowed to play with it, so one time I did it while she wasn't looking and it squeezed my arm so tightly I thought that God was punishing me for disobeying my mom. From that day forward, I vowed never to stick my arm in the grocery store blood pressure machine. Even if I look at one, I get this nervous feeling in my stomach and images of the machine squeezing my arm from my body run through my head. Anyway, I mustered up all my strength and checked my blood pressure and it came out 101/61, which is pretty low. Grammy just looked at me and said:
Grammy: I'm just surprised we're not dead!
Julie: We might have low blood pressure, but we're still kickin'!
Grammy: That's right! They're not going to drag us away yet!
Then Grammy the Dietician started interrogating me on reasons my blood pressure might be so low. We decided that maybe my blood pressure is so low because I have low iron. And my iron is low because I don't really like red meat. And I don't really like red meat because I don't like chewing on fat particles. Anyway, Grammy told me that I should take some of her pills, and after confirming that they are not prescription drugs ("WalMart Special!" she told me), I consented to take some of her vitamin B complex with folic acid. I should have figured that they weren't prescription drugs because her and Papa have this habit of quitting prescription medicines they don't think are necessary.

Good Idea/Bad Idea Time
Good Idea: After we took our blood pressures, Grammy told me this big story about how her doctor put her on a beta blocker after she had her stent put in a few years ago and it made her really tired. One day when she was at rehab, she told one of the physical therapists that she was always worn out, so they took her blood pressure and it was something like 90/60, and it was because of the beta blocker. ("I was practically dead!") So Grammy told her doctor and quit taking it. Good Idea. Now, she just takes lots of vitamins and supplements.
Bad Idea: Last year, Papa went to the doctor and they told him that he needed to take thyroid medicine. After a few days, Dr. Green took matters into his own hands and decided that he was healthy and didn't need them. Bad Idea. Recently he has been really tired and has been sleeping a lot more so Grammy has been telling him he needs to go to the doctor. A few days ago he finally went to the doctor and they told him he's been so tired because he hasn't been taking his thyroid medicine. Thus, they prescribed him the thyroid medicine again. We'll see how long it lasts this time. Maybe when my brother, Andy, finishes medical school and becomes a doctor, Papa will actually listen and do what he's supposed to do. Here's hoping!

Grammy is good at keeping me informed about health and education issues. In the mornings, I usually sit down at the table for breakfast to find sections of the newspaper spread out across my placemat, with little stars by the articles that Grammy thinks I would like. Then, from time to time, we'll sit and discuss them. The other night, we went through two months of Readers' Digests and discussed all the articles in the Health sections.

Interesting Readers' Digest Health Stories:
-Apparently there is a new study out that links having lights on while sleeping to breast and prostate cancer. Some group took digital pictures of the earth at night and the areas that had the most light at night were the areas with the most cases of breast and prostate cancer. Their reasoning was that light decreases the production of melatonin, which triggers your body to sleep. I question, however, the fact that areas with more light are probably big cities, which have more people and, thus, a higher number of people with breast and prostate cancer. I guess I'll just have to hit up to read the actual article. It's like I'm back in college already! But, we both decided that we are going to sleep in complete darkness from now on. We'll call it Operation Nightlights-No-More.
-The use of Teflon pans causes low fertility in women. Grammy also read something that said they cause cancer, but she also told me we're not going to stop using them unless they're scratched because they are so nice to cook with. Rebels!
-One article we read said that omega-3's will make you happier, so Grammy said: "There's my good old fish oil! Those omega-3's will perk me right up!" She's a vitamin popper.
-We also discussed a study we had read a while ago stating that more sleep=more weight loss:
Grammy: I also saw that another trick for weight loss is getting enough sleep!
Julie: Oh yeah! It said 8 hours!
Grammy: We should be so skinny you could see right through us!
Julie: Too bad we like to bake.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Dinner Conversation 4: Eat to live or live to eat?

Like I've said before, Papa always makes me taste things. Even though I'm 23 years old and have tasted everything that he forces me to try. Whenever I tell him that I've tried something before, he always says: "Well, have you tried this one? Did you try it today? You might like it this time." I usually don't. Sure, I did like Granny's pickles, but I still don't like, among others: pork, cooked carrots, orange marmalade, or meatloaf. So far, we've had meatloaf three times during my stay in Owensville, and I ate it each time. Not because I like it, but because that is what was for dinner and I was hungry. Papa confuses these: hunger vs. liking. On our second meatloaf night, I finished my small portion and Papa said:
Papa: How do you like that meatloaf?
Julie: It was ok.
Papa: Do you want seconds?
Julie: I didn't like it that much.
Papa: But you ate it all.
Julie: That's because I was hungry. Not because I like it.

There's something about mushed up meat mixed with oatmeal and onions that just turns me off. Actually, it's the texture that gets my gag-reflex going. Whenever I talk about the texture of foods, Papa always says: "Oh the texture. I know what you mean. Terrible, terrible. I hope your food isn't touching either. That would be terrible. Terrible, terrible." I don't care. Mock me if you will. I'm a texture eater and there's nothing anyone can do about it. No matter how many times I try it, I will never really like:
-Especially wiggly things, i.e. Jello or fatty meats.
-Most meat textures, i.e. pretty much anything but chicken, turkey or fish.
-Cooked orange vegetables, i.e. sweet potatoes and carrots.
-Tapioca, rice pudding and regular pudding. Though I can handle regular pudding if it has something else mixed in, like Oreo cookies or graham crackers.
-Particularly mushy/soggy things, i.e. bread pudding and meatloaf.

I have found, however, that with a sufficient amount of ketchup (my favorite condiment), meatloaf is tolerable. Who am I kidding? Ketchup makes anything better. When I was in college, I used to base my meals around what I could eat with ketchup, which is another reason I used to eat grilled cheese for every meal. When I told Papa that I used to eat grilled cheese and steamed broccoli for every meal, he told me I must "eat to live." But, there he is wrong. I like grilled cheese and broccoli and if I had any other choice for dinner, I'd probably pick it anyway.

Meatloaf night is one of those nights where I tell Papa that I'm "eating to live," not "living to eat." Kind of like when Grammy makes him oatmeal for breakfast.

Toward the end of our meal each night, the topic of whether we eat to live or live to eat always comes up. Papa always says that he "eats to live," because he's old and only young people and skinny people are allowed to "live to eat." However, Papa's life seems to contradict his statement. Papa is a quite the planner and the moment we get up from the breakfast table he is already planning the next meal. I think dinner is probably the first thing he thinks about when he wakes up and the last thing he thinks about before he goes to bed. Whenever Grammy and I bake or when we have a particularly tasty dinner, Grammy always asks Papa: "Well, are you eating to live right now?" He just laughs. Grammy says that she does both, but Papa says you're not allowed to do both, you have to pick one. Thus, Grammy and I decided we must "live to eat" because people who bake don't "eat to live." Grammy said we'll know when she starts "eating to live" because she's just going to come home and eat a can of tuna for dinner.

On Easter, we had a brunch with friends at my parents' house and we made tons of Yukon Gold cinnamon rolls (aka the greatest cinnamon roll I've ever had. Think potato bread in a roll form filled with lots of butter, cinnamon and brown sugar. Unhealthy? Yes, but totally worth the calories), orange rolls, egg casseroles and a honey-glazed ham. Since I tend to like anything that is covered in honey-glaze, Dad found me a "fat-free" piece of ham to try. Yes, I admit, it was okay as long as I didn't look at it, because I can find fat on any piece of meat. When Grammy and Papa showed up, one of the first things Papa asked me was if I tried the ham yet. Luckily, I could say that I had. Though I might have said that anyway because he didn't believe me until Dad came in and vouched for me. Papa loved the ham. And everything else, especially the potato cinnamon rolls. He kept asking me: "You made these?! You're going to make some more sometime, aren't you?" He's just lucky I "live to eat."

I think the closest we get to "eating to live" is our Wednesday night soup and sandwich meal. However, I just found out another reason we have Soup and Sandwich night every Wednesday: it is because Papa goes to Bland for lunch every Wednesday for the chicken and dumpling special and he's not very hungry when dinner time comes around. Therefore, our reasons for having Soup and Sandwich night on Wednesday nights stand as thus:
1) Because Papa needs more free time.
2) So Papa doesn't have to make a big meal by himself while Grammy and I are at Belles.
3) Because I love grilled cheese.
4) Because Papa goes to Bland and eats the chicken and dumpling special for lunch, even though he says it isn't very good and Grammy won't go because the dumplings are too mushy.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Danger Boy.

Papa either loves living on the verge of annihilation or he just doesn't realize that things are potentially life-threatening. Tonight we had brats, boiled potatoes and corn for dinner. While I was checking on everything before dinner, Papa stood behind me, like always, watching me check all of the food and commenting on its preparedness. All of a sudden he reached around me and said: "I think the brats are done. I'm turning them off." and proceeded to turn the knob on the gas grill from low all the way past high and to off, sending flames shooting out and around the pan. The fire got within centimeters of my body and I thought for sure I was going to have to stop, drop and roll. But I didn't. I yelled to Grammy: "Grammy! Papa almost burned me!" Papa just chuckled and said: "It only would have singed you. Haven't you ever singed yourself?" No. I have not ever singed myself, but it sounds like Papa does it all the time. He told me all it would do is burn some of the hair off. Isn't that a relief? I've decided I'm going to start calling him Danger Boy. When we were little, Logan, Andy and I used to call Rachel Danger Girl, and we made up a little song that we would sing to infuriate her. It goes like this:
Danger Girl is her name,
Hurting people is her game,
Danger Girl, Danger Girl, Danger Girl!
She hit Logan with a rake
He started to cry (but it was fake)
Danger Girl, Danger Girl, Danger Girl!

Papa also drives without a seat belt (until Grammy and I yell at him), bikes without a helmet, climbs the ladder to the attic and lowers things alone using his hand-made pulley system, and eats a lot of butter. Danger, danger. He also slurps his drinks, which I would think would make a person very burpy. Maybe, however, that has some unknown health benefit that protects him from his dangerous lifestyle. As long as I can remember, Papa has slurped his drinks. I honestly don't know how he does it, because he does it constantly and with any type of drink. He brings the glass to his lips, tilts it just enough so that the drink barely touches his mouth and slurps. I tried it one day and I could not do it. I did manage to suck soy milk down my windpipe and into my lungs, though. Papa, I'm impressed. It truly is a skill.
The other night, I came into the kitchen after a little nap to help Papa with dinner. He had everything prepared and was taking the bread out of the toaster. With a metal knife. While the toaster was still plugged in. I told him he was going to electrocute himself and he told me he would be very careful. My mom has always emphasized the dangers in putting metal into a toaster; she must have learned that after she left home because she obviously didn't learn it from Papa. We even used to have these special bamboo tongs that were designated as the toaster tongs so that no one was tempted to stick a fork or something in there. Maybe I'll have to put a note on the toaster that says: Don't use a metal utensil to get bread out of the toaster or you'll electrocute yourself.
Speaking of notes, Grammy and I have started watching the Pride and Prejudice mini-series. I got it for Christmas a couple of years ago and it is 8 hours of classical British melodrama that leaves you wishing you could wear long, cotton dresses and fall in love with a tall, mysterious man who makes a whole $10,000 a year. Well, welcome to the real world, Elizabeth Bennett. Papa's favorite character is Mr. Darcy, played by Colin Firth. Every time he is not in the scene, Papa asks Grammy and me: "Where's that guy I like? The one from the beginning?" He always refers to him as the one from the beginning because he has slept through the entire middle. He tells us that the British accents are too hard to understand so he just goes to sleep. I asked Papa if he liked Mr. Darcy because he has a lot of money and Papa said: "Yes." I knew it. Anyway, I went to turn the DVD player on and on the back of the remote there is now a little note that lists the steps to turning on the DVD player and starting a movie. There is also one on the VCR remote that, along with explaining how to use the machine, documents the exact steps required in recording a program from TV. It is good that he can find a way to remember how to operate his electronics. That way, he can keep recording movies for me. His movie recording started one night when I was watching Princess Diaries on the dining room TV. He walked in and said:
Papa: What are you doing?
Julie: Nothing, watching a movie. Princess Diaries. Why?
Papa: I think you should turn your movie off and come watch the movie I recorded.
Julie: You think it's going to be better than the one I'm watching?
Papa: Oh, I think so.
It was My Fair Lady and it is pretty good. Though the heroine is annoying. So, Grammy and I watch our weekly shows and Papa makes sure we don't miss any great Turner Classic Movies. Other than movies, Papa just watches the stock market and the news, which aren't worthy of a VHS recording. Grammy's shows, on the other hand, might be worth a recording if we ever missed them, but we don't. Every Sunday night, Grammy watches Masterpiece Classics on PBS. You've got to love a good mini-series. Grammy and I aren't sure which book they are acting out now, because we missed the beginning and they haven't said the name again, but it is about this family who was really poor, but somehow got tons of money. Because of this, the dad, son and daughter-in-law decide they need to become snobby and act wealthier, but the girl, aka the heroine, wants to stay kind and loving. It's pretty intense. The villan is this scary gypsy guy with a pointy beard who looks like he kills people for fun. It was very good casting.
I always watch my shows at rehab. Actually, I had to find shows to watch because, it turns out, I hate running. I think it's boring, but if I have something to watch, I don't focus on how much I hate every second I'm on that stupid treadmill. On Monday night I watch Chuck which is probably my favorite show. It is about this computer nerd who is forced to become a secret CIA agent because he accidently "downloads" this thing called The Intersect into his brain that gives him the ability to find bad-guys and see all the crimes they've committed. Grammy calls it "that secret spy show." On Tuesday, Grammy and I watch "that awful loser show," aka The Biggest Loser. We didn't used to like this one because they kept kicking people off the show, and we decided that they shouldn't do that. Especially when they call them "losers." But now, the show is better because they stopped kicking people off (for now) and all the people have lost a lot of weight and look so much happier. Wednesday nights, we watch Scrubs, aka "that doctor show" and Thursday nights we watch The Office and 30 Rock. Grammy remembers the name of The Office. I don't know why. I guess it's the most famous. We don't usually go to rehab on Fridays. Good thing, too, because we don't have a show that night. It is so funny to watch Grammy watch TV because she has a TV face that she makes. Sometimes when I'm running, I'll just look over at her and laugh. Mom has the same face: Both of them open their mouths a little, furrow their eyebrows and get a very concerned look on their faces. It almost looks like they've never seen figures moving on a television before. Or like the television is the most appalling thing they've ever seen. When Grammy has her TV face on, you have to yell her name to get her attention because she is so into whatever is playing. Mom isn't very good at watching TV anyway, so if you think she's watching TV and are going to attempt to get her attention, chances are she's in another room doing something completely different. I don't know if she's ever sat through an entire non-educational movie or TV show. Give her a documentary, on the other hand, and she's hooked for hours. She also used to make us do SAT flashcards on road trips and play this terrible game called The Ungame where you share your feelings with each other, if that helps explain her TV habits a little better. Papa's TV face is usually him napping.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Thursday night.

In the contest for "Busiest Night of the Week," Thursday night comes in at a close second, behind Wednesday night (belles night), of course.  And it is only second because we're only busy two Thursdays each month, though if we entered our Thursday Night Activities into the Gasconade County Fair, I think we would definitely get blue ribbons.  When we were little, we used to go visit Grammy and Papa every summer and they would take us to the Gasconade County Fair.  Grammy was always in charge of the quilt judging, so we all had to go help her set up all the quilts.  Even though we didn't live in Gasconade County, we always baked cookies or a cake or drew a picture to enter into the fair.  If you win, you got a ribbon and money! Papa always enters his vegetables from the garden and sometimes some canned goods. He's a good gardener. The other day I came home and he told me: "I planted you your favorite foods in the garden out there. Broccoli and potatoes." Then he said that I can be the weeder, but I told him that Rachel is better at that, so she can have that job. 
There are also lots of carnival rides at the fair, but I stopped riding them when Logan, Rachel, and I were on a particularly spinning ride and this kid threw up right in front of us and then just kept riding rides. We refer to him as Barf Boy.  My favorite part of the fair, however, is the bunny show!  One time my friend Abby came down to go to the fair and Grammy bought us a bunny. It was black and white and we named it Rosco. But it died. Another year, she bought me a floppy eared bunny and I named him Opie, but he also died. Actually, I've had 4 bunnies and they all died tragic deaths:
1) Babs. I got Babs when I was in elementary school. She was really small and looked like a Siamese bunny. All was great, until one day, she turned evil. And by evil, I mean that whenever I tried to pick her up, she would hiss at me and attack my hands.  Mom taught middle school at the time, so she took Babs to her classroom in hopes that being around people would make her nicer. It didn't. Anyway, she got a parasite and died.
2) Clover. Rachel and I both got bunnies one Easter. Clover was black and white and was so soft it felt like you were touching air.  One summer we went on vacation and when I came home, my brother, Andy, ran to a spot in the yard and told me not to look and just go inside. Obviously I looked, and Clover had been attacked by a dog. I'm scarred for life.
3) Rosco. Like I said, we got Rosco at the fair, and the thing about fair bunnies is they are pure-bred, which means they have lots of genetic diseases. One day, about three months after I got her, I walked down to see Rosco and she was just dead.
4) Opie. Once again, another fair bunny. I was holding Opie one day, when he all of a sudden went paralyzed. It was very tragic. Then he died.
Needless to say, I haven't had a bunny since.

Anyway, back to our Thursday nights.
The first Thursday of the month: The first Thursday of the month is community dinner at church. Basically, one group at church (Belles, Dorcas, Odds and Evens, church council etc) cooks dinner for anyone in the community that wants to come.  Usually we have spaghetti, salad, and homemade pies and cakes, aka the best part.  When Grammy's group, Dorcas, did the dinner, they made chicken and dumplings and it was a HIT. They even ran out of food. It is still a topic of excitement amongst the church ladies.  Dorcas was very proud of themselves, even though their name makes me laugh every time I hear it. Sure, Dorcas was a great Christian woman who was raised from the dead by Peter, but every time I hear that name, I remember how my siblings and I used to call each other "dorcas" when we were fighting.  Basically, we led a pretty sheltered childhood. When I told Mom how weird our childhood was, she just said: "I thought all families were going to museums, watching PBS, and practicing SAT flashcards on road trips!" She was wrong. There were also lots of words we weren't allowed to say; a few were:
-Butt (we had to say "bottom")
-Pee (we had to say "tinkle")
-Idiot (one time Rachel called Logan an idiot and Mom sent her to her room)
-Shut up (we had to say "be quiet")
-Hate (Dad always said: "Hate is a very strong word.")
Luckily, Mom never caught the fact that we used "dorcas" as a derogatory statement.

The second Thursday of the month: On the second Thursday of the month, Papa has Lion's club.  Since he eats dinner at the meeting, he usually just comes into the kitchen and watches Grammy and I cook, commenting on how he would do things.  The other night we had frozen pizza for dinner, so Papa stood in the kitchen and told us how he usually puts extra cheese and toppings on the pizza. We also forgot to set a timer, so Papa paced around the kitchen telling us how we won't know when it will be done if we didn't set a timer.  Luckily, the pizza cooked even though we forgot to time it. On Lion's night, while Grammy and I are eating, Papa stands in the kitchen and tastes everything we made. He always comments on how we did. He liked the pizza last week so he started yelling from the kitchen: "Julie, how do you like this pizza? It's pretty good, isn't it? It's the kind Grammy and I always buy." Before dinner, I was also making muffins for a brunch with some friends the next day and Papa came over and said:
Papa: Are you leaving with those?
Julie: Yup, I'm going far, far away.
Papa: How far?
Julie: I'll make you some, too.
Papa: Well, there are only two of you for dinner tonight, so you can sit in my seat. That way you can look at the flowers.
Julie: Thanks, Papa! I'm honored.
At the dinner table, Grammy sits on one side, facing the window, Papa sits at the head, and I sit with my back to the window. Grammy always tells me we need to re-arrange our seating so I can watch the birds, too. She probably just wants me to help her scare away the greedy black birds. Black birds are easier to scare away than squirrels. Grammy and Papa used to have a lot of squirrels in their backyard, so they got all these squirrel-guard things to keep the squirrels from eating the birdseed, but they didn't work. So, Papa climbed up into the attic and found my uncles' old BB guns. He would sit quietly in the backyard, his BB gun loaded, waiting for his unsuspecting victim. He would sometimes get my little brother and my dad to come down to shoot squirrels with him (keep in mind no one in my family has ever shot anything.) Papa only wanted to scare them away, but one day he shot one and killed it, so he put away his guns for good.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Separation theories.

Grammy has special ways of doing things. I already touched on her various potions, magical elixirs and tendency to hex the opposing basketball team, but just wait, there's more! First, I would like to take you on a tour of the kitchen. Every cabinet and drawer is lined with this spongy liner that must have a purpose. Maybe it airs things out, since it has lots of little holes in it? Maybe it makes things stay in the cabinet? Though, I'm not sure how they could fall out. Maybe it just makes people feel more organized? I'm not sure. The spongy liner doesn't stop with lining drawers, however. Inside every cabinet, each bowl, plate and pot is accompanied by its own piece of spongy liner so that everything is organized, for example, in this pattern: big bowl--liner--medium bowl--liner--small bowl.
Nothing touches. Actually, things not touching is kind of a trend in Grammy's kitchen. When you do dishes by hand, there is a special sink-mat that sits in the bottom of the sink so things don't touch the bottom of the sink. The knives have a wooden rack in one of the drawers that keeps them separated into their own little slots. If there is a utensil that was purchased in some sort of plastic container, Grammy washes out the container and uses it to store said utensil (taking us back to Grammy's desire to reuse disposable items). The lids to the pots also have a special rack, that stands them upright so you don't have to stack them on top of each other. Good thing, too, because living with Grammy has taught me that metal on metal is not okay.

Now, we'll head to the bathroom, and more specifically the shower. For one, Grammy uses Kirk's Castile Soap and nothing else to wash her hair. She said that when she was in her twenties, her hair stylist said to never use anything but that, and she hasn't since. She also has a little gray bottle of vinegar that she squirts on her hair after she washes it to get rid of any soap scum that might be left. Vinegar: saving lives since 3000 BC.

Now for the best shower product: Grammy has this little red, rubber scrubby that she uses to scrub her hair and she straight up swears by it. She says it scrubs your scalp and makes your hair fuller, it gets the soap distributed, it helps rinse your hair and it serves as brushing. When we were little, I remember Grammy sending all of us hair scrubbies for many holidays. Since we lived in Colorado, we would get holiday packages from her and we would open it up to find hair scrubbies galore. The other day Papa was telling us how his hair is getting thinner. All Grammy said was: "Well, are you using that scrubby I put in your shower? If you were using it, your hair would be thicker!" He said he doesn't use it. Maybe Grammy should write him a note so he remembers to use it.

I think Papa lives on notes. There is a little box in the kitchen with Papa's note paper in it so that he can write things down and leave them on the counter for later. One weekend, I was going to St. Louis and then to Columbia so Papa told me: "Write that down on a note so I know where you are." He also made me write him a list of all my favorite yogurt flavors and I'm surprised he hasn't had me write him a list of my favorite breads yet. Every Wednesday morning, I go to the kitchen to make my lunch and there is a little note that says: "Clean Lion's" to remind him to clean the Lion's Club, since Bingo night is Tuesday night. He doesn't need notes for everything, though. During a basketball game, there was a McDonald's commercial that showed a guy eating this huge burger and Papa said: "Well, look at that big burger! It looks like a number 5." See, he doesn't need a note to remember the McDonald's menu. Grammy just looked at him and said: "You would know."

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Easter Bunny.

Just when I thought my life couldn’t get any more ridiculous, this is what happens:
The other night, Grammy was talking to Mom on the phone when she yelled: “Julie, your mom wants to talk to you! It’s something about bunnies.” So, my curiosity aroused, I come over and find out that “something about bunnies” translates into:
My mom is helping to organize an Easter egg hunt for disabled children at the Governors’ Mansion and she needs two people to dress up like Easter bunnies. She said, there are two full-body costumes that we wear, and since they have limited visibility, we have to have people guide us around the Mansion yard. She makes it sound so tempting, doesn’t she? Anyway, she somehow managed to guilt me into agreement. Mom is very good at guilting her children into doing things. Growing up, Mom never really yelled at us for anything very often. Instead, she would talk to us and make us feel bad about things, so that eventually, we would feel so guilty and terrible about ourselves, we would go to her crying with our apologies. We refer to it as The Guilt Factor. It used to make me feel so bad about whatever I did that I would cry for hours and then write her little apology notes and place them on her pillow because I was so ashamed I couldn’t talk to her face-to-face. People used to tell us how our mom was the nicest person and she never got mad or yelled at us. One time when Rachel was about four, one of Mom’s friends told her this and Rachel just looked at her and said: “My mom is quietly mean.” Despite what people believe, however, she does yell sometimes. I remember that whenever she would yell at us, the interaction usually went a little something like this:
Problem: Leaving stuff all around the house (this was the most common problem at our house. We used to have a Nickel Jar and whenever Mom had to pick up things we left around the house, she would hide them and we had to pay a nickel to get them back. Thus, unless it was really important, I would just let her keep the things I left around. That is until I found her hiding place and then I just snuck it all back.)
Andy/Julie/Rachel/Logan: Gosh, fine Mom! Stop yelling at me! Why are you so mad?!
I don’t know why she always said this, because she was obviously already mad. Sometimes when we told her to stop yelling, she would ask us: “OH, DO YOU WANT TO HEAR YELLING?!?!??!” Which also confused me, because she was definitely already yelling and if there was any possibility that she wasn’t yelling already, then I absolutely never wanted to hear what yelling actually sounded like. Maybe I’ll understand this logic when I have children of my own. Or maybe I’ll just use The Guilt Factor on them so that my words can eat away at them from the inside.
Anyway, Mom then asked me if I had any tall friends to be the boy bunny and my friend AJ agreed. With enthusiasm, I must add. Actually, you have no idea how excited he was to do this. He even asked off work for it, and he NEVER asks off work. Mom also asked Grammy and Papa if they would like to volunteer; Grammy agreed, but Papa said: “I think I’m going to be feeling sickly on Saturday.”
So, Saturday afternoon, AJ and I arrived at the Mansion and found Mom, who then went around and introduced us to everyone there, who, in turn, thanked us heartily. Basically, since we were dressing up, it meant that none of them had to and for that they are eternally grateful.
Then, the moment we had all been waiting for. The excitement grew as we walked toward the entrance to the Mansion that would lead us to Mom’s office and the costumes that would become our identities for the next four hours. When we saw the large, white heads sitting on various chairs in Mom’s office, all we could do was laugh. My bunny head was pretty cute and it had a little pink bow on its ear, but AJ’s costume was scary. The head was really big and round and it looked kind of depressed.
The hunt started at 1pm, so when it was about 12:35 and Grammy still hadn’t showed up, Mom called her and she and Papa were sitting in Schulte’s (the grocery store) eating donuts. When they finally showed up, only Grammy came in and I asked her where Papa was. Apparently he had some very important things to do.
Mom walked AJ and I out to meet the parade of children and as we walked closer, one little girl started screaming: “Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh! You’re the real Easter bunnies! This is the greatest day! I love you! Oh my gosh!” It was adorable. I’m just glad the children thought we were great and not terrifying. Honestly, only a few children were scared of me, which was very surprising, because if I were them, I would have been scared of me. After we walked in and the Governor and First Lady gave a little speech, AJ and I had to grab hands, raise our arms in the air and drop them to signal the beginning of the egg hunt.
So, picture this: AJ and I are standing in bunny suits on the front lawn of the Governors' Mansion, right smack dab in the middle of all the Easter eggs. When we put our hands down, hundreds of children started running toward us, our limited visibility making it impossible to move out of the way to a safer location, so I just started looking frantically around for AJ or someone who could take us somewhere. I turn my large, fluffy head to see my mom taking AJ to the photo booth. At this point, I'm just standing there while children run in and out of my tunnel vision, so I just kneeled on the grass started talking to children. Luckily, a talking life-size bunny wasn't scary to them. And luckily I used to work at a preschool.

Favorite Easter Bunny Moments:
1. One child came up to me and started telling me how “There are two Easter bunnies here. Can you believe it!? TWO! I didn’t know there were two of you! And one of you can talk!” It was only later that I found out AJ had taken the role of Silent Bunny. He has never really been around lots of little children so when I told him that I had been talking to the kids, he just said: “What do you even talk to a four year-old about?! The only thing I could think of to say to them was ‘Happy Easter’ so I just decided not to talk.” Good thing Mom decided to leave me in the lawn and not AJ, The Silent Bunny. That would have been creepy if AJ was just standing out there by himself silently waving to children.
2. The excited little girl from the beginning of the parade ran up to me and started hugging me and saying: “I can’t believe it’s you! You’re the real Easter bunny and you’re here! This is the best! I love you, Easter bunny!!!” It was precious.
3. Another little boy came up with a handful of mushed up cookies and just stood right in front of me staring for a while until he started shoving cookie into my bunny mouth. Grammy was over by me when he did this so she came over and told him: “The bunny had a really big lunch today. She’s not very hungry. She had too much sugar for lunch!” Needless to say, I’m pretty sure there is still cookie residue on that costume.
4. It was really windy outside, so every time the wind would blow, it would whip my head in different directions. My neck is still a little sore. But, without the wind, I’m sure AJ and I would have suffocated in our bunny-shaped saunas.
5. Since we had no peripheral vision, sometimes I would be sitting there and children would be talking to me, but I had no idea where they were without making a 360 degree turn. I have more respect for horses and fish now.
6. The bunny heads smelled weird. They smelled like Halloween. I’m not sure why Halloween has such a weird smell and if you don’t know what I’m talking about, come to our house and smell the Halloween box. I think the random assortment of masks and face paint combines to create a somewhat formaldehyde-like aroma. When I was little, we had these Laurel and Hardy masks in our basement that smelled EXACTLY like the bunny head. It was surreal. For a minute, I thought I was back in our old basement wearing masks and killing spiders with pool sticks. (We used to live in Colorado so we had a lot of spiders in our basement. My best friend and I used to dress up as exterminators and smash spiders against the walls with pool sticks. Mom used to get mad at me for leaving spider guts all over the basement walls, but in my opinion, she should have been happy those spiders weren’t crawling into her mouth as she slept. You know, people unknowingly eat an average of five spiders a year. Truth.)
7. There was a professional photographer so we got to take some pretty amazing pictures together. My favorite is the one with Grammy, Mom, AJ and I because Grammy is sitting on AJ bunny’s lap. AJ and I also took some pictures where he took his bunny head off and sat on my lap and then I took my bunny head off and sat on his lap. They’re incredible and not weird/creepy at all.

In conclusion, if you ever get a chance to dress up like a beloved holiday icon, I highly recommend you take it.

Friday, April 3, 2009

A Wowwy.

Like I've said before, the months leading up to November were very political at our little house in Owensville, (and I would like to once again thank Fox News for giving one-sided information to the country's elderly population. My great-aunt still doesn't believe that President Obama has a real birth certificate.) Sure, there was the National election of a new president going on, but amidst all the excitement, the world missed the most important election of the century: the decision to a) move the Gasconade County courthouse to Owensville or b) Leave the courthouse in Hermann.
I know! How could the USA Today have missed this one!? Grammy started advocating for the courthouse to move to Owensville months and months before the election. She would take her brochures and go door-to-door telling the Owensville residents how wonderful it would be to bring the county seat to Owensville. And these are the reasons:
1) It would bolster jobs and industry in Owensville. Many factories and plants in Owensville have closed, leaving people without jobs. The local businesses are also not doing very well, so bringing the courthouse would increase their commerce.
2) Someone donated the old high school building in Owensville for use as the courthouse. If the courthouse stayed in Hermann they were going to build a new building and put huge cement walls around the old one, costing us money and making the courthouse look like a detainment center.
3) Owensville is the biggest town in the county, so it makes sense that the county seat would be there, instead of Hermann which is a small town way out in the country.

She would tell everyone she saw to "Make sure you vote for the courthouse!" I remember one time my friend, Abby, came down to visit and Grammy talked to her for forty-five minutes about why the courthouse should be moved to Owensville. In the end, however, it didn't pass. When Grammy asked people why they didn't vote to move it, they all told her it was because they didn't want a prison in Owensville. However, they obviously didn't realize that moving the courthouse doesn't mean there has to be a prison built. Thus:
-Grammy was sad the courthouse didn't pass.
-Papa was sad McCain didn't win. Although, when we were in Florida, Aunt Dotty was telling us how she doesn't trust Obama when, dost my ears deceive me? Papa was defending President Obama! I could hardly believe my ears!
Reasons Papa Defended President Obama:
1) Obama went to Harvard. Papa likes Harvard because my brother, Andy, went there. (Thanks for going to Harvard, Bro. You made Obama's first few months much easier for me.)
2) Papa does not believe the rumors about Obama not being a citizen and instead being a spy attempting to infiltrate the country to destroy all of us. Praise the Lord.
3) Papa thinks that Obama picked a very good cabinet. Papa also stuck up for Tim Geithner because he was the former head of the Federal Reserve of New York, and we know how Papa respects money. Aunt Dotty does not like Geithner because there is "something weird about him and he looks like a kid." Sure, he never makes eye contact and is socially awkward, but that's more of a personality fault, not necessarily lack of capability.
-I was sad that Missouri's Proposition A passed. (This proposition eliminated the loss limit on gambling in Missouri. It's supposed to help the Missouri public schools, but in return, it ruins the lives of compulsive gamblers and helps casinos make more profit. Great.)
Obviously the election brought sad news for all of us.

Anyway, Grammy is quite the political advocate, I tell you what. A few years ago when Missouri was voting on supporting stem cell research, Grammy was the only person in Owensville with a "Vote YES for Stem Cell Research!" bumper sticker. It was quite the scandal. Now, Grammy wants to petition to get new roads on our side of town. And understandably so! The roads are seriously falling apart. Sometimes we have to take alternate routes so that our cars don't bottom out while we cross the road. Maybe we could have a big rally with all of our neighbors and we could go march to the county seat and protest. Well, that would be a lot easier if the courthouse had been moved to Owensville, so maybe we'll just march to Town Hall. It will be just like on An American Tail where Fievel and the fat lady-mouse with a speech impediment organize a "wowwy...a warge gathewing of mice for a weason" to get wid of all those cats! Because there are no cats in America and the streets are lined with cheese.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


So, Papa does this thing we like to call "Withdrawal." Basically, Withdrawal occurs when Papa sits in a chair and folds his arms and mentally blocks out the rest of society. Sometimes he bounces his head up and down when he Withdraws. He told us that when he does this, he is blocking out everything around him. I remember one time a few years ago, we were eating Sunday dinner at my parents house, and Papa was Withdrawing, and for some reason, maybe just to pass along his infinite wisdom, he decided to teach us all how to Withdraw. He told us to cross our arms, slouch back in our chairs, and look down, so we all sat around the table and Withdrew from society. I must say, Logan is the best at Withdrawal because he has the facial expression down. It is a mixture of 3/4 pouting and 1/4 spacing out. This finding was surprising to me, however, because my sister Rachel is really good at pouting and I would have guessed she would excel at the pout/space cadet look. Andy, my older brother just folds his arms and laughs, and who can blame him? We look ridiculous.
When we were in Florida at Aunt Dotty's house, Papa was Withdrawing, so Grammy and I told Aunt Dotty about his little habit. She just looked at him, laughed and said: "Sometimes we forget what we look like to other people." Which is very true.

An Example of People who Forget what they Look Like to Other People:
Some of the bars in Columbia are always filled with really drunk girls. I'm not sure why they all congregate in these certain places so, if you're worried about finding yourself squished between drunk college kids, I have discovered some important factors that help to differentiate these bars from other, more sophisticated bars.
Leave the bar immediately if:
-The music is so loud you have to use Rachel Language to convey what you're trying to say.
-There is an abundance of college-aged males in the bar.
-There is one of three specials going on: $10 bottomless cup, quarter draws, or $1 triple wells.
-There is an unneccessary number of bright flashing lights.

You can thank me later.

How to distinguish "those girls:"
1) They are over-dressed. "Over-dressed" usually means they are wearing really short dresses, even in the dead of winter, and have obviously worked on their hair and make-up for hours. They also don't wear coats, because that wouldn't match their outfits. Oftentimes, however, "over-dressed" also includes UGG boots, which can apparently be magically paired with everything from sweatpants to sundresses. I must have missed that fashion memo.
2) They are really drunk.
3) They are really loud because they are drunk.
4) They travel in groups of 4 or more.
5) Though they think their hair looks good, for some reason toward the end of the night, they start messing with it. Maybe it is to give themselves that "I-don't-work-very-hard-on-my-hair-because-I'm-low-maintenance" look, but if you survey the scene, you'll see girls flipping their hair every which-way, giving themselves the "my-hair-looks-ridiculous" look. It's quite the social phenomenon.

Luckily, Grammy, Papa and I only go to Clancy's where the most popular attire consists of jeans, a camouflage jacket and a cigarette.