Friday, March 26, 2010

At Last! An Actual Post!

Ah, the joys of having something constructive to write about, for a change! The garden, which has been beckoning to me since late last month, has now increased its beckon from a gentle song to howl not unlike that of a banshee. "Plant something!" it screams, and even though I know I'm taking a risk to plant so early in Kansas (we've been known to get frosts in late April), I cannot deny this mad desire to get dirt under my fingernails any longer! So, this weekend, the game is afoot!

Well, at least the potatoes will be afoot. Yesterday, the Wonder Hubby actually took a day off from work, and after I had sufficiently recovered from the shock, we went to Lowe's to see if they had anything to plant yet. Now, I prefer to get my seeds and such from Hillside Feed and Seed, but I really haven't been at my best since Chaz and Loki passed, and Lowe's is much closer to us than Hillside. Going there was really kind of a whim, I didn't expect to find much in the way of vegetables to plant; it's just too early yet.

I think I mentioned that we covered over the area next to the house that served as our herb bed, didn't I? The previous owner of our house had planted ornamental grass on the southeast corner of that bed about 20 years ago, and no matter how hard we tried, that damned grass kept slowly but surely sneaking its way north until last year, when it finally completed its insidious mission and conquered the herbs and the bed. Can you say, "Aaaarrrrggghhhh!!!!" (I knew you could.) Now I hate ornamental grass with a deep and complete purple passion. There's just no way to dig it all out--it must be a close cousin of crabgrass or mold, maybe. Or maybe the Tea Party (I'm just saying....) And I didn't want to use an herbicide in that area because...Hello! I want to grow stuff here! Besides, as I've said in the past, I'm trying to be as organic as possible in my gardening experiments. So, last year, we didn't plant any herbs in the bed; in fact, we dug what few were left up (and did that ever hurt! My sage and rosemary plants were 15 years old--ouch!-- and I had no where to re-plant them!) Last fall, we covered the bed with black plastic, which we will keep in place all year this year, and hopefully, hopefully! -- we will have burned the ornamental crap out with the assistance of the gentle Kansas sun (snork!). Next year, assuming all goes well, we will re-design and re-plant the bed, after adding new soil and compost, of course. Wish us luck!

However, that leaves me without an herb garden, and being the Kitchen Witch that I am, that's not an optimal circumstance. Now I do have a big tub that I grew parsley, basil and oregano in last year. However, while at Lowe's, we found this cute little urn that looks like a strawberry pot, only its set up with herb seeds: parsley, basil, oregano, cilantro and chives. So, I think I'll plant that tomorrow (and take pictures!), and I'll wait and start a sage or two and rosemary in the big pot next month. That way, they can be transferred to the herb garden next year (assuming the black plastic does its grass-zapping thing), and I'll use the big pot for something else. Don't ask me what yet, you know I don't plan ahead that much! I've got some other unused pots around the house, maybe I'll just plant a bunch of them up with perennial herbs this year so that they can be the base of my permanent herb bed next year. We'll have to see how far the energy meter goes in the next couple of weeks.

To get back to potatoes (you thought I forgot, didn't you? Eh? Eh?), while at Lowe's yesterday, we found what looks like a mini orchard basket full of packest of seed potatoes -- Freedom russets, Superior whites, and red Norlands. I tried to find sweet potatoes, too, but no such luck! There's quite a number of seed potatoes in this basket, I don't think I'll have enough room in the garden to plant them all...unless I get really creative (hey, those frames we used for cold frames two winters ago are just stacked there by the shed, taking up space. I wonder.....) I'm hoping the Wonder Hubby will have some energy to help me plant the spuds Sunday; tomorrow, it's supposed to rain. (Of course! After all, we got the garden tilled weekend before last, and then it snowed! And froze! And then, just for good measure, it rained!)

AND I'm deciding what greens I want to plant this year in the cool weather, which I have to get into the ground before the April monsoon season -- those will simply have to come from Hillside Feed and Seed, their selection of seeds is quite amazing, and last year's quality was almost too good to be true. Some 3 or 4 lettuces, I think; baby carrots--of course! I'll need spinach again, oh and that wonderful mix of salad greens that they carry...... Oh, it feels so good to be planning and planting again! Maybe now my health will improve and I can give the doldrums the slip for once, and for all!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Goodbye, My Little Buddy

Goodbye, Chaz. You were the best kind of best friend. You never judged, you never rebuked. You responded to love with love. When I got sick again, you stayed by my side; when I was sad, you were right there with me.

A lot of people go through Life never knowing what joy can be derived from rescuing a four-legged soul, and giving them every bit of Love they give you. I've had the pleasure of knowing a lot of dogs in my life, but I never knew a better one.

Rest in Peace, Little Guy. Go find Pyewacket and Logan, they'll show you around. Oh, and if you run into a hairy old Satyr who answers to the name of Ternon, you can go ahead and let him give you a scritch. I promise you that he'll know all about that spot behind your ear, the one that made your leg twitch. I love you, and I already miss you.

Why is it that your Heart leaks through your eyes?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Birthdays and Bodies

So, Monday was my 52nd birthday. Wow. I'm twelve years older than John Lennon was when he died. I'm a year older than Joe Strummer was when he died. I'm nearly twice the age of Janis, Jimi, and Jim. And ever so much older than many other celebrities when they died. My conclusion? Celebrity is bad for your health.

One gift I give myself year around birthday time is my yearly pelvic exam. I know all you ladies out there are thinking "WHAT? What kind of crap-ass gift is THAT?" but I consider uterine health very much a gift, so there. No reason to die from stupid shit, right? And since I've written about the Scoot test before (see here), I'm not going to go into the where's and why's, I'm going to talk about something else that is, frankly, starting to scare the hell out of me, and you can go read about Scooting whenever you want to, it's fine with me.

Let me start out by saying I felt fine. My head was clear, my spirits were good (I like my doctor) and I had gotten so many birthday wishes on Facebook that I was feeling both overwhelmed and truly loved--seriously, right then, I wouldn't have been surprised to discover that I actually do bleed purple and gold (Thank You again, Calontir!). In short - no stress here. So you can imagine my shock and surprise when the nurse blew up my arm, and then announced that my blood pressure was 250/136. WHAT? I was so flabberghasted that it didn't even occur to me that I should be having a stroke right then, not laughing and talking with The Wonder Hubby and before-mentioned RN. I felt fine. I wasn't unduly stressed. Okay, granted, The Wonder Hubby and I did have to take Kellogg Avenue to the doctor's office, which is the Road to Hell here in Doo-dah, but it wasn't that bad! WTF?

The doctor gave me medication. We waited 15 minutes, checked again: No real improvement. She gave me another pill. We waited another 15 minutes and I started utilizing some serious meditation techniques because she was threatening to send me to the hospital, which is no place to celebrate your birthday, believe you me. (Especially since I tend to have some rather otherworldly experiences in those places just when I'm visiting someone, much less staying overnight!) My bp finally went down to about 185/99 and she (very reluctantly) let me come home (well, actually, we went to parents' for a birthday dinner and had a great time -- laughed our butts off at each other for no real reasons. You know, the best kind of get-together). So now I'm on 230 mg. of Diovan a day, I'm taking my bp every two hours, and emailing my doctor with the results every day. This is Wednesday, I still can't get the diastolic below 90 - anyone want to take bets on me seeing her again this week? Anyone wanna take bets on me avoiding a hospital stay? Anyone? No? Spoilsports.

I'd be less flip about this if I wasn't pretty sure that it will go back down to my usual 120/70 here in a couple of weeks. And the reason why I am pretty sure about this is because this has happened to me twice before. The first time was about 3 years ago, when my fibro flared back up. And granted, I wasn't in the best of shape, I weighed about 20 lbs more than I do now, and I hurt more. The medical profession, in its infinite desire to buy yachts and further pad their retirement accounts, really ran me through the ringer that time: They performed every test on me that they could think of. I even ended up getting a heart catherization, although the arterial tests didn't reveal any need for it. The result? I woke up in an extremely cold surgical room with the doctor leaning over me to tell me that I have the arteries of a twelve year old. I also had a fresh new scar, was hurting so much from the cold of that room that I was actually crying, and my insurance company had to pay out a LOT of money. (Funny bit: the nurses were so concerned about me crying [I actually don't remember doing that. I'm a bigtime crier, but not over pain. I'm used to that.], that they actually went out and told Lachlan what I was doing because apparently, I was crying so hard I couldn't tell them why I was crying. He took one look at the sweaters the two nurses were wearing and asked, "What's the temp in that room?" "About 50 degrees," they answered. "That's why she's crying," he said. "She's wearing a paper towel in 50 degree weather. Cold hurts, you know." He went on, "You do have degrees in biology, right?" he asked them. They walked away without answering.)

The second time this happened was last April: I did three weeks of bp meds and ended up with a dangerously low pressure (about 80/55. I didn't know the Sphyg went that low), so she took me back off them. But now, it's back again. That's a bit worrisome. She told me not to stress about it, which is a little like saying "Don't imagine an elephant in a pink tutu". (Just try! Right now, as you're reading this, your mind is supplying you with a picture of an elephant in a pink tutu, isn't it? Somewhat Disneyesque no doubt. I'm right, aren't I? Huh? Huh? I told you so!)

So, I'm taking more pills, tracking my bp, bored out of frakking mind because I'm supposed to take it even easier than I normally do and I'm digging out my college textbooks on Human Physiology because research is what I'm good at, and I have to solve this problem! No way I'm dying before the age of 90, no frakking way!

Besides, I'm not a celebrity. Yet.


Monday, January 4, 2010


If I write them down, I have to stick to them, right?

1. Write more! More blogging, more fiction, more articles for local SCA newsletter, more, more, more! Get published! If Stephanie Meyers can, why can't I?

2. Carry around a notebook with me at events. People come to me a lot for help, and I don't always remember to provide it the first time I'm asked. This has got to stop! If people are going to treat me with that much trust, I must act more worth of it.

3. The perennial: Exercise. When I was a kid, a doctor told me that I would spend my elderly years in a wheelchair; and since I hated him so much, I simply cannot allow his prophecy to come true.

4. Get my vegetable garden planned out before we start planting. I'm far too interested in this now to just stick things wherever there's a space. I must have a little more method to my madness.

5. Have some more fun. I'm in the house too much alone. Maybe if I save up my pennies for a Wii, I can combine this resolution with #3.

6. Last, but not least (not by any stretch!): Stay in closer contact with friends and family. They're not going to hang around for me, I need to expend more energy in this endeavor!

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I Can Haz Washer?

Okay, I know I said I'd be talking about the garden more often, but I have to share about the brand new washer, because washers are among the Greatest Inventions of All Times, right up there with dryers, and I must, simply must, share the awesomeness! (Of course, we all know that The Very Greatest Invention of All Time hasn't been invented yet--that will be The Laundry Folder and Put-Awayer. I expect some woman scientist to apply for that patent any day. And we know that it will be a woman scientist, because we all know that men can, and do store their clean clothes in the dryer. Just as we know that a man's inventory of clean clothes consists of 2 pairs of briefs, 7 socks, a football jersey, and 3 t-shirts manufactured in the '80's and still perfectly fine to wear on a date, to a movie, or an afternoon wedding. Men will also own 8 pairs of Levi's, but those don't necessarily have to be washed; right, Guys?)

So, anyway, just after the passing of Grandma Mabel, the Wonder Hubby and I were doing all the things necessary around the house: Cleaning, vacuuming, dusting (well, I dusted. Men don't dust--just ask Lachlan) and doing laundry. I must state for the record that the Wonder Hubby is very good about doing laundry and his inventory of clean clothes is much larger than the average man's (he had 5 shirts from the '80's when I met him, for example.) He is also a Champion Laundry Sorter. I know, I'm spoiled! He's great about washing clothes.......a little lacking in the "Drying and Hanging Up Clothes" category; downright horrible at the "Putting Clothes Away" category (but then, so am I); but washing clothes? The man has no peer. Which is precisely what he was doing the day after we heard of his grandmother's passing.

I have this odd quirk that I will candidly admit I blame entirely on my mother: I can spend days around my house when it is absolutely unfit for human habitation, but the very second I hear that we are traveling out of town, I will launch myself into a cleaning frenzy, forcing the other inhabitants (including the cats) to help me, literally wearing me and them out, making said travel nearly impossible to perform--all because I simply cannot stand coming home to a dirty house. And the reason I blame my mother is because I know for a fact that neither she nor my dad nor my brother read my blogs and I can get away with it.

So, we were in just such a cleaning frenzy; the Wonder Hubby volunteered to do laundry, probably in self-defense--he says I get a wild gleam in my eye when I have a Swiffer duster in my hands. Apparently, when I am possessed by this frenzy, a strategic withdrawal to the laundry room is the safest plan for the male of the species. Particularly (and remember: I have no memory of these incidents) after I have made the loud, yet inevitable (according to him) announcement that "This Place is a Hole That Should Be Condemned by the Board of Health!" According to the Great Love of My Life, Patton would have retreated after such a pronouncement.

Now, we knew that our old washer was on its last legs and I really need to find the place to lodge a complaint because, I mean, really--after only 16 years of almost daily usage, this POS was giving out? WTH? It's not like we ever planned on buying another one--you don't buy house after house after house, do you? (Seriously, do you? Because I want to know why you would do that....) Lachlan loaded up the old washer with whites, and then stepped out into the garage. He said he was taking a quick smoke break, but I did still have the Swiffer in my hands, so......I'm not saying it was an escape attempt, I'm merely stating that the facts do not rule that scenario out.

Anyway, I heard a weird noise. A sort of sloshy, sudsy kind of noise. A water-running sloshy, sudsy kind of noise. And I smelled the unmistakable odor of too much Tide detergent in the atmosphere. This seemed....odd to me. Unusual, even. So, although I hadn't finished dusting the living room into submission, my spider senses were tingling at such an alarming rate that I decided to stop right then and investigate.

Have I ever mentioned that I am one of those nutjobs that are fascinated by the story of the R.M.S Titanic? The reason I tell you this right here and now is because it will help you to understand why I, after finding the amazing amount of water that had been disgorged by the washer onto the laundry room floor, couldn't keep myself from glimpsing quickly at the laundry room's window to see if an iceberg wasn't sailing by. And, since I have been conditioned from birth to yell at the top of my lungs for the nearest male at the advent of such catastrophes, Lachlan became aware of the situation almost immediately after I did. In a daring feat of swashbuckling bravado, he somehow ran back into the house from the garage, instantly assessed the situation and, in the very best John McClain style, leaped across the ocean of water and made a perfect landing on the washer's lid, pushing the "stop" button with his left pinky toe--all in the space of about 3.5 seconds. (I admit I might be exaggerating this performance a tiny bit....) We looked at each other across the new expanse of Lake Brown more than a little dismayed. The timing of this calamity couldn't have been worse, but Thank God! the derring-do of the Wonder Hubby had at least saved the rest of the house for Democracy.

I must also state for the record that this was not the best time to discover that the sponge mop had somehow adhered itself to the laundry room floor. And here's a tip for all you readers: Wet towels do not sop up vast amounts of sudsy, dirty water. However, we endeavored to persevere, and with the (unwanted) help of the dogs' tongues, we managed to
both get the water sopped up and cure that constipation problem our trusty canines were suffering from. The steely gaze of the Wonder Hubby quickly spotted the problem: The washer hadn't been sideswiped by an iceberg venturing too far south (and inland, for that matter), it had developed a split in the wall of the tub. A very non-fixable split, I might add. So we had to face the awfulness of Major Appliance Shopping immediately. No prep time, no brochures from Homeland Security to help us deal with such an event, not even an instructional video. Crap. I didn't even have a lifebelt on.

Can I say right now, with no fear of any kind of monetary compensation whatsoever, that I am quite enamored of Lowes? First of all, one of their stores is conveniently located within 5 miles of my house. Secondly, they sell washers--good washers. Third, they had one in stock--not one of those that looks like something out of Star Trek, and available for the low, low price equivalent to the building cost of the Starship Enterprise (they have those, I just knew I couldn't blow that kind of money on one.......unless, of course, they'd had one with that "Folding and Putting Away" feature....). No, they had a nice, solid-looking, dependable-looking, top-loading model made by GE that didn't completely blow the budget (we still had 37 cents left), and that Consumer Reports rated as "Probably Not Created by the Anti-Christ to Shred Your Electric Bill". Finally, Lowes delivers washers to your house and hooks it up to your crappy plumbing AND hauls the old one away for free. Which is a wonderful thing when you realize how difficult it is to load one into a Pontiac Bonneville.

So I now possess a very nice, amazingly quiet, new washer; and I can live free from fear of getting any Christmas, birthday, Valentine's Day or Mother's Day gifts for the next five years. Totally worth it, in my estimation.

Besides, the 16 year old dryer has developed the most alarming cough....I'd better contact Homeland Security.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Garden 2009 Review

Hey, how about I take a break from my compulsive over-sharing concerning funerals and my ill attempts attending them to actual talk about my garden? You know, the thing I'm supposed to be writing about? Wouldn't that be a far more enlightening experience for the reader? Yeah, I think so, too.

All in all, I'd have to give this year's garden a B+. We did a lot of experimenting this year--eggplant, strawberries, melons, potatoes and sweet potatoes--and had some very mixed results. The eggplants were amazing, and we have happily added them to our repertoire of cookable goodness (I am now a member in good standing in the Eggplant Parmigiana Club!); we'll have to wait until next year to see results from the strawberries, but the plants themselves grew like mad, so all is hopeful there. I'd always heard that the ground over here on the east side of town had far too much clay in it to allow melons to grow, but we had very good luck with them, and their sweet flavor was every bit as good as anything you'd buy at the grocery store. I want to find a better way to contain the vines--Ha! A research project for this winter! (As if I don't already have about a dozen of those......oh well.)

Our potatoes did terribly. I don't think we got them in the ground early enough, and I don't think we had the bed properly prepared for them. Who would have thought that a potato of all things would be the pickiest plant in the garden? Our sweet potatoes were in the same shape bed-wise, but for a first-time crop, I think they did amazing:

Even as I am typing this, they are currently wrapped up in newspaper and waiting patiently for Thanksgiving on a shelf in one of our cooler storage closets. I am so looking forward to cooking these puppies up!

Now, next year, I think we should separate a section of the garden off for potatoes; dig it out nice and deep, maybe add some more nitrogen to the soil (probably test the soil first, right?) and see if we can't do a little better.

And no one can complain about the performances of our Hall of Fame veggies: The tomatoes, green peppers and cucumbers. I got four batches of tomato sauce out of the garden this year, that's 24 qts. of sauce that we didn't need to buy at the store. And I would've gotten a batch of salsa and/or dices tomatoes if I hadn't spent the month of September in such a bad way. You would think that we'd be set for the Winter when it comes to tomato sauce, wouldn't you? Well, obviously you don't know the Wonder Hubby. Given half a chance, the man would slather chicken and dumplings with homemade tomato sauce. I am on constant vigilance to keep him out of the stuff! ("Lachlan, you don't need tomato sauce for that!" "But, Honey, it'll add a great flavor!" "Not to Fruity Pebbles, it won't!" "Ahhhh-hhh...."

So next year, I am pondering just how to make everything I want to try fit into the garden. And to think, when I started the garden last year, I was afraid I wouldn't have enough stuff to go in it! I want to try all these plants again, I want to plant the so-called "cool weather" plants in the early Spring again. We'll be getting the cold frames out again this year (hopefully this weekend!) and filling them with those wonderful lettuces and greens that graced our February suppers this year. There is something about growing your own greens in the Winter that just makes the season seem less bleak. Knowing that if you want, you can take your scissors and go cut fresh spinach to add to your meal makes the overall bleakness bearable!

Oh, and remember our feral cherry tomato plant, the one that just popped up in one of cold frames uninvited? It did so well--it literally bombarded us with cherry tomatoes!--that I've got this crazy idea about taking one of the frames and trying to grow my tomato and pepper plants for next year's garden from seeds. How off-the-hook is that? (Okay, I know that as far as wild, uncontrollable behavior goes, this idea rates about -14 on a scale of 1 to 10. Indulge me, will you? I don't get out much!)

So, while I'm cleaning out my kitchen shelves the rest of the day, I'm going to be dreaming of next year's garden. Tomorrow I'll tell you about how we put the garden to rest this year, changes we're planning on making, the many improvements on our "Wish List". You could either come back and read my musings, or you could get ambitious and clean out your own shelves......

I take it we have a date?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Grandma's Funeral or "Laughs Pop Up in the Oddest Places"

This is the final installment of this series, I'd like to thank all of those who have been playing along at home. Please remember that I, in no way intend any disrespect, and forgive me if my humor falls flat. Okay, once more, here we go:

So, Halloween morning we found ourselves getting up at Obscene o'Clock to make the pilgrimage southward to Lachlan's birthplace; this being the chosen site for Grandma Mabel's memorial. It is a tiny little town, I'll bet the population stands significantly under a thousand people. It's just another one of those little towns that pepper the Heartland, slowly dying away due to its lack of industry. Which is a shame because it's really quite a lovely little town. I actually quite like it, but Lachlan has a lot of bad memories associated with the place, so we just don't go there. As a matter of fact, the last time we'd been there was for the celebration of Grandma Mabel's 80th birthday, 15 years ago!

Lachlan's mom wanted us there by noon because that was the time that the Baptist Church down there was putting on a lunch for the family. Needless to say, we had to scurry our little butts on the road. After a brief but significant panic (we'd discovered we'd had a pair of Seamus's slacks dry cleaned, not the Wonder Hubby's. Gleek! That won't work! ), Lachlan discovered another pair of dark gray slacks in the innermost depths of one of our storage closets. Quick check of the tag--yup! They're his! AND, they're clean! We're saved! (Thank you, oh God of Tiny Wonders!) Let's go!

We had a cooler in the back seat, filled with snacky goodnesses, we had our good clothes hanging up back there as well (No way I was traveling six hours in a dress and pantyhose. No way!), we hit the road, and had a really nice trip down there. Except for the perpetual roadwork (do you ever think that this will be a pretty nice country if they ever get it done?), the driving was smooth, the weather was good and the company was perfect. The Wonder Hubby had been working eternal overtime prior to this little jaunt (ever since June, really), and since we both reallyreally like being together, we were in good spirits. Having such a good time, in fact, that I almost felt a little guilty about it--I mean, really, are you supposed to enjoy the trip to a funeral? Doesn't that get you in the 1/2 level of Hell or something--or maybe Cloud 13? Well, we'll worry about that later. We deftly made our way around Oklahoma City--no one in their right mind would go through Oklahoma City; besides, the last time we did that, we'd driven through a tornado which is in itself another story for another time. Then traveling southwest for another hour or so, we made it to the magnificent metropolis of the Wonder Hubby's birth. Okay, Step One--done!

Finding the church was no problem for a guy who'd spent every Sunday and Wednesday night of his first eighteen years on the planet there, believe me. We stopped and parked in front of the church's gymnasium that they'd built in the past few years, and coincidentally, the site of the family luncheon. (Yeah, figure that one out: The town itself is dying by slow, excruciating inches, yet the Baptist Church can afford to build an education annex complete with gymnasium. If that doesn't scream "Small Southern town", what does?) Taking a deep breath, we initiated Step Two: Presentation of Selves to Family/Community.

In spite of the fact that neither one of us had a chance to change into proper clothing, my mother-in-law insisted on presenting us to each and every individual that was at the luncheon, including the Church ladies who were supplying the lunch. Thanks!! I didn't even have any makeup on, I had jeans and a long-sleeved shirt and black tennies; Lachlan, jeans and a T; but, nevermind, we must be paraded before the masses for inspection. *le sigh* Finally, after meeting people I will undoubtedly never, ever see again, instantly forgetting their names, managing a quick squeeze for the Wonder Hubby's brother and sister-in-law, we got to sit down and eat. Noms!! One thing I'll say about Southern Church Ladies: They can coo-oo-ookk!!! And this was just good old-fashioned comfort/funeral food, too! Y'all with those roots know what I'm talking about, right?--there was even deviled eggs and that homemade chocolate cake that no mix can ever replicate.

Okay, managed to get through lunch without dropping anything, hitting anyone with the flak, or making an utter fool of myself. Good! Found a place to change clothes, put on makeup--damn! No full length mirror. Have to rely on the Wonder Hubby. Out the women's bathroom door to find the spouse, who, of course, looks awesomely handsome in sports coat, slacks and dress shirt (You sure do clean up good, Honey!). Got his assurances on my respectability, time to head across the street to the funeral home. Step Three--here we come.

The Funeral itself: Small storefront-converted-to-Funeral-Home (the last time we'd been there, it had been a Woodwards.....which is yet another story for another time), it was crowded with a whole bunch more people I didn't know. The mother-in-law promptly starts introducing yet more people I will never see again and providing more promptly-forgotten names while simultaneously handing each of us a copy of the little program they always hand out at these things. We managed to look around a bit, noticed that our favorite photo of Grandma Mabel was the primary portrait on display, to both our pleasure. They were also displaying one of her many wondrous quilts as well. Grandma was an incredibly talented lady: She could sew, crochet, quilt, she cast and paint ceramics--envy!! Then, Lachlan's stepdad asks, "Do you want to go and view the body?"

Erm, no, actually. I hate that part. That is not the way I want to remember someone........but social customs prevail, don't they? So, we duly trudged into another room with pews, a small podium and the casket containing Grandma. Only it wasn't Grandma, not really. I saw a very tiny little figure laying in a casket that seemed about two sizes too big for it, but whatever it was that made Grandma Mabel the woman she was, wasn't there. On the wall behind the casket was a flat-screen TV that had some sort of slide show going on. It looked like a montage of photos taken during Grandma Mabel's life--with a preponderance of pictures of my mother-in-law in the various stages of her life. Hmmm, wonder who put that together? ( I think I saw one picture of Lachlan's uncle and family.) Seemed a bit odd to me, but okay, whatever. Then, and don't expect me to understand this because I don't have a clue why they did it this way, everyone had to leave the room with the pews and the slide show and the casket so that the funeral home's employees could close the casket. Two minutes after being shooed out, we were told it was time for the service, so we all trudged back in. Weird.

Now, this next bit is going to sound a little off-course, but bear with me, okay? The name on my birth certificate reads "Lisa Renee", which doesn't matter a tinker's damn because no one ever calls me by that name. Seriously. When I was growing up, my parents called me "Sis", or "Sister", or "Tex" (another one of those different stories for a different time.) My brother called me "Sissy". Even my friends in junior high and high school used to call me "L". Only those with whom I have a somewhat formal relationship with, i.e, teachers, doctors, professors, law enforcement (oops), have ever called me "Lisa". This puzzled me for many years and I couldn't figure out why this was so. Finally, though, I think I got it: You see, Lisa Renee is a French name, and if you look at me or any of my pictures, you realize that I am the most Irish-looking Frenchwoman on the planet. Let's face it, I'm misnamed. Just like the shrew named Harmony, or the 250-lb. dude named Shirley, my name doesn't fit me. My dad used to tell me that he'd named me for two Hong Kong prostitutes he'd met after the Korean War (which would send my mother flying for the White Out and my birth certificate every single time!), but no, he actually named me for the two daughters of a North Dakotan rancher he'd worked for as a teenager. There are a lot of people of French descent up there, for some reason; to my knowledge, there isn't one ounce of French blood in me.

The reason I bring this up now, is because when the local Baptist preacher got up to memorialize Grandma Mabel, he, at one point, listed her many survivors. "She is survived by her son, H" he intoned in a voice that only a Southern preacher has, and went on to list Lachlan's Uncle's sons, daughter, and in-laws. "And her daughter, J" he said, "and son-in-law, C; as well as her grandsons, D and Lila Brown, and D and M Brown."

See? I AM misnamed! It's official. Lila. Makes you think of some blue-haired older woman wearing cat's eye eyeglasses with the rhinestones in the corners, doesn't it? You know, the woman who smokes her cigarettes on a very long cigarette holder and has a voice reminiscent of Harvey Firestein's? Perfect. Now, remember that bit I talked about yesterday? How I'm known for giggling inappropriately at funerals? You guessed it, Lachlan and I were cracking up.

But silently, oh so silently.

We couldn't look at each other for fear of losing it. I looked at the ceiling, the newly-closed casket, the now-blank flat screen tv--anything but my wonderful hubby. And he did the same. And just when we were starting to regain some semblance of control and sense of propriety, the preacher announce that C's niece would now get up and sing a medley of Grandma's favorite Christian hymns. At which, a rather buxom, dyed-red haired woman about my age got up and went to the podium. Someone in the back of the room cranked up the karaoke machine (or whatever it was that played the canned music), and she took a deep breath and proceeded to regale us with her um, vocal abilities.

Now, I'm sure that, in her prime, this lady could sing like a nightingale. I'm sure that she not only could sing like there was no tomorrow, but that the mere sound of her voice was enough to stop fights, make the World turn a little easier, even cure influenza. But that was then, the Present is a whole 'nother Story. I honestly didn't know that there was a key of H. I really didn't. Nor did I know that the human voice was capable of hitting it, but by Golly, this woman managed it. Some of the notes she hit were so sour that the flowery tributes displayed tastefully around the casket actually cringed. A quick glance upward confirmed for me that those notes were, indeed, getting stuck in the ceiling's insulation, where they would fester away and rot the roof over the winter. So much for looking at my husband: We both were struggling valiantly to keep our bodies perfectly still and our faces utterly emotionless. And the worst part was that I was sitting right next to my father-in-law who was proudly beaming at his niece the whole time. No relief there! Oh, Gods help me or the whole church was going to meet us as left the building to teach us the proper manners!!

And the Gods, being kind, did help us. But the Gods, being perverse, did in a very roundabout way. To be perfectly honest, I wasn't listening to the preacher much, but I couldn't help but notice that after the singing, my husband has quickly turned from being amused to agitated. I shot a quick glance at him, he had that Look. You know, That Look. The one that says "Manslaughter is a Sentence I can Live with". I was, needless to say, surprised. What was up with that? Tuning into the preacher, I quickly realized that instead of lauding the accomplishments of this wonderful little woman, instead of celebrating her life with the proper tribute, he had instead taken the opportunity to throw in a lengthy infomercial for Jesus Christ. Instead of honoring Grandma Mabel, he was inviting everyone there to take this very moment and right here, right now, accept Jesus as your Personal Savior. Why do they always do that? Don't they realize what they're doing? I mean, if I cared to do so, couldn't it wait until after the funeral? Really? I think Jesus could hold on until then, I really do. Do they know I'm there? Is that it? Would they skip that part if I wasn't there, because believe me, I'll absent myself from the situation if it will spare everyone else from hearing that again. Happily.

Fortunately, the sermon didn't last long. The graveside service was even shorter, and unlike what you would experience at a funeral with my family, there were no dramatics. We made it through. We said goodbye. I finally got to see where Lachlan's father was buried, and I was happy to see that he's right next to Grandma and Grandpa because he wasn't from around there originally, and I was a little afraid that he'd been buried amongst strangers. We even saw that one set of Lachlan's great-grandparents were interred nearby. A family plot. That's cool and oddly comforting.

We lingered in town for as little a time that could be considered polite. Then we changed back into ourselves, jumped in the car and headed home. We got back long after the trick-or-treaters were done--realized that we had way too much Halloween candy left over--decided to worry about it later, and hit the bed. We were both beat, but feeling pretty good about it. Success!

Sunday afternoon, while regaling son Seamus with the details of the whole funeral experience, the Wonder Hubby handed me one of those little funeral programs. Silently, he pointed to the back page where there was a little essay on Mabel's life and family. And there, in the list of her survivors, I could clearly read that among them were her "Grandson, D, and wife, Lila Brown".