Pork Chop Dinner

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Diane pulled into my driveway five minutes early so I did not have a chance to push the snow shovel down the walk from the porch to the driveway, and instead I leaned the shovel against the house and locked the door and carefully made my way to get into her car.  She had been to the drug store and said she’d go past my street anyway, so she offered to drive, which was nice.  We went on to my parish for the Saturday evening vigil Mass to be followed by the annual Pork Chop dinner.  The event is actually called Mardi Gras, even though it is actually on Saturday, which is more convenient for all.

Now that the former school building has been sold, we may not walk through it to the large activity center on the other side of the building.  We walk from the church, across the parking lot, down the alley and to the Activity Center building – which is a hike.  Diane wanted to drive around to the parking lot on the other side, but we found there wasn’t a single parking space, and went back to the church parking lot and walked the walk.  It was cold and the rain was turning to ice, as predicted and the sky was foggy.   Once inside and seated we began to thaw out and we marked our seats leaving our coats there before going for beverages.  Shortly after that we saw the queue for the dinner, so we took our tickets and joined the line.  The aromas from the cooking were tantalizing.

Once our plates were filled and we collected a roll, butter and a small salad, we wound our way back to the table.  Diane commented that the man playing the accordion always played for another group she is in as well and I told her he is also always at the Slovak Dinner that I get invited to in June every year.  He’s also played at the Garfield Hts. Civic Center when they used to have craft fairs there before Christmas.   She said he had a heart attack last summer and I said I thought he looked a little different.  The music was unaffected by his trauma.

The pork chops, mashed potatoes, gravy and green beans were excellent but we did save a tad of space for a sampling of the array of sweets lined up at the dessert table.  I asked Diane if she saved some energy to do some polka dancing and she just laughed, surprised that I would ask.  We bundled back up and left the music and raffle tickets for the remainder of the crowd.   Once back at the alley, Diane said I should just wait and she would get her car and come back for me, which she did.  She dropped me back off and waited until I opened the front door before leaving.

It was a pleasant evening and the meal was delicious, but I was glad to be back home.

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Like Flying

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Watching skiing on television as a child, I remember being in awe thinking that skiing must be like flying.  The opportunity to actually try this sport did not open up to me until I was in my late twenties and went with a group of friends to a ski resort in California.  As we got closer to the area in our car, I remember being terrified of being set loose on a mountainside of snow.

My fear soon dissolved when I actually took lessons and got pulled by rope up the “bunny slope” and took my time with the group as we skied and fell and kept trying over and over, for a couple of days until we felt brave enough to ride the lift and try our luck among the more accomplished folks.  There were also people who had less experience and one of them caught her ski on mine as we left the lift and it was I who fell.  As the pain raced up my tailbone, she joked about my falling on my behind.   I never graduated from the beginner level, but I did grow to enjoy my limited efforts on the slopes.

My niece enjoyed skiing to a much greater degree and with full support from her parents she developed the skill to a level that she became a competitive ski racer.  She collected a drawer full of medals before she was twenty.

From the comfort of my favorite spot for watching television I am mesmerized by the Olympic level athletes as they fly across the screen in front of me at what looks like terrifying speeds on very steep terrains.  I find I am holding my breath until they finish the courses and I am horrified if anyone falls and gets hurt.

The events for the night (night here but day in South Korea) end and I turn off the television set and spend a little time checking e-mail and things on the computer before settling down for the night.  Images of figures flying through the air cross my sleep laden horizons and there I ski with them.

Beige Skates

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In the process of clearing out the home my parents lived in for forty years, I found my father’s black ice skates with the pointed blades, up in the basement rafters.  They were not in bad shape considering how old they were.

While I was sitting on a chair in my basement a few days ago, I looked straight across the room and saw my own ice skates.  Looking at the beige skates with the rounded and notched front blades, the history of those skates slowly seeped across my mind.

The year I was nineteen years old I was dating a young man who enjoyed ice skating and wanted to teach me how to do it.  Roller skating was something I had enjoyed since childhood but I never learned to ice skate.  I bought the beige shoe skates at the department store where I had been working since I graduated from high school.

Kenny picked me up and when we got to Forest Hills pond he helped me into the skates and laced them up for me and off we went.  It didn’t take too long before I got the hang of it and about half way through our session, we took a hot chocolate break.

I believe the last time I used the skates was when I took my two year old daughter to an ice rink to see if it was something she’d enjoy.  She had a good fall and that was the end of that.  In her teen years she and her brother both did the in-line skating with the neighborhood kids until they both gave that up for skate boards.

Although I never skated again, I still enjoyed watching the professionals do it well.  One year my cousin Theresa had some tickets to an ice show downtown and treated me to one of the performances.

With the ice skating competitions in process before the 2018 Olympic Games even began, I found that I did not recognize the names of the current generation of skaters and a handful of the ones I used to watch are now the commentators on the younger players as they take the stage.

Sighing as I looked at the now old beige skates, I put them into a plastic bag and carried them up the steps to put where I would remember to take them to a donation box.  The temptation is strong to march them right back to their place in the basement, but I know I will have to be strong and let them go, in the hope that some other youngster may use them.

Between Bouts

"Oh yeah...winter. Now I remember!"

Last Sunday was chilly but dry and very sunny.  All of the brush and trees are dormant with drab brown colors, not a day I felt inspired to go walking to find pictures that need to be taken, so I went to Target and later to Walmart to look around just in case there was anything I needed, on sale before their year-end inventory.

After walking around in Target and feeling that I at least got some exercise out of the process, I went on to the other store and what I ended up buying was in the edible category, but there too, I got some exercise and was glad to be home a few hours later.  With the weather prohibiting my shopping during the single digit temperatures, now my curiosity was satisfied I won’t get the urge to go to the malls again for another six months, so I can get other things done instead.  Yet, it was nice to have a little time out from routine and to see what is new in retail.

This evening I met Diane and Kay at the Knights of Columbus hall for a chicken paprikas dinner, which was pretty good and filling.  We signed up for the end of February dinner of beef stroganoff.  Of course if there is a foot of snow, we will miss it.

The availability of weather reports, and for the smarter phones, Aps for alerts and minute by minute changes in weather tracking, is amazing.  For the last two years I have found myself scheduling appointments, lunches, even whether to go to the office or not depending on storm predictions and if the street has been plowed or not.  Even when there has been an accumulation of snow, if the street is completely visible, I head out confidently, as I did this week both Monday and Tuesday.  The good news is that the winter is half over.

Agenda by Weather

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On Sunday evening I checked the Cinemark show times to see when The Post would be showing on Monday, the senior discount day.   The earliest one was at 12:55 p.m. and the next at four p.m.  I called Diane to let her know and also pointed out that the weather forecast said we would be getting snow starting at 2:00 p.m.  She said she could make the 12:55 show and figured we’d be in and out before the brunt of the storm hit.   I was not as convinced as she was and did not look forward to struggling along the short drive home.  On the other hand, how much of life was I shutting out by deciding not to brave a little snowstorm?  If Diane wasn’t concerned, why should I be?  Dragging my heels, I said I’d call her by noon on Monday if I was not going.  In fact she called me just before noon to see what I decided and I said I would forge ahead.  It was getting a bit grey as I drove to the theatre complex.

The movie was easy to get involved in and when we headed back to our cars, we found that there was a fine rain/snow mix falling and not yet sticking to the pavement, so we then agreed to re-convene at Arby’s.  She always keeps the fast food coupons in her car just in case.

At the restaurant we studied the coupons and we both decided on the turkey sandwich and the small mint chocolate chip shake.  Both were very tasty and filling and with the coupons came to $4.31 for each of us.

By the time we finished our repast the snow was sticking and we had to brush off our car windows.  The Arby’s is very close to my home, so I was very thankful to pull into my garage and then the house and park the wet snowy boots, cap and jacket.

Once I was in comfy at home clothes and looking out the window, I was glad for the chance to have been out but so glad to be home.  The snow fell all evening and in the morning the plow made a few passes but the street was still thickly coated.

A Cup of Prevention

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The flu has become so rampant this year that thirty-seven children have died from it already, according to today’s news, and in some cases, a patient had been diagnosed, and within two days was dead.  Now that is scary!

The Saturday before last in Church there was a man a couple of pews ahead of me who started coughing so hard he had to sit down and cough some more.  I noticed he wasn’t there last weekend.  He really should not have come the week before either, risking the spread of whatever almost doubled him up with coughing.

It doesn’t have to be winter for me to make a pot of soup, but when it is cold and dreary outside, I feel especially lucky to be able to pull out the big cauldron, fill it 2/3rds  with water, add spices and a generous spoon of dry soup base and let it come to a boil before adding soup meat.  Once that is boiling I start adding other ingredients, like diced onion, about half of a small bag of barley; (that is a lot of barley for some people, but not too much for me) 3 ribs of celery diced, 3 carrots whole, tomato sauce, and after all of that is beginning to smell good, I shred about half of a cabbage and add it to the mix by the hand full and last of all I add a can of red kidney beans.   After a total of about an hour of cooking and the soup is smelling SO good, I turn off the heat and just let it sit there until I am ready to ladle a portion out into one of my big soup mugs.  Then slowly, so I don’t burn my lips or tongue, I sip it from the spoon.  I am convinced that soup like this keeps me well.

Eating fresh fruit and drinking enough water and getting a good night’s sleep are also important.  I also keep vitamin supplements handy along with chewable zinc and a jar of Vicks which I apply to my throat and wrap an old kerchief around should a hint of sore throat feel like it is sneaking up on me.  Recently I heard on health hints on some news program that rinsing the throat with warm salt water works too.  Back when I was pregnant with my daughter, it was the only remedy for my then very bad sore throat that my doctor would condone.  Now that my children are grown and gone, I have learned that honey is better than any over the counter cough medicine.  I probably could have paid at least a semester of college tuition with what I spent on cough and allergy medicines.

I am also a believer in getting the flu shots every year and have heard that even if the shot of the year isn’t the most effective for the strain of the day, getting the shot every year helps build up a resistance to the flu.

It doesn’t hurt to have had healthy parents and I believe what I heard on PBS many moons ago that the Neanderthal genes we still carry in our DNA also contribute to healthy immune systems.

Cochinchina

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Cochinchina was the name attributed to the region of Viet Nam colonized by the French long before the Americans became enmeshed in the war in Viet Nam.  This fragment of memory has stayed with me since I studied East Asian History at Foothill Junior College in Los Altos Hills, California.  There are many articles on the internet about how long the French tried to institute themselves in that part of the world, wanting to expand their territory as the Dutch and English had in India, however, not as successfully.  From that class I also had the impression that the French involvement was somehow what led America into that tragic war.  The one lasting influence left by the French there and in other parts of the world has been their language, still spoken, while the societies are not otherwise, French.

There is so much going on in our world today, that it is difficult at best, to keep abreast of current events, never mind remembering what actually happened and who did or said what even though the news casts drum the stories into our heads daily and these issues and wars and crimes have a direct impact on our lives.

Perhaps studying history is the only way to get a grip on the past and what really happened.  Diane and I went to see the movie The Post yesterday and while I remember names like Daniel Ellsberg and others from that era, I was astonished to learn just how intense the experiences of the Washington Post and The New York Times and their journalists were, just a few decades ago.

A movie like this is a reminder of how important the role of newspapers has been and while so much news has gone digital, the few remaining giants should not be allowed to fade into the past.