Sunday, September 28, 2008

Home Again to a High School Reunion

Today's Sunday Parade Magazine (in the papers) featured James Grady's article,"You Can Go Home Again." He wrote about high school reunions and how it is different as the years go on. It struck me as I am looking toward a 50th in 2012 (how did we get this old?) in PA.

He wrote, "Reunions change reality..The 10 year reunion is about impressing your former peers...showing them you made it...By the 20th get to just be yourself." At his 40th, "we hugged. The hugs meant we were still here." That's wisdom, to appreciate being here and to know what matters.

So I suppose we will really be ourselves at a 50th; after all who else would we be? By this stage of our age we surely know who we are. And if we are not comfortable in our own skin by now, look out!

I can remember some things about our 10th reunion that made me wonder where those jerks came from; especially one bozo who hit on me because he knew my husband was back in CA & here I was back home alone. As if I'd be grateful in his interest or him! Today I can't even remember his name, just the incident. I expect this time we will really enjoy each other.

This is the good thing about being comfortable in your skin, no need to impress. It's why I can ride my bike a couple miles to Curves in the morning, work out, and stop at the grocery store on my way home. All without a lick of makeup or hairdo. Actually it's more of a hair don't as I get out of bed, muddle a bit and take off.

I can remember that there was a time I'd never have done this. After aerobic classes I'd spiff up and always be sure there was a gloss over my lips. In CA I never ventured into town after gardening without mascara and lipstick; now I really don't care. In fact I like my au naturel look. So easy. I do the same while traveling in the motor home. I quit off all make up on our drives; Jerry's seen me in the natural for over 41 years, so if it doesn't bother him or me no one else matters. And if we stop somewhere, well, so?

Once in awhile though on the drives I think, "well I'd like better what I see in the mirror with a bit of mascara and gloss." So I do it for myself. I have saved gobs of $$ on foundations and blushes, eye shadows, all those frou frous that once upon a time I was fond of. Oh I still will make up but less. It's a blessing of aging--comfort in one's skin.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Recycling and PA

One of my friends sent me an email recently with tidbits and sayings unique to where I grew up, Pennsylvania. Perhaps I should correct that to PA was where I was born and raised because I really believe (as Jerry avows) that I did most of my growing up in CA through trials and turmoils from the age of 19. My life is proof that there really is a God and he intends good for us. Sometimes Jerry will say that I am still not grown up. Well last night I heard a 112 year old man on TV who made good time with his walker say that to live long one must keep using the mind and body. So if I do those things that cause some mind or body stress to myself or others, maybe that's my way to keep young.

We celebrated the 60th Applefest here in La Crescent Thursday through Sunday. It was a busy time and a hold over from the days when this really was the apple capital of MN. Now most of the orchards are gone to housing developments as the farmers became aware there was more money in selling out and off than working the orchards. All the small town activities and then some are available, craft show, flea market, antique car display, big small parade, kiddie events, crowning Miss La Crescent, etc. Right down our street at the "Hockey Rink--Community Center" is where the carnival and all musical activities (loud bands) convene. Our house is so solid with thick walls that we seldom hear anything outside even the near by high school football games don't phase us inside, but during Apple Fest the dark air and clear weather seem to carry the sound right into the house. The reverberating beats of some bands is more pleasant than others..We employed the philosophy, "If you can't beat 'em join 'em" this weekend by walking down the street through the carnival and to the beer tent and food vendors.

I noticed they were pouring a William Penn beer and so being from PA, I was curious. I mean we PA'ers know William Penn, our state Quaker founder of Penn's Woods. But I did not expect to find a mention of him here in MN, nor across the river in WI. Sure enough there was the face of William, but the beer is brewed across the river in La Crosse, WI. Don't ask me why they chose that name. Is it because the La Crosse Brewery bought out the PA brewery or was it the other way around? Anyway, I am more adventuresome than Jerry at trying out different beers--he's a beer purist and prefers his Bud or Busch. Wm. Penn is a bitter tasting darker more toward the ale flavor. I liked it and enjoyed several over the weekend, especially with the cheese curds. Cheese curds are a WI phenomena. At least no where else in the country have I had these. When fresh, the best, they squeak in your mouth on your teeth when you eat them. Then being WI, land of the hearty they take a good fattening product and make it more so. I know what you're thinking, but don't even try to substitute mozzarella sticks for fried cheese curds. Fried curds hand dipped in a batter and deep fried, so that you get a good crunch to melting cheese when you eat them. Well you get a ton of fat calories and a significant increase in cholesterol too, but somethings have to be sacrificed for enjoyment. I figured that I'd walked off enough calories the full weekend.

Saturday night we both worked at our Legion's steak fry. I'm an officer in the auxiliary thanks to a friend who keeps dragging me into things. Since we were in town this time, I was obligated to help. And if I'm going to and Jerry is standing near at the time of the volunteerism, he gets conscripted too. Conscripted, isn't that a colonial term? There's that PA heritage again. Back to the steak event where we served about 300 people between 5:00and 8:00PM. We were waiters/waitresses/bus persons, etc. That was a long time on the feet and busy. I always think that all my working out has me in great shape until I'm tasked like that, then I'm worn out for a couple days and wonder how come?

Last week, I also accomplished a bucket goal (From the movie, "The Bucket List") to walk across the Mississippi River on the Bridge between La Crosse and La Crescent. We are enjoying the best weather--80 degree days and crisp mornings. On Wednesday a friend visited and we hiked down our back hill and around the road to a new restaurant where we enjoyed coffee and scones. I invited her to come along on my walk over the bridge. She declined and Jerry was not at all receptive. So off I went--it's over a mile there and another mile+ across the river and then back. Quite the walk for a day. See photo for just a glimpse of the beauty of the area--you'd want to walk too!

Somehow with these activities I've aggravated a muscle or something in my shin and foot. It doesn't hurt much except at night, though when it aches like the dickens. It's improving and has meant my taking it easy and giving up my bike riding and work out for a couple days. Proof again that my mind is younger than my body. And I recall doing something like this once or twice before. One should learn to not recycle old hurts, or reinjure.

I think of PA a lot more than I ever did. Partially because we live closer now and partly because of my refound friends. I almost wrote recycled friends but how can you do that? I suppose that could become the new rage--recycled friends, just like everything else that is recycled today.

Recently I noticed that AVON is selling the old plastic big hair rollers. Talk about something to not recycle--big hair and rollers. I really prefer my wash and blow dry do to setting my hair around plastic rollers to get volume. But there before my eyes is the proof--and it's touted as a new beauty secret. Sheesh! A couple years ago I was taking a class at UW La Crosse about literature. As an assignment we had to write a short story about something. I wrote "Hairscapades" about my life with my hair, big, blond, long, short, wigs, teased, permed, etc. You name it this head's had it. It wasn't too long ago while I was still in CA career land that I'd occasionally give my self a pouf in the mornings by using some of those plastic netty type rollers in my hair while I was in the shower. But now to even think of the hard plastic rollers and long hair, hmph, hey, faah-ged 'bout it(forget about is the translation for non- PA'ers.)

A few weeks ago a young man at our church asked me where I was from to which I looked at him with a "what do you mean?" He explained, "well I can tell you aren't from here by the way you talk." Of course, I'm not a MN sounding, "sure, yah, you betcha, uff'da." It's hard for me to answer that question and I generally respond that I'm from CA because I spent more time there than PA. Sometimes I feel I should give my background, so I reply explaining my 40+ years in CA and 19 in PA give me a unique sound. I think I have no PA accent at all when I hear folks from there. But sometimes it comes out. When I was singing in a quartet in CA my voice coach spotted it right away. She worked to get it out of my musicality. Sometimes after I've been to PA I readopt some expressions, like, "you guys. " In PA, 'You guys' is a perfectly acceptable reference to a group of men and women.

One PA colloquialism unique to the Pittsburgh area is "younse." If I hear that anywhere in the world, I know I've encountered a Pittsburgher. Or should I say, Picksburgher, as the locals. Once in an airport in Dallas, I heard a man say it and asked "You're from Pittsburgh?" To which he replied "How'd djah know?"

Another phenomena that I do, is refer to Pennsylvania as 'PA'(pronounced Pee-ay) and that makes heads cock. How many other states do that? None that I've visted. Other PA facts:You know that Blue Ball, Intercourse, Paradise , Climax, Bird-in-Hand, Beaver, Moon, Virginville, Mars, and Slippery Rock are PA towns. (and the first three were consecutive stops on the Reading RailRoad). A few years ago back in PA to tend to my aunt while she had surgery I took her for a longer than planned ride. We went to a festival at Sharpsburg and on the return trip ended up in Mars. We had a good laugh about that. But look at those names again, those coal miners had active sex lives! And finally, you must be a Pennsylvanina if you know and recognize a township, borough and commonwealth....

All these terms are now recycled to me--things I once said and did and knew about and now have returned with more frequency. Our local newspaper tthe LaCrosse Tribune is running a weekly history feature for the schools about the Presidents. I discover that my PA learning has endured because I really can fill in the blanks and match the correct President with the correct little known facts. I attribute this recycled knowledge to what was taught in the PA schools.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Lipstick and pigs in the mud

I don't know about you but these days I've thought about lipstick more than I have the last many months. Beginning with Sarah's "lipstick" and yesterday Ob(s)ama's pigs, lipstick seems to be making a comeback. For quite some time all I've worn is lip gloss or lip balm. Lipstick wears off easily and smudges the cup or glass I'm using. I can never keep it on and might start out with some color which is all gone soon. I can keep some balm or gloss in my pocket and smooth it on in a second. Besides I prefer a glossy shine that plumps up my lips.

When I first heard Osama's remark I didn't get that it might be a veiled insult. It took me about 15 minutes. That's fairly quick for me. I'm slow that way. There's an advantage to not "getting" certain distasteful or off color jokes and stories. I can look at the teller with the quizzical, "huh." Others around might be uncomfortable or might even laugh but often when it is just downright something I'd rather not hear my natural proclivity to not understand serves me well. Jerry attributes it to my being blond and Polish.

During my career days, I had a framed cartoon hanging in my office. It featured a big sloppy pig angrily rising out of the mud. The caption, "Never try to teach a pig to sing, it wastes your time and it annoys the pig." So watch out Osama-bama, you have annoyed the pig in the mud. The polls show it.

No one mentions that the polls currently showing that 76% of blacks will vote for Obama might reflect black pride or reverse racism. We dare not insinuate that blacks would only vote for him because he's one of them. Yeah I know whites and others are also on his bandwagon. It has perplexed me since he started to campaign why he has never presented himself biracial, but ran with the black. That's his choice. But when women gather round Sarah suddenly we are wrong; we are just going with a "woman" because we are one. That's reverse sexism! And another thing, we can't even use the expression "pot calling the kettle black" for fear of that being considered racist. What a tangled web we've woven with political correctness.

Now I'm not for Sarah just because she is a woman. I felt stuck with McCain who was not my candidate, but the alternative did not appeal to me. I was initially disappointed when I heard Sarah's selection for vice president. But you know what, the more I see her and the more I learn the more I like her. Why not? Nope I don't agree with her stands on everything. I am not a single issue voter; I believe in choice but I find that I have to vote my fiscal conservative views first. And how about Sarah choosing to have her Down's syndrome baby. Now that is choice. Why are some of us offended, if we believe in a woman's right to choose, she did just that. Here we have in Sarah the ultimate working mom.

I am currently reading John McCain's book, "Hard Call." It is about the art of great decision making and uses stories of individuals through out history to demonstrate the eight criteria John considers essential to making great decisions. This is the kind of book I relish, history with reflections for today. So far I have read about Alexander Graham Bell, Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey, Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, Marshall Fields, Werner von Braun, and others. Two qualities John considers essential in decisions are risk taking and timing. I think he has followed his own criteria choosing Sarah.

When Hillary was running I considered her. But her Bill baggage and her views just didn't wash with mine in many ways. Yet my friends have heard me say "I sure would love to vote for a woman for President before I croak."

So now along comes refreshing lipstick toting Sarah who carries the reform torch. Friends in Alaska are crazy about her. Her approval rating exceeds any other governor. Well she has something going for her. And maybe we do too now. I'm about as happy as that pig rolling in the mud watching the liberal "news" media be offended because they did not have advance notice; I heard Sally Quinn say, "we should have known about this months ago." Why? Translate that to they couldn't be ready to smear. The element of surprise at its best.

So let's keep our lipstick fresh, add the gloss and keep a big smile for Sarah. As for the other side, watch out for the angry rising pigs. As for Osama, Sarah is a far better shot than Dick Cheney and she can dress down the kill besides.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Apple pie season in MN

Simple Simon met a pie man going to the fair.....Just two days back on Thursday and Friday my friend Rachel and I made and baked 67 apple pies for our church to sell on Saturday at the city wide rummage sale. This was a repeat of our prior year feat when a farmer donated hundreds of pounds of dropped apples from the floods and some church hands gleaned them. We couldn't ignore that gift, somehow Rachel and I were conscripted to open a Methodist bakery. Maybe it's cause we are both retired and known as good cooks. Maybe it's that we are too willing to go along and help. But this is the last time...we are now officially out of business and I have recorded this on the web so that next year I can look back and vividly recall. Rachel and I are either slow learners or we are living proof of the adage that time heals all wounds including tired feet and legs and hands.

September and late August begin apple harvest here in this corner of MN which used to be the apple capital of the state. Now most of those orchards are gone to housing development. But the tradition of baking apple pies, apple squares and apple cakes continues. I don't know what's my excuse because I am not from here. Shades of the past and Apple Hill from CA. Or is it the recollection of the PA stories of Johnny Appleseed. Something about the first crisp coolness to the air and the memories of aroma of apple pies brings out our rolling pins.

We announced our retirement to all including her hubby, Glen, who helped us by peeling apples and who thought we could do this again this year. He recalled it being "fun" last year. I'm in charge of procurement which means making a Sam's run for 50 # sugar, 50 # flour, 12 # Crisco, 3 # butter and a large container of cinnamon and allspice. Then the local Woodman's for the pie tins. Glen purchased 70 # of apples, 40 # more than I wanted. But he considers this an outing of sociability and fun! That's because he sits on a stool and uses the apple peeling machine while I wash, cut and core apples, mix them with the sugar, cinnamon, allspice and flour and Rachel makes and rolls the crusts and slips the pies in and out of the oven. The day wraps with our massive clean up of the church kitchen and utensils. Glen says we are the three musketeers--I think we are the three stooges!

After standing on our feet for two long days in a row, 8:00AM till 5:30 PM I believe I've toughened up from last year. Thursday evening I was able to go to my monthly women's Bunko game and didn't feel too worn out. Oh those few glasses of Pinot wine hit the spot and rejuvenated me to shake those dice. I sure could have slept in longer Friday morning but there was not time to slip back and count apples jumping over the fences. By Friday evening I knew we had done something as did Rachel's feet and my arthritic right hand. So we advised Glen to sell the remaining bags of apples at the sale the next day and we closed up at 5:30 Friday. Slave labor ends.

All this to benefit our Missions committee with funds to distribute to needy deserving causes. I'm not even on that committee but I do this so Rachel won't be the lone ranger pie maker. Last year we had a little help both days but this year one gal's husband is facing hip replacement surgery and had presurgery appointments with him. Others did not answer their phones. Likely they remember last year's shifts and played "nobody home" when they saw my number on caller id. Our pastor's wife helped out for a few hours on Thursday taking pity on us and using this as a chance to get to know us.

Oh we make it pleasant and have several laughs. At the end of the day, we look like sugar and spice and not so nice. I thought I was the solitary sloppy cook--I am just like my grandma who wore whatever she cooked. Rachel does just the same; hoisting one 25 # sack of flour she overshot her bowl and somehow nearly dipped her nose in the sack. As it was she had flour on her glasses, through her hair. Well it didn't show up as she has white hair.

The pies were better this year and sold for $10 to $8. Last year one elderly lady who volunteered to help was stingy with the apples. She made Frisbees or pancakes, not pies. So Rachel tried to adjust some the next day by adding apples and remaking. We gave up and those pies nearly ruined our reputation. This year we knew we could regain it, but we did not solicit help widely lest she show up again. With volunteers you have to take what comes.

Friday while baking the aroma enticed sale of five pies from a small group meeting at our church. Saturday the men have a brat cook where the town comes out to feed amidst garage sale mania. Jerry & I went up to eat lunch. They also sold slices of pies this year. Finding no rummage of interest or vital calling, I even bought one of my own pies to bring home....well you wouldn't think I'd want to make another pie after home after this two day event. And there was Jerry drooling because unlike last year I'd not brought any samples home. We ate them ourselves to be sure we were not making inferior merchandise. Our pastor joined us for lunch Thursday and ate pie too. Friday he returned at lunch and sat smiling. But Friday there was no "free pie." The lure of the aroma did him in so he opened his wallet to buy a pie against his wife's advice that he did not need to eat pie every day. Makes you wonder if Eve really was tempted with just an apple hanging on the tree or if that slithery serpent baked an apple pie and the aroma was just irresistible.

It will take a couple days yet for my hand to be right again, and then I'll be making our own pies. I'd already made one apple pie and one pan of French apple squares a couple weeks ago. But for a couple days here in recovery mode, I'd just as soon not see an apple or the rolling pin.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Margie Sway

I wonder how we adapt traits that make us become like those who are not DNA relations? And just what traits are genetic? For a long time I've wondered about what's genetic and what's environmental? I also wonder about how much environmental is needed to be influential?

Aunt Marge in 1941,  before marriage
Today I thought about my Aunt Marge; she was my aunt because she married Uncle Carl, Mom's brother. Aunt Marge died in 1997 and Uncle Carl is still going strong living on his own in Lower Burrel, PA at the age of 89. I sure wish he would consider hiring help in mowing his lawn, etc. but that's another story of the stubborn Ostrowski Polish lineage. Well that was another thing, Aunt Marge was a "Slovak" and the Polish let her know that too. The comment, "what can you expect from a Slovak?" was said in a teasing manner but seriously too.

Aunt Marge was a beautician. She had her shop in their home for as long as I remember. She put hair up in pin curls for many older ladies many years after it went out of fashion to do so. She also liked to travel while Uncle Carl confined his travels to annual reunions with his WWII Army buddies and many fishing and hunting trips with the guys. He said he'd seen enough of Europe during the war to last him for several lifetimes. So Aunt Marge traveled with others or took tours on her own to Europe and all over. Aunt Marge had a favorite saying, "Carl if you can't speak and say something nice to me just don't say anything at all." And with that she'd vacate the room or area, off smiling about her way. They never had any children.

I thought of Aunt Marge when I put on an old sweatshirt jacket today that I've had for years. It's way too big but comfortable. I admired the floral and faded sage green pattern and the corduroy collar when I picked it up at some garage sale in CA for probably $1 years ago. I wore it to aerobic classes in CA because it reached to my knees and gave cover over the leotard and tights till I got into class. I've not lived in CA for 3 years and I must have given up aerobics at least 10 years prior to that. I toss this history of this sweatshirt jacket in so you get the drift of my parsimonious side. Some things I just keep. Well last year I looked at it hanging in the closet abandoned for years, and being in one of my sewing moods said, "I'll shorten it and then I can wear it with jeans and it won't look so bad." Never mind that the shoulders hang 3 inches below my shoulders and the cuffs fall far below my hands, I push those up. It's comfortable. So I did indeed cut it down to jacket size length. Aunt Marge would have been proud.

She was short and often her clothes were too long. In my family Aunt Jinx, Mom's & Carl's sister, is a top notch seamstress who for a time, when she was laid off from Pittsburgh Plate Glass worked as a seamstress at a blouse factory. By the way she too is still hanging in there at age 86 and lives in her own home, a widow in Natrona Hts., PA.

Well Aunt Marge used to cut down her skirts and even her shirts, making them shorter to fit her. All this she would do spontaneously as one day she'd put the clothing on and it suddenly occurred to her that it was too long. But while Aunt Marge might have been great with hair, sewing was not her forte. She could neither cut nor stitch a straight line. But it didn't bother her much, she was always proud of her alterations. It came to be known as the Margie sway!

Jinx would take one look at Marge's product and say, "Marge take that off and give it to me to take home and fix." Aunt Marge would be astonished,"Fix it? I just did. See how good it fits." It was a routine for I Love Lucy. Usually these discussions ended by Jinx taking the altered article home with her to sew it straight and fix it right. Jinx too has the stubborn Ostroski lineage which I really must write about someday on this blog. Though they were friends, the Pollack always won over the Slovak.

A couple years ago visiting in PA I put on a pair of slacks that were too long which I'd shortened. Jinx was horrified. She immediately said, "Patty take those off and let me hem them." I laughed and said, "Oh I already did..see they fit." Jinx nearly became apoplectic and continued--"I don't know how you can be like Aunt Marge wearing something that crooked......" And she would straighten my hems.

So today after heading outside with my jacket I caught my reflection in the car window. Wow! This jacket hem is not straight at all! I had to laugh out loud--Aunt Marge's spirit attacks again. Here in retirement in MN , I sew a lot more and know way better. I can sew and cut straight lines too! But here's my jacket with a Margie sway to it. And I've worn it for over a year this way--well it's just for kicking around. Maybe this will start a new cut to clothing in the fashion line--I just might have a new design. And I would call it the "Margie sway", see the directions now, --cut two lengths to the Margie sway, hem with 2 to 3 inches of the Margie sway!

So while there was no genetic link to Aunt Marge and I did not spend lots of time with her, how did I pick up this trait? Or is it that as a people we are all really a lot more alike than we can imagine?