Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Staying On This Side Of The Rainbow

I got the chance to visit my blog friend Lizzi today, which is pretty cool because she lives in England and I don't. Lucky for me, though, she was not only visiting America again, but she was in Oklahoma City, a three hour and some change drive from Joplin. We made plans to have a bear-free picnic (long story, but we had the very real possibility of having a very NON bear-free picnic last September when she was in America, but all's well that ends well, right?).

Before I headed out on my little road trip from Joplin to Oklahoma City, my husband, the Nattering Nabob of Negativity, expressed some concern about the weather. It's tornado season here in what is known as Tornado Alley (the fifth anniversary of the EF-5 tornado that destroyed one-third of Joplin was just two days ago), so he was by no means out of line to suggest that I pay attention to the weather, especially since a tornado touched down in northwestern Oklahoma just yesterday afternoon. But I also ever so slightly took offense at the implication that I wouldn't be on top of the weather forecast, because I'm not an IDIOT, after all....

I checked the weather again before I left the house, took the turnpike to Tulsa, took another turnpike to Oklahoma City, took ANOTHER turnpike to Hasty's home, where Lizzi was staying (more on the turnpike story later this week). The sky was blue, there were a few puffy clouds in the sky, and it was windy, of course, because it's ALWAYS windy in Oklahoma (prairie thing). 

Lizzi and I had our bear-free picnic on Hasty's patio, we took a walk around a nearby lake, we talked and talked, and then it was 4:15 and I needed to hit the road, as I had made a bet with my husband that I would be home by 8:00, and he didn't believe I could do it, so I had something else to prove, along with me being right that there was no severe weather forecast for the area.

Photo credit goes to Hasty Words

I was toodling along the Turner Turnpike from Oklahoma City to Tulsa and was nearing the halfway point when I saw some dark clouds brewing to the northeast. Hmmm. The gas gauge showed I had a little more than a quarter of a tank, and if rain was in my future, I sure didn't want to be filling the gas tank in it. The bad news about turnpikes is exits and services are few and far between; the good news was I was almost to the toll both at the halfway-to-Tulsa mark, and there was a gas station/truck stop where I didn't have to exit the turnpike (another hint about the turnpike story to come later this week). 

As the sky grew darker, I filled the tank, availed myself of the facilities, got a diet coke, and then went back to my car. By this time, the clouds had become threatening, and I opened the weather app on my phone and checked the radar and learned a severe thunderstorm warning had been issued. Severe thunderstorms may include strong winds, dangerous lightning, hail, and, quite possibly, a tornado. I left the gas station and got back on the turnpike (kicking myself over and over for THAT move), thinking I would get off at the nearest exit if it got bad (refer back to the previous paragraph about turnpike exits being few and far between and see how really stupid I was about this whole thing; I've done a lot of stupid things in my life, but this move was, by far, the stupidest).



I changed from satellite radio to a Tulsa news station right as they broke in with a bulletin from the National Weather Service issuing a tornado warning for the area and saying to stay off of the Turner Turnpike from mile marker 182 through 215, and if you were in the town of Bristow to take cover immediately (I had never heard of Bristow, and I had no idea where it was, but I knew I didn't want to be there right now). Moments later, I arrived at the toll plaza. As I paid my toll, I asked the attendant where the next exit was, and he said it was the Bristow exit at 196. I immediately pulled over to the side of the road, along with about a dozen other cars and trucks, and waited.

The radio station reported rotation in the clouds (this is bad), and that it was most likely a rain-wrapped tornado (this is REALLY bad; the Joplin tornado was rain-wrapped, and this makes them nearly impossible to see until they are right on top of you). There were no buildings at the toll plaza except for the flimsy little toll booths, and there wasn't even a ditch to lie down in; the land was flat, flat, flat. I had my purse zipped up and ready to throw around my neck if I needed to bail out of the car (never, never, NEVER stay inside the car in a tornado), contemplated sending a group text to my family telling them I loved them, prayed, and then alternated between crying hysterically and hyperventilating, all the while thinking my husband could write "I told her so" on my headstone IF they found my body. My Red Cross tornado app went off repeatedly (tornado siren sound effect, which did nothing to soothe my jangled nerves) and the only positive thing I could come up with was thank GOD I had peed at the gas station a few minutes earlier or I would have either wet my pants or been trying to figure out how to pee into an empty styrofoam cup. Wind buffeted the car, hailstones larger than peas started falling, cloud to ground lightning was crashing all around, and the rain was blinding. The radio reports said radar indicated there was debris in the clouds, proof that it was, indeed, a tornado and had touched down.

I sat there for 45 minutes.

Finally, the slow moving storm headed on across the turnpike and towards the southern Tulsa area, the tornado warning was canceled, and I started driving again. There were reports of damage at the Bristow exit and south into the town. As I passed the exit a few minutes later, although it wasn't easy to see through all the rain falling, I didn't see evidence of the damage. 

And through all of this, the sky to the northwest of me was clear and the sun was shining, and once I got past Tulsa, there were clear skies and no more rain at all, although I could still see the dark clouds moving towards the southeast, still see flashes of lightning in the distance.

And then I saw this:



I don't know what guardian angel was watching over this little sparrow and kept me on this side of the rainbow, but I do know if I had left Oklahoma City fifteen minutes earlier than I did, as I had meant to do, I would have been at the Bristow exit at the same time the tornado was. Same if I hadn't pulled over and sat on the side of the turnpike at the toll plaza. That poor angel TRIED to get me to stay at the service station by whispering in my ear, but she's apparently learned that I have to be hit over the head with a baseball bat (or have a tornado app blare a siren sound over and over) before I really listen.

Thank you, angel, whoever you are. I owe you one.


Sunday, May 22, 2016

Rain And Summer And More

Long week. Long, Week. Looooooong weeeeeeeek. 

That's not necessarily a negative; it's just an observation. Here are my Ten Things of Thankful for this week:

1. It rained and rained and rained this week. While I'd rather have my rainfall spread out over a matter of weeks or months, it's been pretty dry here, and I guess anything that whittles down the precipitation deficit is a good thing.

2. No severe weather, though.

3. School is OVER! Hello, summer vacation! I have BIG PLANS for you!

4. #ForLoveOfRuby continues with donations to local animal shelters by my friend (since junior high) Melody and her daughter Brianna, and by my blog friends Lisa and Eunice (better known as Tigermouse) for their donations. Also thank you to Kristi's daughter for spreading the word among her cat-loving friends in California. I'll never actually know how many people made donations in Ruby's memory, but I am forever humbled by everyone's generosity.

5. My friend Cathy sent me a picture of a kitten needing a home. OHMYGOODNESS! What a face! I haven't said yes, but I haven't ruled it out yet, so I must be healing.




6. I finally found my mattress pad! (Seriously, how does one lose a queen sized mattress pad in the first place?) I then was able to take the electric mattress pad off the bed and put the regular one on and summer could commence to summering. 

7. Know what happens as soon as you decide it's warm enough to take the electric mattress pad off the bed? It turns cold and rainy (see #1, above). Lucky for me, I now have two VERY LARGE cats who have taken to sleeping at my feet now that Ruby's gone, plus I have a warm, fuzzy blanket (gift from my LA work friends when I had my bilateral mastectomy four years ago) that is always at the ready, and I put that blanket into service (with no complaints from the two big lugs at the foot of the bed).

8. Preschool graduation went off without a hitch, as in no one cried, no one threw up (although I was a little uneasy about that one, as one of my students, in fact, DID throw up the day before; as a side note, she was very proud of herself that she made it to the bathroom and didn't break Miss Dyanne's #1 rule of Don't Throw Up In Miss Dyanne's Classroom) and no one wet their pants.





9. My parents celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary this week. We will OFFICIALLY celebrate their anniversary, along with my mother's 84th birthday, over Memorial Day weekend at the lake house.

10. I got my hair cut. I got A LOT of my hair cut. I think I like it.




Today marks the fifth anniversary of the Joplin tornado, when an EF-5 tornado tore through the center of town, destroying or damaging nearly one-third of the town and killing 161 people. The world came to our rescue, and there can never be enough thankfuls for the thousands of volunteer hours as a result. We will never forget.

Link up with us! We are fun!




Ten Things of Thankful


 Your hosts


Sunday, May 15, 2016

Thank You! Thank You!

I swear this is going to be my last week being a slacker on the Ten Things of Thankful.

I am by no means over the loss of my darling Ruby, but it is getting a little easier every day. I hardly ever expect her to come down the stairs to greet me at the door anymore, but I still think I see her slipping around corners just ahead of me when I'm walking through the house.

This past week, thanks to the sweet gesture my high school friend Ruth made, I declared Wednesday, May 11, as For Love Of Ruby day and asked anyone who was led to make a food donation to their local animal shelter, and I am humbled by the response. It truly went from California to the New York island and beyond!

Thank you to old friends Jamie (we've known each other since we were in Miss White's 2nd grade class together), Teresa (friends since birth), Nancy (friends since 7th grade), and my cousin Cynthia (we kind of go way back, too). Thank you to Joplin friends Vanessa and Linda and Ruth (how many people can be lucky enough to know TWO Ruths?!) for donating, and also to Allison and her three girls and to Debbie, Ruby's original "mom." And thank you far away friends IvyMarisaFabiolaKristi (and DeeDee!) and Lizzi for making donations, and of course, to sweet Ruth, who inspired this day of healing for me and made another touching donation.

The problem with listing people like this is the VERY REAL chance that I left someone off the list, so PLEASE let me know if you are one of those people! And if you haven't made a donation in memory of Ruby and would like to, it's never too late. There is no end to the needs of our local shelters.

That's way more than ten thankfuls. Way more. Thank you, all, for loving Ruby with me.

I can feel my heart healing....


A to Z 2016 Survivor Issue



How is it that the two weeks since the A to Z Challenge have gone by soooo much faster than any ONE week DURING the Challenge?

Hint: IT'S A CHALLENGE.

But I made it. I survived. One month. 26 Pinterest projects. 26 posts. 

This was my third A to Z Challenge, and my second year to use Pinterest challenges for my theme. Incidentally, there are currently over 50 BILLION pins on Pinterest, and it's STILL practically impossible to find Pinterest projects for those pesky letters like "Q," "X," "Y" and "Z," or else I'm just terrible at using the search feature. Or both.

For the first time in three years, though, I actually pre-planned some of my posts. I wrote several of the end-of-the-alphabet posts very early on, which turned out to be fortuitous, as my precious two year old cat Ruby suddenly became very ill and was diagnosed with cancer on April 22; we said goodbye to her five days later. The last thing I wanted to do at the time was re-create Pinterest pins and write about them, but I did it, and with the help of the posts I had already written, I made it through to the end of the Challenge. (Ruby has been featured in many of my blog posts over the past two years, and my heart is absolutely broken.)



Here's what I learned by doing the Challenge:

I still haven't learned to read recipes or project directions all the way through before I start and I probably never will.

Melted white chocolate can travel very far when propelled by an exploding balloon. I am STILL finding bits of white chocolate stuck to surfaces in my kitchen, and it's been over a month. (The day after I wrote the post, I found some white chocolate stuck on one of our cats. True story.)

I can still conjure up the taste of avocado chocolate smoothie and it is still a very, very bad memory.

I may not be ready for that Etsy shop, but I can crochet a slouch hat now.

I could probably do a whole A to Z Challenge with just preschool projects, but I limited it to two this year, making marshmallow catapults one day and a rainbow on another with them.

I liked the little tealight cake I made so much that I stood at Hobby Lobby and contemplated spending $12 to buy a scalloped circle punch just so I could make more of them.

My favorite Pinterest challenge was the exploding box, or fall open box, as I more aptly named it. I am now obsessed with buying paper to make more of them, because they are that cool. Today, I experimented with the scraps and made teeny tiny boxes.



In my utter sadness after Ruby died, I fell behind in reading other A to Z entries, but I'm working on catching up (although I fully realize I'll never completely succeed). I found several new blogs to follow, including Weekends in Maine and Angels Bark, which is a great reason to be involved in the A to Z Challenge in the first place.

Until next year, peace out.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Thankfuls Plus A Challenge From Ruby

This marks the first week with no Ruby in the house. It's the start of a new normal that isn't normal at all, and I don't like it one bit, which leads me to my list of thankfuls for this week.

1. Pete and Fletcher would like to express their thankful to be the only cats in the house once again. Harsh, I know, but Pete was actually terrified of her, thinly veiling it as hating her, and Fletcher tolerated her but longed for the days when he was the ONLY cat in the house. They are ALL OVER ME, and it's not because they feel bad for me; they are thrilled to regain lap space. 

2. I got to snuggle a little bitty baby this week. He was maybe two months old, and chubby cheeked and sleepy and smelled delicious. It was good for my soul.

3. At our high school's International Thespian Society banquet, the kids dress in costumes. This year's theme was "decades." (Last year, it was musical theater, and my daughter dressed as a character from Matilda, the Musical.) I am thankful that probably seven or eight years ago, I had the foresight to pick up a vintage 1980s prom dress at a rummage sale and tuck it away, in case Emma ever needed to dress in, well, a 1980s prom dress.



4. Not only did she look DARLING, she came home with the Best Actress award! Pretty nice fete for only a junior!



5. Emma wants me to write about her part in the spring musical, and with Ruby and the A to Z Challenge, I haven't gotten around to it yet, but I'm thankful she actually WANTS to be included in the blog.

6. The A to Z Challenge is OVER. It was fun, but stick a fork in me!

7. Two more Mondays for this school year!

8. My husband would have probably cheerfully strangled me twice this week (twice that I know of, anyway) and didn't. The first time was last Friday evening, when I forgot I had to work Saturday morning at my picture taking side gig, and we were on our way to spend the weekend at the lake house and bury Ruby while we were there. Oops. The second time was yesterday morning when we were almost to the gates at Silver Dollar City and I realized that, while I had my and Emma's season passes, my husband's was still in an envelope in my room at the lake house. He dropped us off (not cheerfully AT ALL), drove back to the house, got the pass, then headed back and got stuck in traffic. What would be a 20 minute trip each way with no traffic turned into a two HOUR round trip. Oops again. Fortunately, by the time he got there, he had cooled off considerably.

Me at Silver Dollar City in 1965. My cousin
Cynthia is behind me.

9. I cannot express how thankful I am for the kindness of so, so many friends during Ruby's sudden illness and death. I have received the sweetest, kindest notes and messages and gestures, and each and every one means the world to me. Ruby was a special kitty; there will never be another like her.  This leads me to...

10. ...a very special note and gesture that I received from my high school friend Ruth. She was a year older than me in school, and she was beautiful and talented (still is) and one of the nicest people I've ever known. Having recently lost a beloved cat herself, she knew exactly what I was going through with the sudden loss of Ruby, so in honor of my Ruby girl, she and her husband made a donation of cat food to their local humane society. I was absolutely overcome by their caring gesture, and it made me want to do something, too.



In remembrance of my sweet Ruby, and for hungry, homeless animals in shelters everywhere, I have personally declared Wednesday, May 11, as For Love of Ruby day, and I would like to encourage you to purchase a bag or two of cat or dog food (we are all about diversity) and donate it to your local animal shelter. Take a picture and post it on Twitter or Facebook, tag me, and also use #ForLoveOfRuby in your post. Help my heart heal by helping other animals waiting for their forever homes. 

Our linky thingy didn't work this week, so link your posts directly to the Ten Things of Thankful Facebook page.


Sunday, May 1, 2016

Ruby

My heart is broken.

I have always wanted a calico cat, and exactly two and a half years ago, my wish finally came true when my friend gave me Ruby.


Four weeks old. This picture was sent
to me by my friend Debbie to try to entice
me to take her. It worked.


She moved into our house and took over, much to the regret of my other two cats, big ol' boys named Pete and Fletcher.  Pete hated her, Fletcher tolerated her, and Ruby established herself as the princess of the household. 


First day at our house, snuggled in
Emma's arms.



Sleepy baby in my lap on her first
night away from her mama.

She was beautiful, without a doubt, but she was also funny and playful and loving and snuggly. She followed me everywhere I went in the house, met me at the door when I came home, and spent hours in my lap, helping me blog.




It started as a cough (odd enough in a cat that never goes outside) at the beginning of March. The vet could only guess that she had may developed some allergies and gave her a steroid shot.  The cough persisted, then worsened. An x-ray showed a mass was pushing against her windpipe and diaphragm and obscuring the view of her heart and lungs. There was fluid in her chest cavity. The vet drew some of it off and sent it to a lab, all the time telling me it was not going to be good, but she was otherwise acting fairly normal, although she was sleeping or resting and not playing, not bugging her brothers as little sisters are usually wont to do.




The lab results stated there were atypical cells in the fluid sample. Our vet recommended we take her to a specialist in Kansas City. My husband (who had never been around a cat in his life before we met and never planned to change that status) and I drove over two hours to take Ruby to the specialty vet clinic, because the most special kitty in the world deserves a specialist. He conducted an ultrasound on her and diagnosed her with cancer that had already metastasized in her chest. There was nothing we could do for her except keep her comfortable and happy.


Chasing moths at night.

Ruby's decline was rapid. We had taken her to the specialty clinic on Friday. By Tuesday, her breathing was labored and noisy. She wanted to be with me, but she wanted to be by herself more. Her discomfort was obvious. As much as we wanted to keep her with us, we knew it was time for her to go.


Taking a siesta with Kyle at the lake house.


Wednesday at noon, we took her to our vet and told her to sleep sweetly. I held her the entire time, and my husband and I both sobbed over the unfairness of such a sweet, funny cat being stricken at such a young age by something so rare.




I know she was "just a cat" and not a person. Not my parents. Or my husband. Or one of my children. But she was just a cat who did nothing but love me and make me laugh. Who asked for nothing except for a lap to lie in and to be loved back.




There has been a great outpouring of love and sympathy from so many friends. I can't begin to express what that has meant to me.


A special gift from my artist friend Nicole.
It's only two inches high.

The ever thoughtful Ivy sent me this.
It is a treasure.

I'm going to miss that funny, beautiful girl. I'll miss her following me everywhere, even to the bathroom, where she would throw the door open (old house, doors don't always close all the way) and even jump up in my lap and curl up if I was *ahem* unavoidably delayed. I'll miss her digging in the small trash can in my room for "treasures" like wads of paper and candy wrappers. I'll miss the twist ties all over the house that she liked to play with, and I'll miss our games of fetch with a bent up pipe cleaner or other found treasure. I'll miss her trotting ahead of me when I walked and flopping down periodically for a belly rub. I'll miss finding her sitting on the fireplace mantel, looking at herself in the mirror. I'll miss her knocking my stuff off the table next to me when I'm on my laptop, and I'll miss her lying on my lap while I write, reaching her paws under the laptop to get my attention. I'll miss watching her chase snowflakes through the window in the winter and moths and bugs in the summer. I'll miss her running up the stairs ahead of me and stopping at the top to grab me from around the newel post. I'll miss her drinking out of our water glasses in the evening when we weren't looking and even her knocking them over in the night and spilling water everywhere.



Grabbing at me on my way up the stairs.


Playing fetch.







I'll miss her cuddling up next to me in the bed every morning, which she did up until her very last day on earth.


Our last morning together.

I love you, sweet Ruby. I know that someday, God will reunite us. Until then, have fun chasing butterflies in Heaven.


Knowing you for these two and a half short years was worth ten thankfuls times ten thousand.


Caught in the act of looking through one
of Emma's open dresser drawers.





Ruby 9/1/13-4/27/16
I miss you, sweet girl.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Z is for Zeppole



Zoinks! "Z" is finally here!

This pin is one of the first ones I found when I was looking for Pinterest challenges for the A to Z Challenge. Does that mean I re-created the pin weeks and weeks ago, so it would be ready to post on the last day?

I think we all know better than that.

Here's the pin:


http://www.bakingbeauty.net/
easy-zeppole-recipe/



I don't know if these are really Italian or not. I will leave that up to my friend Marisa at SquaareCat to affirm or deny this as an Italian treat. Until then, I'm going with Italian.

The pinner claimed this was a 20 minute recipe. She lied. It was not. I'd call it a 45 minute recipe, a little less if you heat the oil while you're mixing the ingredients. But I digress.

The dough (which is really more of a batter) was made from two eggs, flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, vanilla, and ricotta cheese. Yep, you read that right. Ricotta cheese. (It HAS to be Italian if it has ricotta cheese in it, right?)

Beat the eggs until foamy, then stir in all the ingredients except the ricotta cheese and mix just until combined. Fold in the ricotta cheese and get ready to fry.


Dough.



Folding in ricotta cheese.




Dough + ricotta = batter


Scoop the batter dough batter with a cookie scoop and drop in the hot oil, turning occasionally. Here's where the pinner and I differ on the frying of the zeppole.


Here goes....



They look like hushpuppies.

I don't deep fry very often, and what I know about deep frying would probably fit on the head of a pin, but 375 degrees was a little hot. The recipe called for frying the zeppole for 3-4 minutes, but less than two minutes after dropping my first few in the oil and they were so brown I thought they would be ruined if they stayed in any longer, so I fished them out, sprinkled them with powdered sugar after they had drained on paper towels, and then bit into one.




Oops. Perhaps a little, um, rare.


I took the pan off the burner until the oil cooled down to 350 degrees, then fried the next batch. Much better. I was able to leave them in for four minutes without overly browning them, and the innards were done this time.




And know what? They were really, really GOOD. Very tender inside. Sweet, but not too sweet. Who cares if they are Italian or not? After all, the only thing that REALLY mattered was that I had a topic for "Z"!




You're probably going to want to make these.

Pinterest WIN!