Thursday, August 14, 2014

Sneaking Around

For much of the summer, Funny Delightful Son's girlfriend, a petite, pretty, quiet though funny when she does speak young lady, came to hang out at our house without her mother's permission. I'm pretty sure her mother had no idea Petite Pretty Girlfriend was sneaking around to visit FDS. They would watch TV or sit at the dining room table and play cards or go for bike rides. It is so completely obvious the two simply enjoy being together and truly like one another.

Last week, after another two weeks of being down due to the mono, Funny Delightful Son began feeling better, and to perk him up a bit, Petite Pretty Girlfriend arrived one afternoon to deliver a care package of fun foods. She wasn't to stay long, but she ended up staying several hours. When she returned home, she was informed she wasn't to see Funny Delightful Son for the rest of the week. Both were crushed.

In the meantime, in an attempt to keep busy, Funny Delightful Son received the components he'd ordered to convert his recurve bow into a bow he could use for fishing. He got everything into place, did some practice shots, then announced he was ready to give it a try with real fish. We made plans for a trip to the I&M Canal where the Asian carp has taken over and is considered a nuisance, and FDS asked if Petite Pretty Girlfriend could go along. I had no objections, but when Other Mother was asked, her response was no. She didn't want her daughter in the same space as Hubby. When she was assured Hubby would not be part of the outing, she relented and allowed PPG to go (Hubby did go--I put my foot down and said enough).

Early Sunday morning, we left for the canal. The day was beautiful. Sunny. Breezy. Perfect for fishing. We arrived at the canal, and within minutes FDS was drawing back his bow to try and shoot a carp. We could see a large group of carp, so it seemed like skewering one would be cake. After his initial shot, though, they all disappeared, apparently going further beneath the surface to avoid becoming impaled. FDS waited and waited for the fish to reappear, but they didn't. He then got the idea to just shoot into the water, thinking there were so many fish that the odds of hitting one was high. He was right. It didn't take long to hit one. By late afternoon, he had three fish on ice in the cooler.

We returned home, hot, sweaty, and stinking of fish. We all wanted a shower. Including Pretty Petite Girlfriend. So we all took showers. Then Pretty Petite Girlfriend went home. And Other Mom became furious. She informed Pretty Petite Girlfriend that showering at our house was inappropriate. She accused her and FDS of having sex. Apparently, Hubby and I allow a free-for-all in our home. As punishment, Pretty Petite Girlfriend cannot come into town to meet up somewhere with FDS for a month, and she is not allowed to go on family outings with us for a year. When I was informed of Other Mom's mandates, all I could do was shake my head.

I've been staying out of the whole Other Mom mess, but part of me feels like it's time to step up and let my voice be heard. I feel like Other Mom is making assumptions about me, Hubby, and FDS that are completely unfounded and even leaning towards being cruel and hurtful. I'm not sure how to go about making my voice heard, but with some thought, I'll figure it out.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Secret Comes Out

So I thought about the cookout Other Mom wanted to have to, per her words, "further evaluate" Hubby. I kept this to myself, not cluing Hubby in on the issue as I knew what his response would be. I really didn't want to go to him and say, "Oh, by the way, Other Mom thinks you're childish to the point of perhaps putting her daughter in harm's way if she were to come over to our house." Honestly, when Funny Delightful Son told me Other Mom thinks Hubby is childish, I did laugh. He is. That's a given. All of us at one time or another over the years have looked at Hubby and said, "How old are you? 12?" But he's never, ever done anything to put any of us in harm's way. He's just a big goof. Our big goof.

Two weeks after prom, we traveled to Tennessee to visit family and attend my nephew's high school graduation. Late Saturday morning, because we had some time before having to be at the party, we cruised my old grad school haunts so the kids could see where I spent several years of my life. We then found a lovely restaurant in the old downtown area, one with an outdoor patio area graced with large, beautiful trees shading the tables, and we decided to have lunch. While enjoying alligator bites and pesto grilled chicken, the subject of Funny Delightful Son's girlfriend came up. Hubby inquired as to why she hadn't been over to the house for some time.

Funny Delightful Son: "Because she can't."

Hubby: "What do you mean she can't?"

Funny Delightful Son (who at this time was suffering from his second bout of mono and was not in a good mood): "Just that. She's not allowed to come over to our house."

I could see the confusion on Hubby's face, so I took the reins and explained Other Mom's concerns. Just as I had suspected he would, and I totally understand why he did, Hubby became angry. Indignant. Even angrier. For the rest of the day. We discussed the issue at lunch, after lunch, at the graduation party, after the graduation party, during the trip to the home of my sister-in-law, on the return trip to the hotel. I reached the point where I didn't want to talk about it any longer. Funny Delightful Son didn't want to discuss it any longer. A heavy mood invaded what should have been a fun trip.

One thing we all agreed on was that we would not attend this "evaluation" cookout.

After returning home, Funny Delightful Son and his girlfriend would go out, maybe to fly kites or fish at the lake or kayak or spend time at her house. Then, one day, his girlfriend showed up and stayed for several hours. Being a little surprised, I asked if she had been given the go ahead to hang out at our place. She shook her head no, saying her mom didn't know she was there. I figured this wasn't a good thing but decided to stay out of it. I've stayed out of it for over two months, thinking her mom would lighten up, but I was informed a few days ago that this isn't the case at all.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Saga Begins

Back in May, Funny Delightful Son attended his first high school prom. Leading up to this day, Funny Delightful Son prepared carefully: making sure his tux fit perfectly, scrutinizing the flowers selected for his date's corsage, and cleaning the car so his date could ride in style. The young lady he was attending prom with had caught his eye from the beginning of the school year, and he wanted prom to be perfect.

To start the evening, Funny Delightful Son and his date met up with friends at the grandparents' home of one of the young ladies of the group. There, they were going to have dinner before leaving for prom. Prior to dinner, we parents took pictures of our kids all decked out for the special occasion. It was just minutes until the picture taking was to commence that the Saga began.

While the young people were gathered on the back deck, admiring the glitzy dresses and the colorful corsages, the parents were inside, chatting about what a lovely May afternoon we were having. The host, an older gentleman, offered all of us a beer while we waited for the young people give the signal they were ready for pictures. Some of us laughed and declined, and Hubby, because he tries to make jokes out of every situation, said something along the lines of already having had several and where was the keg for the kids? The host laughed, as did some of the others, but one parent took great exception to Hubby's attempt at a joke--Funny Delightful Son's date's mom.

Prom went well for Funny Delightful Son. Then, the following Tuesday, after I picked him up from school, I could tell something was up when he volunteered to go grocery shopping with me. On the way to the store, he proceeded to tell me that his date's mother wanted Hubby and me to go to their home for a cookout. I thought, sure, sounds good. The next comment, though, caught me by surprise. Seems the cookout was to be a means for his date's mother to "further evaluate" Hubby. Apparently, the comment he'd made about drinking had bothered her so much that she found him "childish" and a bad influence. She was afraid her daughter might not be safe in coming to our home.

I went from laughing over the absurdity of the situation to being angry to being insulted. I thought who the eff does this woman think she is? I told Funny Delightful Son I found Other Mom's request completely insulting and no, Hubby and I would not attend the cookout. To this, Funny Delightful Son said, "Mom, I really, really like this girl. I hope to keep seeing her." I considered this and responded that I would do it for him, but I couldn't promise being nice. To this, Funny Delightful Son said, "Mom, I really, really like this girl." The earnest look in his eyes showed this to be true. I said I'd think about it and let him know.

Stay tuned for Part II of The Saga.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Another Helmet Rant

Being a cyclist, I read a lot of articles about cycling and I listen to other cyclists talk about cycling, sometimes joining in the conversation. The articles I seek out range from outfitting the bike for long, touring rides to cycling safely alongside motorists to what to wear. Most often, I gain something helpful from the articles. Even the discussions with others can be fun as cycling really is fun, but I've come to realize I have very little patience for an argument I hear a lot: everyone should always wear a helmet. The "always wear a helmet" mantra seems to seep into every casual conversation with family, friends, and the women's cycling group of which I am a member (though I tend to stand on the sidelines with this group--that's another post for another time), and this is okay in and of itself. What's not okay is the snarky, snide, "those who don't wear helmets are stupid" tone that goes along with the conversation. Most often I ignore these comments, but it's becoming more and more difficult not to respond.

I get that helmets protect the noggin. I do. That being said, I don't think I should have to wear a helmet every single time I'm on the bike. And I sure as heck don't think others should take it upon themselves to tell me how stupid I am for cycling sans helmet. If you are that person who feels the need to tell me I'm an idiot for taking such a risk, think about these four things before you open your mouth.

1.  Falling in the home can be fatal. In fact, the National Safety Council suggests that upwards of 25,000 people died from falling in their homes in 2009 (I know, I know--this was 5 years ago. I tried to find stats for 2013 but came up empty handed. I'm sure a more current number would be even higher anyway). This is scary stuff. We're in danger in our own homes! Should everyone wear a helmet while walking from the kitchen to the living room? Should everyone wear a helmet while taking a shower?

2. Just walking along, minding your own business can be fatal. Yeah! I know! Mind-blowing! Per the National Highway Traffic Safety Association, in 2011, 4432 pedestrians lost their lives. Should every pedestrian wear a helmet while window shopping and especially when crossing the street? Not to mention those open manholes. They really put a damper on a person trying to text while walking.

3. Over 30,000 people die in car crashes each year. When looking at the info offered through the CDC, of these 30,000 deaths, over 7500 of them were due to traumatic brain injuries suffered in the car crash. Hmmmmmm. This is a real head-scratcher. That's a lot of people. So why do motorists as well as their passengers not wear helmets?

4. In 2012, 726 cyclists were killed in traffic accidents. The number of cyclists deaths represents 2% of all traffic fatalities. Just 2%! I know I have a tough time when it comes to numbers, but this seems like a really low number in the big scheme of things.

I do realize many of the cyclists who lost their lives had traumatic head injuries. It's probably very likely they also suffered from severe internal injuries. How could they not? A heavy moving object striking a human body will create irreparable harm. A helmet isn't going to help in these instances. No one, though, likes to talk about the damage done to a person's chest cavity, liver, or kidneys. For some reason, these injuries are overlooked in favor of trying to drive home the importance of wearing a helmet. I'd really like to know how many of these deaths were due to traumatic bodily injury. A clearer picture of the injuries in general would be very helpful.

Cycling really is a very safe activity. Just look at Portland and what it has accomplished not just one year, but several years. In continuing to press the idea that cyclists should always wear helmets, the underlying message presented is that cycling is dangerous and injury is likely. That's just not true. In fact, if you look at the numbers and how the head injuries occurred, removing those due to car-cyclist collision shows just how minuscule the number of deaths due to traumatic head injury truly is. Also, in advancing the argument that cyclists should always wear helmets, all the responsibility for safety is put on the cyclist. Motorists are given a pass. Instead of saying all cyclists should wear a helmet, maybe we should instead say motorists and cyclists should share the road, all following the rules of the road, being respectful to one another to ensure the safety of all.

Friday, July 25, 2014

A Farmgirl Stuck in the City

The garden is bursting. The tomatoes are ripening, giving me my first tomato sandwich of the summer. The herbs are tall, full, and giving off their wonderful scents. The second seeding of lettuce has reached the almost-ready to pick for salads stage. Even the bush bean plants I bought--sickly, near death plants I was sure were too far gone to be saved--are full of lovely, long beans. And the seeds I meticulously planted in egg cartons back in March? The ones that I thought were duds and after ten weeks of watering along with setting out in the warm sun only to get not even a hint of anything growing? The ones I ended up throwing into the compost box? Well, I now have a hodge-podge of zucchini, squash, and tomatoes where I spread the compost in early June. I'm hoping the zucchini and squash produce, as they are thriving and flowering beautifully, but the tomato plants have a lot of catching up to do to produce. The cool weather definitely isn't helping, but there's still August and September warmth to come, hopefully giving that last, little push to all the plants. I love walking through my gardens, thinking about how the tomatoes can be a part of our next meal, how the cucumbers might become a lotion, and how to preserve all the herbs.

Last summer I had several hot pepper plants from which I picked tons of hot peppers. I had no idea what to do with them as I've never cooked with them before, and Hubby isn't a fan of anything that might have a little heat to it. Those peppers ended up in the compost box. This year, I vowed to do something with the peppers, something that I know will be eaten by the majority of us. Funny Delightful Son and I love grilled sandwiches made with goat cheese, strawberries, lettuce, and pepper jelly, and he even turned his girlfriend on to this tasty combination, so I decided to make hot pepper jelly. This morning, I spent several hours in the kitchen, chopping, measuring, and cooking to end up with six half pints of yummy pepper jelly. I used a recipe I found online as it had a pinch of saffron as an ingredient, and since I have some saffron that I bought awhile back, I decided to give it a go. When all the ingredients were mixed, simmering, and nearing the stage of ladling into the jars, I tested it. The jelly definitely lives up to its name: Naughty and Nice Pepper Jelly. The zing and sweet together create a scrumptious treat.

To date, I've made sour cherry jam, strawberry jam, cucumber-ginger jelly, and hot pepper jelly. I've reached the point where I need a space for all my goodies. I have a spot just off the kitchen/dining area that could become a spot for shelves just to display jars of deliciousness, so now I'm trying to figure out how to go about getting shelves put into place. I'm thinking small wooden crates might be the answer. Time to go junkin'. I'd love to find some soda crates or vegetable crates that can be turned into shelves. Could be a bit pricey, though, so maybe just making some from reclaimed wood is a better, more affordable idea. I do wonder, hmmmmmmmm, if I went to the grocery stores around town and asked about their fruit and veggie boxes, if I might find what I'm looking for. Maybe.

Next up is the tomatoes. I'm envisioning salsa, spaghetti sauce, whole tomatoes, tomato paste, and dried tomatoes. I know some of these require a pressure canner, something I've never used so don't have, but I could go the freezing route to avoid investing in the pressure canner. We do have the freezer space since we stumbled upon a brand new freezer at a yard sale a few months ago, still in the box, and got a great deal on it. Part of the freezer space is reserved for grass-fed beef, an investment I'm determined to make sooner or later. All of this would be much easier if I had my own farm, a place and space to raise my own chickens, beef, and goats. The animals along with the gardens and growing fruit would give us so much of what we need. I know of a 2.5 acre property available right now . . ..

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Preserving the Garden Bounty

Last week was my best cycling week to date. I covered 503 miles, meeting some really nice people, eating some really delicious pancakes, and laughing over the antics of some really cute puppies (are there any other kind of puppies?). I traded in the road bike for my heavier hybrid on two of the days, mostly because I was too lazy to change out the road bike's front tire that was showing some splits in the rubber, but the two days on the hybrid were awesome. Because it is a heavier bike, I can't go as fast. Being forced to slow down was good as this has been my goal for the last two years. I find myself falling back into the mindset of needing to keep the speed up, so riding the hybrid forced me to just settle in and let the miles slowly pass by. The two days on the hybrid are two of my favorite rides so far this summer.

Now, only two weeks of my summer self-contained ride remain. Two weeks. I try not to think about being nearly finished, inching closer to having to return to work. To help with this, I've been immersing myself in fun projects. I made a wind chime out of Grey Goose bottles for a friend. Out of the 16 bottles she gave me to work with, I managed to get 5 with clean cuts. The rest ended up with cracks running up or down from the score, making them throwaways. From the discards, I played a bit with cutting some rings and firing them in the new microwave kiln I purchased, but that was a total fail. The bottle's glass is so thick there's no way to melt it down in the little kiln I bought. The glass broke inside the kiln and left a brown ring on the kiln base. The wind chime I managed to put together is kind of cool. My friend's reaction when I sent her a picture of it was, "Gorgeous!"

I also turned my attention to making refrigerator pickles out of the cucumbers piled high on the kitchen island. I've been going on the idea that my family doesn't like pickles. Every time I buy them, they sit in the fridge and end up being thrown out two years after they were opened. Then, Funny Delightful Son informed me the other day that he, in fact, does like pickles and doesn't know why I don't buy them. So I searched for an easy recipe, one that didn't involve water baths or pressure cookers. I found a simple one and set to work. Most of the cukes are now pickles. This morning, I cracked open a jar of pickles to try them. Let's just say I had a tough time not sitting down and eating the entire jar right then and there. Not quite the reaction from Funny Delightful Son, though. He tried one and said, "Too sweet." What?!? So it looks like I'll be eating the pickles all by myself.

With still more cucumbers on my kitchen island, I decided to try a recipe for cucumber ginger jelly. The reviews of the recipe raved about how delicious the jelly is with cream cheese on crackers, so being the cream cheese lover that I am, I had to see if the reviews were true. When the process was over, and the jelly in the jars, I swiped a finger through what remained in the pot. The slight ginger pop along with the soothing cucumber create a very tasty combination, the kind that makes one say, "Ohhhhh, that's good." I encouraged Funny Delightful Son and his girlfriend to taste the jelly. Both looked at me like I was asking them to suck on lemons. That look vanished, however, as soon as the jelly crossed their lips. Both smiled, enjoying the surprise that is cucumber ginger jelly. Then, Lovely Beautiful Daughter and her boyfriend sampled the jelly. They, too, exclaimed over the deliciousness. When I offered them a jar of the jelly to take home with them, the boyfriend was quick to take the jar. I'm thinking another round of cucumber ginger jelly might be in order.

With the cucumbers taken care of, I turned my attention to the basil. This is the first summer I put the basil in one of the raised beds rather than in a pot. I'm glad I made the change. I've never had such beautiful basil plants before. Like last year and the year before, I'll dry some of it, but I also wanted to do something more with the leaves. I found a pesto recipe and got to work. Funny Delightful Son sat at the bar, watching me try to figure out the food processor, mostly laughing at my inability to put the lid on correctly, and Angel Baby came down to watch after getting a whiff of the pine nuts roasting on the stove. When I removed the lid after combining all the ingredients, both boys tested the concoction and approved. We ended up making pesto-mozzarella grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch, and I had plenty of pesto left to put into an ice cube tray for freezing and using later. I'm already thinking about a noodle, roasted tomato and mushroom, pesto dish for dinner tomorrow.

I'm pretty happy with figuring out what to do with the cucumbers. I really didn't want them to just end up in the compost box. I want to preserve what I grow, and I am getting much better at it, but I still have a lot to learn. With the tomatoes starting to ripen, I'll be busy preserving them in a variety of ways, hopefully putting different kinds of sauces in our freezer. Who knows, maybe one cold winter day, we'll be eating chili made from my garden tomatoes along with crackers spread with cream cheese and cucumber jelly.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

On Being a Long Distance Cyclist

Okay, summer can slow down. Seriously, how can it be July 12th already? I've still got so many things I want to do and only 4 weeks to do them before having to return to work. Gahhh!

Most of my summer has been spent cycling as I signed up to ride as self-contained for Bike the US for MS. While I didn't raise as much money as I had hoped, I did raise the $2000 that Bike the US for MS suggested. I can't thank my family and friends enough for their support and generosity. I know my $2100 isn't much, but it along with the donations raised by all the others cycling for Bike the US for MS adds up to nearly $300,000 this year. That money goes to research centers in Virginia, Ohio, and Washington, and it also goes to building ramps, renovating bathrooms, and making other home improvements to offer easier access for those living with MS. I'll never forget our service days during the 2012 ride--cleaning, mowing, washing windows, rearranging furniture, installing handholds, and sometimes just sitting and talking with the individual we were working for--and how thankful these individuals were that we gave a day of our ride to help. I know I walked away from those service days feeling like I was doing something purposeful. Though I don't have service days this summer, I still have that feeling of doing something purposeful each day I set out and ride. I know I'm riding to fulfill the generosity of my family and friends.

My favorite rides so far this summer have been the longer rides. I went to Paxton, a cute town still holding on to the small-town feel. I sat on the curb of Main Street, downing a sports drink and eating a candy bar before beginning the ride home, ending with 105 miles for the day. Then I went to Lincoln, a bit bigger than Paxton, and sat outside a gas station to eat a sandwich before moseying around the side streets a bit and finding the new Lincoln Museum. On my way out of Lincoln, I saw a sign telling me I was on the Route 66 Bike Route. I'd actually ridden it into Lincoln, but there'd been no signage to tell me this. I followed the same route back, ending the day with 102 miles. Then I went to Pekin, to the west, and found a beautiful bike trail that wound its way through the town. I also found the "World's Greatest Sundial" in Pekin and enjoyed spending a bit of time there before returning home, an 81 mile day. In each of these towns, I leave a Bike the US for MS calling card on a bulletin board (and I noticedwhen I returned to Gibson City last week that the one I'd left there had been taken--hopefully, whoever took it visited the Bike the US for MS website and made a donation). I have plans for other long rides over the next four weeks, and even what I'm calling an "EPIC!" ride, so still more cycling to come.

The only downside to the cycling this summer is riding alone. I invited everyone to ride with me, but no takers. I know I could ride with the women's group here in town, but they usually don't go as long as I like to go. Though I prefer to ride alone, every now and then it does get lonely. I have run into other cyclists while out, and usually we strike up conversations as we ride along, but I end up going one way and the other cyclist goes his way. At these times, I think of Eleanor Moseman, who cycled throughout Asia, and a comment she made: "[W]hat the long distance woman finds . . . is love for herself. Learning and reassuring herself . . . that she can survive and live as a solo entity, without a partner at her side to help her make decisions and keep her motivated." I have found cycling alone has made me realize how capable I truly am, and I am definitely more confident in myself, whatever I undertake. I'm not sure everyone appreciates my confidence, but I know my kids do, and that's what matters to me.

Oh, Summer, my Love,
Your warmth fills up my being,
spilling out as smiles.