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Susan Sleggs

Flash Fiction and personal thoughts

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Share A Cold One

In my life, there are a lot of beer drinkers.  A greeting when we visit someone, or they visit our house, is, “Ya wann’ beer?”  Our second fridge in the garage has a few kinds of beer in it.  Some of the new exotic stuff for my daughter and good old-fashioned Budweiser for my husband.  My son has just switched to Miller, and to do away with gluten I have switched to hard cider.  There’s nothing better on a hot steamy day, than a cold refreshing long neck. (For you non beer drinkers, that term refers to the neck on the bottle.)

When my husband and I first started dating, he and his co-workers went our for Friday happy hour without fail.  Sometimes there were just six of us, other times there would be close to twenty.  I would start watching the clock at my job, waiting for the phone call to tell me where everyone was meeting.  That was fifteen years ago and I can still tell you some of the exact conversations that took place and what we laughed about.  The crowd dwindled when one of the young ladies got pregnant, a couple guys decided to loose weight, and others changed jobs. We miss those days, and the closeness of that group.  We have a reunion twice a year just to stay in touch.

We have some very close friends and relatives that have had the opportunity to travel Europe and parts of Asia.  The young men involved rate the countries according to how well they like the beer.  I haven’t heard much about food except the meals in Germany.

My grade school chum and I get together for lunch about every three weeks.  We don’t sit in a chain restaurant with a cup of coffee, we sit in a bar, eat chicken wings or burgers and drink beer.  Yes, there is now gluten-free beer.  We have a lot of laughs, we tell each other our secrets, new and old (which no one else can hear over the music) and we forget our responsibilities for awhile.  We talk about current events and the family members we have buried.  We’ve known each other a long time, she’s my best friend.

And don’t forget it’s football season.  Who in their right mind would watch a football game without a cold beer to go along with the snacks.  I know, a lot of people would, but generally not in my realm.  Go Bills!  (We never lose hope!)

Recycle That Can!

I’m guessing just about every household in the U.S. has some aluminum cans in it, probably filled with beer, tea, soda, or pop (depending on your locale).  I can’t speak for other countries, because I don’t know for sure.
The following facts I took from the National Day of Calendar.  I share because they are particularly informative.  This is talking about just aluminum, but I encourage you to recycle all your cans.
Interesting Facts:
  • If you laid all the aluminum cans recycled in 2010 end to end, they could circle the earth 169 times.
  • In America, 105,800 cans are recycled every minute.
  • Recycling aluminum saves 95% of the energy it would have taken to process the same amount from a virgin source.
  • Your television can run for 3 hours from the energy saved by recycling one can.
  • Aluminum cans are worth about a penny each.
  • The industry pays more than $1 billion annually for recycled cans.

In  New York state, we pay a five cent deposit on aluminum cans, then get it back when we turn the cans in.  Some recycle centers will pay six cents a can on certain days.  It’s worth it to save them up if you have the space and are a pre-planner to take them back on the right day.  At some large supermarkets there are machines you insert the can into and it is immediately shredded, the crux, it can’t already be crushed.  When you are finished you get a receipt for how much money you have coming back to use toward your groceries.

So next time you have a nice cold beverage out of an aluminum can; recycle that can to add to the above statistics.

 

 

Applesauce Anyone?

Have you ever driven past an apple orchard when it is in full bloom?  Not only is it pretty and serene, it smells fresh and flowery.  In the fall, when the apples are weighing the branches down, begging to be picked, you can once again enjoy the scent, but this time it makes your mouth water because you can almost taste the fresh warm applesauce or feel the juice running down your chin after a crunchy bite.

When I was young, we would get a peck of apples, wash them, cut them in quarters and put them, just like that, in a pot to cook.  Not much water was added, just enough so the apples didn’t burn.  Once they were cooked to the mushy stage, we would put ladles full in a cone shape colander then use a wooden thing that looked like a one handled rolling-pin with a blunt end (I don’t know its name) to force the sauce into another pot before we canned or froze it.  This process removed all the skins, seeds and stems.  The result was a pretty pink applesauce.  No preservatives, maybe a tiny bit of sugar. It sure tasted good when we ate it warm while looking out at snow drifts.

I have had the good fortune to live near Lake Ontario in New York state and in Washington state along the Columbia Gorge where apple orchards are plentiful.  It’s fun to drive past the orchards when the apples are ripe to see the green Granny Smiths, the reds of all types, and the Yellow Delicious. Stopping at a road side stand to buy apples is a must.

In Fort Wayne, Indiana in Johnny Appleseed Park there is a grave marking the spot where the legendary sower of apple seeds rests. He was born John Chapman on September 26, 1774, in Leominster, Massachusetts.  He  was a unique man whose appearance was as interesting as his mission.  He traveled, mostly barefoot, from Pennsylvania to Wisconsin, planting apple trees, taking care of sick orchards, and doing kind acts for people along the way.  When I was in grade school we learned about this man at this time of year. 
Next time you buy a bag of apples, or buy some fresh ones at a stand, remember Johnny Appleseed and his contribution to our lives, then enjoy a bowl of warm applesauce.

Freedom Isn’t Free

Currently there is a national push to thank our military personnel, past and present, for their service.  That’s a wonderful thing, because freedom isn’t free.  Sometimes it’s hard to understand why we have “boots on the ground” in some places we know little about.  Our government makes the decision where our troops go.  We don’t have to agree with that decision, but I ask that you support the troops regardless.

Have you ever noticed a small rectangular white flag in the window of a house in your neighborhood?  If that flag has a blue star in the middle it means an active duty military person calls that address home; one of the parents hung that flag with a feeling of pride.  If the flag has a gold star, it means the military member made the ultimate sacrifice with his or her life for the United States of America.

Think about that a minute and relate it to your own life.  Can you call, skype, text, or visit your child at will?  Some parents can’t.  They go to the cemetery and cry, shake their head with disbelief, and imagine the next holiday without their child in attendance.  Does the hurt of losing a child ever go away?  No.  It becomes tolerable over time because you learn to deal with it, but it never goes away.  (We buried a daughter, 13 years ago, when she was 27, after an auto accident; that’s how I know.)

We have many freedoms in this country that other countries do not enjoy.  Are we perfect? Far from it.  Probably never will be, but at least we don’t have a civil war tearing at us night and day like Syria does.  Be thankful for that.  Be thankful for the relative peace we do have.  Be even more thankful for the military that keeps us safe in ways we will never know about.  And the next time you see a little white rectangular flag in someone’s window say a silent prayer the blue star never gets replaced by a gold one; if it is already a gold one, remember, freedom isn’t free and that family has paid the price.

There are Gold Star Mother groups in many cities all over the country.  Visit   http://www.goldstarmoms.com    to find one near you.  They can help a parent deal with loss.

I wrote this from a parent’s point of view because that is what I am.  It can also be turned around that it is the child going to visit their parent in the cemetery.  Again.  Freedom isn’t free.

 

My Definition of a POW

I have a lot of connections to the military, both past and present.  I fly the American flag 24/7.  Yes, it is properly lit.  I went outside yesterday and switched out the American flag for my POW/MIA flag that I will leave up until Monday in honor of my friends, some of which I can tell you their names and most of which I can’t.  I have the privilege of writing this in a sate of freedom because of the military, not because of our government that no longer takes care of our veterans.  I won’t apologize, I’m very biased on this subject.

I believe in my heart there are three different definitions of a POW.  First: the military member that was/is actually held by the enemy.  John McCain is the one I think of first.  Second; the veteran that leads a “normal” life, but has nightmares about his tour of duty, maybe is getting some help dealing with PTSD, talks to his brotherhood, other veterans, about what he had to do and what he witnessed.  Third; the person sitting at a bar who talks about his tour of duty like he came home yesterday, and it was actually many years ago; he/she doesn’t identify with todays life, feels alone and contemplates suicide on occasion.  There are about 20 veteran suicides a day.  Some have sought help and couldn’t get it, some never sought because they couldn’t admit the tough guy needed it and others because they lived in too rural an area to have help available.

Any veteran that did as our government directed will never be free of the memories.  I know a WWII and Korean Was vet whose job it was to load bombs.  He has told me, “I have no idea if any of the bombs I loaded were ever used, but it eats at me day and night.”  He generally stays awake at night, and sleeps during the daylight hours.  Tears form just writing this.  He’s a really good guy,  a great poet and he has my utmost respect.

There is a 90 plus year old lady in my home town that still wears the copper bracelet with her sons name on it; James Moore.  It also has the date he went missing in Viet Nam.  She never forgets either, and neither does her family.

I know this isn’t my usual type post.  I’ll close asking you to remember any POW or MIA with respect.  And while we’re at it, the American Flag and what it represents is why our veterans suffer with their memories.

 

Pediatric Nurses Day

The picture has the correct name for this day; National Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Nurses Day.  I truly hope no one in your family or circle of friends ever needs to get to know one of these very special people, but we know life isn’t always fair.

My daughter had major surgery when she was 3 1/2 to fix problems in her urinary tract.  I’m thankful it wasn’t cancer or a blood disorder.  Luckily she hasn’t needed more surgery as she ages.  That Doc did a great job.  Where, you might ask.  At Chanute Air Force Base Hospital in Rantoul, Illinois.  That was way back in 1978.  The base isn’t open anymore.

As a young mother, away from home, with two children and an Air Force husband, that was not an easy time in my life.  If you haven’t had any connection with a branch of the U. S. military, I will tell you they are a brotherhood.  In base housing, your neighbors are generally immediate friends, because they are away from home, just like you.  There is a bond produced by understanding that a military member’s life is not his/her own.  When the government of the country the member has signed their life away to, says jump. you jump.  It’s not a question, or a I’ll think about it, it’s how it is.  The families bond together just like the active duty members do because it’s necessary.  (I’m not complaining, just trying to explain.  I do digress.)

The nurses, techs, room cleaners, and doctors in a military hospital are all active duty military members, or they were in 1978, maybe it’s different now.  Anyway, I admire them highly.  Taking care of someone you can communicate with is one thing, caring for a baby is another.  Taking care of a child or teen that wants no part of a stranger can be trying too.  I have noticed that sick children seem to be calmer than non-sick.  My daughter’s surgeon said she didn’t feel good enough to be a brat, until he fixed her.  It was worth it.

I am an emotional person.  I cry at things in movies that others don’t even see as poignant. I cry when I’m happy, when I’m sad, and when I’m frustrated.  So, again, I admire any nurse that can care for a child, do their best, comfort the parent, then watch them walk out of their lives as quickly as they appeared.  Maybe it’s the quick come and go that makes it easier for them.  I couldn’t do their job without getting attached.

I’ll repeat, I pray you never have to know one of these caring, capable, super-human nurses.  I’m thankful they exist.

 

 

It’s Never Too Late to Start

September 7th has five National Days attached to it so we’ll have a little fun, then learn that it’s never too late to start.

It’s Neither Snow, Nor Rain Day referring to having our mail delivered in all sorts of weather. Be appreciative!  After a long cold, rainy day your mail carrier might go to his/her local bar to warm up with some hot Acorn Squash (Day) soup, order a Salami (Day) sandwich, then cool the tongue with a Beer (Lover’s Day).  I know, silly, but you have to admit, it works!  Sort of!  And I know Facebook will probably only recognize the Beer part; maybe the mail carrier.

So let’s look at Grandma Moses;

Anna Mary Robertson Moses (September 7, 1860 – December 13, 1961) is an example to us all of an individual who successfully began a career in the arts at an advanced age. A renowned American folk artist, Grandma Moses first started painting in her 70s after arthritis made it difficult to embroider, her original medium.

Grandma Moses’ exhibitions were so popular during the 1950s that they broke attendance records all over the world.

“A cultural icon, the spry, productive nonagenarian was continually cited as an inspiration for housewives, widows, and retirees. Her images of America’s rural past were transferred to curtains, dresses, cookie jars, and dinnerware, and used to pitch cigarettes, cameras, lipstick and instant coffee.”

  • 1950 – Cited as one of the five most newsworthy women.
  • 1951 – Honored as Woman of the Year by the National Association of House Dress Manufacturers.
  • Age 88 – Mademoiselle Magazine named her “Young Woman of the Year.”
  • Awarded the first honorary doctorate from Philadelphia’s Moore College of Art.
  • 1969 – A United States commemorative stamp was issued in her honor.
  • 2006 – Her work Sugaring Off (1943) became her highest selling work at US $1.2 million.  Sugaring Off was a prime example of the simple rural scenes for which she was well-known.
  • Grandma Moses’ painting, Fourth of July, was given, by Otto Kallir, to the White House where it still hangs today.

g-m-4th

Did you catch that?  She started painting at age 70, and was “Young Woman of the Year” at age 88.  We should be so lucky!

I admire the bloggers I have contact with, some of them are under 30.  I didn’t have enough life experience to write at that age.  Like I said above, it’s never too late to start.

 

 

What are you reading?

It’s National Read a Book Day.  Give yourself permission to take time for yourself and read something you like; an old-time western, a poignant love story, the biography of someone you admire, a kids book about animals (because you still like the pictures), a spy novel,  a young adult story so you can remember how innocent we once were.

I’ve mentioned before, this long family saga novel I have written.  I’m working on the fifth draft, tightening and removing the fat.  (It’s harder than writing it the first time!)  I have had about ten people read it so I can utilize their feedback to improve my work.  It’s interesting to discover each person wants me to slant the story to fit how they think.  My most recent reader was the only one under the age of 30.  When she got to the ending, at 4 AM, she woke her husband to tell him the outcome.  I had surprised her.  That’s a good thing.  Personally, I’m glad it wasn’t me she woke up at that time and told her so.  Her husband defended her and said he does the same thing to her.

So what is my book about?  It’s about how far a mother will go to secretly stay in touch with her only child after his father has disowned him for not following family tradition of becoming a doctor; about the wife that can continue to love her  husband and protect  his reputation because she has that secret contact.  It’s a portrayal of friendship and support between different sets of people and how many secrets they keep from some to help others; the story of four generations of a dysfunctional family that knows how to present themselves as happy and whole.  It’s fiction, not about my family, but each character has surprisingly similar characteristics to someone I am close to, and/or parts of myself.  That frightened me when I first started the project.

In one of the writing groups I belong to, most of the members are published authors.  One of the ladies has offered to help where she can; her advice was to make sure I don’t have too many was’s on a page.  If I do, I am telling the story, not showing the action.  WOW!  I just read page 16 of my manuscript and I found seven was’s in one paragraph.  I have a lot to learn! At least now I know one thing to look for.  After thinking about it for a time, I am actually looking forward to rewriting that segment.  It will definitely be better when I get done, maybe not the best it could be, but certainly better.

As you read your book, enjoy the story, then think about the fact it was probably not the author’s first draft.  In fact, it could have been the 50th or 100th draft.

 

National Newspaper Carrier Day

My husband and I enjoyed a very nice conversation yesterday about his years as a newspaper carrier.  He was involved in delivering the Sunday out-of-town paper(s) in Hornell, NY, from September 1960 until August 1966.  During that time period Hornell was around 15,000 people and it took ten carriers, on foot, to cover the city.

The boys each pulled a wagon, with the sides built up, that held editions from Syracuse, Buffalo, Rochester, and New York City.  At each house he would put the papers in between the screen and front doors so nothing blew away, and the person getting the paper didn’t have to walk outside for their morning news.  Some of the papers were more than an inch thick and some houses got more than one edition.  After he delivered, which took three hours, then he had to retrace his steps to collect from each patron so he could pay for the papers that day.  That was a lot of work for just over $4.00 profit.

As we talked he remembered the names of all the streets he covered, then explained what a pain it was to pull the heavy cart, with small wheels, through the snow; generally in the street because sidewalks weren’t shoveled, around cars and drifts stating at 6AM.  Once he got his license he went to work at 4AM to drive to pick up the papers at the train station, take them to the newspaper distribution building, help sort and stuff, then deliver.  By that time he was active in high school sports and also had a night time restaurant bus boy job, on top of being interested in dating.  He laughed when he told of some Saturday nights he didn’t go to bed, then slept most of Sunday after he finished his route.  At the end of the conversation we realized he has been working since he was twelve years old, in some capacity or another.  That has been his hobby all along.  And he’s still at it 55 years later, more than 40 hours a week, because he likes to.

We now live in a city where all newspapers are either put in your box, or in a bag and thrown somewhere in the driveway.  I tried to Google if small towns still have boy carriers that walk, ride bikes, or pull carts but I couldn’t find any information.  I’m guessing with how labor laws have changed, the paper carrier is an adult, riding in a car, but I’m not sure.

Next time you go out in your pajamas to get your paper, think about what time your carrier got up to deliver it and be thankful it arrives, rain, snow, fog or humidity!

National Lazy Mom’s Day

Personally I think this day should be named, Give Mom a Day Off.  The description says this is a day for moms to not do the dishes or the laundry.  I wouldn’t call that lazy, I would call that taking a break at the beginning of a new school year.

When I was a kid, my mother didn’t work outside the home.  I can’t say as I remember seeing her do the laundry, but it was always done. When I would go upstairs at night to go to bed, there would be piles of clean clothes on the steps, in  order of age, so mine were on the lowest step.  I do remember her hanging the sheets outside even when it meant they would go stiff with frost.  The reasoning was they smelled fresher, longer, and the electric bill liked it.  I’m short and if I were asked to bring the sheets in, I had to stretch to get the clothes pins off the line, and in the snow, invariably it went into the top of my boots.  We had a dachshund for a time, and she loved to bound between the foot holes, then bury her face in the white stuff and burst upwards shaking her head.

Oxford dictionary says lazy means inactive, unwilling to work or exert energy when capable, slothful, or in todays slang we would call that a “couch potato”.  Again, if a person works hard all week, then doesn’t trim the bushes on the weekend because they were feeling lazy; are they really lazy?  Not in my book.

I’ve been thinking all afternoon, and sharing thoughts at dinner too.  I can’t come up with a really good description of lazy.  One person we talked about doesn’t seem to be able to keep a job, yet, he’ll scrape, sand and paint the house every year. We decided he isn’t lazy, he just doesn’t like taking orders from others.  We talked about another person that uses dishes out of the dishwasher until it is empty.  The problem?  The dirty dishes are left to pile up on the counter, not even rinsed, until the dishwasher is once again empty so it can be filled.  I have witnessed this.  It stinks and looks horrendous.  So, is this person lazy, or do they have a form of some unnamed illness?  I hope it’s the latter, it would be easier to accept.

I guess the outcome of a days thinking, comes down to, if you are a mom and you do your best to raise your family, if you don’t feel like doing a chore on a certain day, it will be there to do tomorrow; unless you have an elf, friend, husband, even a kid, that will do it for you.   And, we didn’t even get to what retired moms might do with this day.  Take it off; it’s the day designated to do so.

 

National No Rhyme (Nor Reason) Day

When I first saw the picture for this day I wondered why they used orange slices.  Duh!  Orange is one of those words that has no rhyme.  There are a few others, but for as many words as there are, very few.  I’ll list some of them: arugula, beige, blitzed, chaos, circle, circus, fiend, film, gulf, kiln, midst, month, music, pint, purple, rhythm, silver, siren, toilet, width, woman.

It seems we could make a really interesting sentence using a whole bunch of those words strung together.  Have fun trying.  I tried to think if maybe we used an Irish brogue or southern drawl we come up with some words that sounded like they rhymed.  I gave up, not having either a brogue or a drawl.

So let’s look at the (NOR REASON) part of this day.  I hope you don’t mind my going off on a tangent.  I am currently reading a book that has so many words I have never seen before, mostly verbs, that I am questioning the writer’s goal.  I read to be entertained, not to take a vocabulary class.  My husband and I looked up one of the words last night and couldn’t come close to understanding why the author thought it was the right word to use in the context of his sentence.  I was glad it wasn’t just me that didn’t get it!

I have had the occasion to enjoy meals with  doctors, lawyers, and professors.  I have had people from those same professions in my quilting classes, and I have never met anyone that uses the big words they know while in general conversation.  They talk like anyone else does when around the table with friends.  So, why do authors do that, and why do their agents and publishers think it is all right?  Maybe I should be more open minded and enjoy the opportunity to learn, but it takes me out of the rhythm of the story.

I have often been told I write like I talk and I’m proud of that.  As you can see from my blogs, no big words here, just down home memories.  Many years ago I can remember using; the car was purple and going as slow as maple syruple…. I wonder what the context of the conversation was.

National Trail Mix Day

Have you gone shopping for trail mix lately?  In the super market I use, Wegmans, there are multiple kinds in the nut section, there are different kinds in the bulk food section and there are yet others in the health food section.  So, I leave the definition of trail mix to you.  I have read the first one made was just peanuts and raisins.

I like to take a bag of trail mix when we go on a car trip.  {It used to be motorcycle trip but the husband’s back gave out, and we have had too many close friends get hurt; I’m actually afraid to get on one now days.} The handy snack satisfies all sorts of cravings.  You can pick out just the chocolate when you need a sweet fix, and you can pick out all the cashews at one time, before anyone else gets to the bag.  The little pieces of dried fruit often give a more sour flavor burst if that is what you desire; and all jumbled together sends the taste buds into happy land, plus puts off the “I have to stop to eat!” demand for a while.  It’s a great staple for in the room too, no refrigeration or heating necessary.

Trail mix was “invented” for just that, eating on the trail when hiking.  I have been on some beautiful trails in my life.  Number one would be on Mt. Rainier in Washington state.  We parked in the Paradise parking lot and my friend pointed UP.  “You see that bench up there?” “Yeah.”  “That’s where we are eating lunch.” “Really?”  I didn’t have the exercise gene back then either, but I made it.  Trail mix was our dessert and the begging jay birds had some too.

Now I am back living in New York state, home territory.  There is a park named Harriet Hollister Spencer State Park that has wonderful views from the trails.  If you didn’t grow up around here, you’ll need a GPS to find it.  We also have Letchworth and Stony Brook state parks, plus many others.  I’m sure you have a great park near you.  Grab a bag of trail mix and go check one out.

One word of caution; dried fruit and chocolate can last almost indefinitely, not so with some types of nuts.  In an open bag in the cupboard they can go rancid.  So buy yourself some fresh trail mix and enjoy the Labor Day Weekend  (If you are in the U.S.)  while eating it, even if you do so in front of the TV, on the golf course, or around a fire pit.

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