Monday, May 11, 2015

Pick-a-Little, Talk-a-Little

Thursday I took the day off from work and chauffeured a (as I called them in my email to my bosses requesting the day off) “gaggle of old people” to go look at flowers!
The group of retired / older people in our church is adorably called the Elderberries.  They meet once a month and have either a guest speaker, or a party, or an informative lecture/tour, or go on a field trip.  And there’s always food involved… we are Baptist, after all. 
May was a field trip month, and I was asked by the gentleman in charge of planning the activities if I might be available to drive one of the church vans for their May outing.  Having previously jumped through the obligatory, insurance- related hoops, I am on the official list of approved drivers.  I refrained from pointing out that I generally work on Thursdays, and told him I'd be glad to.  After all, I get 4 weeks of vacation time and other than a much needed and desired week at the beach later in the year, I have no other major plans.
Anyway, the itinerary was to go to the Azalea Path in Gibson County and roam around and see the flowers.  Then go to the Ponderosa in Princeton for lunch.  (I mentioned there would be food involved, right?)  As the chauffeur, I was told my lunch would be paid for, so, Whoo hoo!
Now, I’ve been to the Azalea Path before.  If memory serves, I drove a bunch (I’ll
refrain from using the word "gaggle" again, although it was equally appropriate the previous time – in my mind’s eye, I’m seeing the scene from the Music Man during the “Pick-a-Little, Talk-a-Little” song where the town ladies turn into chickens.
Anyone?) from the older ladies’ Sunday School class.  When we were there that time, my dental hygienist was there with her children.  Turns out her in-laws own and run the place.
During the "long" drive to the church from the condo that morning, I told Mom that I fully anticipated earning a star for my crown in heaven while on this trip.  We weren't too far on the trip when I felt I'd already earned it.  (Envision driving on a road, and there being a 90 degree turn in the road, and being told to turn.) 
The day was beautiful, (despite the complaints that it was too hot), and the flowers were in full bloom (again, despite the complaints that it was too late in their season).  When Mom and I had gone before, we only looked at the area on the left side of the property.  Didn't have time, or were too pooped, to look at the right side.  So this time, we hit the right side.  Ok, that wasn't by design.  When we got there, the first priority was hitting the restrooms, and they were on the right side. 
According to the brochure, there was some damage to trees several years ago, due to straight line winds, so they had a chainsaw guy come in and do his thing.  They were pretty cool!

This woman kept posing in and amongst the flowers demanding I take her picture!  Isn't she cute?
After allowing for time to wander around the flowers, everyone was supposed to meet back at the vans at 11:30, so we could get to lunch by noon.  Well, very few people were at the vans, and God alone knew where all the others were.  At one point, the guy in charge was calling his sister's cell phone to find out where she was, and we were in the van listening to her cell phone ring, because she'd left it in her purse!  The phrase "herding cats" came to my mind and, for some reason, refused to leave!  (Although the guy in this picture looks like he's having a more successful time of it.)

We got to the Ponderosa where the manager was prepared (if that could ever really be the case) for all 20+ of us to descend.  Other than the one woman who constantly felt compelled to share with the whole group that she would rather have Mexican for lunch, we all had a good meal.  Mine was free, as I've already mentioned, AND I had enough leftovers to take home for dinner!  It was a two-fer!

By the time we returned to the church everyone was pooped.  Including this driver.

I'm still on the list of approved drivers for the church, but if asked again, I may have to find a less energetic crowd to drive around!  Or at least one that's going to a mall!  However, this free food in exchange for driving thing could be a nice racket! 

Friday, May 8, 2015

Cats Sleep Anywhere

Cats sleep anywhere, any table, any chair.
Top of piano, window-ledge. In the middle, on the edge.
Open drawer, empty shoe, anybody’s lap will do!
Fitted in a cardboard box. In the cupboard with your frocks.
Anywhere! They don’t care! Cat sleep anywhere.

              - Simon Tofield (Simon's Cats)

Review: Avengers - Age of Ultron

(Disclaimer: If you haven't seen this movie, there may be information in this review that might be considered a "spoiler" - although I consciously try not to put major spoiler info in my reviews. Please proceed with caution.)

When I was growing up the only comics I read was the odd Archie and Jughead or an Uncle Scrooge comic book, but not the Marvel comics.  I don’t think there were fan-girls back then, and I certainly wasn’t one.  Although I did watch Batman (the 1960’s TV Series) and the Justice League cartoons, the only Avengers I knew of were John Steed and Mrs. Peel.
I went to go see the first Iron Man movie because Mom wanted to go - but I really enjoyed it.  At that point, I didn’t know about the clips at the very ends of the Marvel movies, after the credits.  And I didn’t really have a clue about the co-mingling of all these characters I’d barely heard of.
Since then, I’ve seen the 3 Iron Man (Men?), 2 Thor, 2 Captain America – although he’s my least favorite of them – I have not watched the Hulk movie(s?), but I may look for them on cable.  I’ve also watched Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on TV.  (It was slow in the beginning, but I listen to the Afterbuzz TV podcasts for the show and despite really not being that interested in the TV show, I stayed with it because of the podcast, and then the TV show got really good, so I’m glad I did.) 
BTW, if you like TV shows and you have time to watch/listen to podcasts (driving, working out, playing Angry Birds, etc…), I cannot recommend anything more highly that the Afterbuzz TV podcasts.  They recap and dissect 100’s of shows each week and I get so much out of the podcasts.  As you may recall, I’m shallow, and that extends into how I watch TV, so I’m always missing things, and the podcasts help me catch them, and they explain things I got, but didn’t understand (mostly because I didn’t get something else that was an important key!)
But I digress.  Oh, and then there was Agent Carter over the January/February hiatus of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.  By now, I’m slowly beginning to know my way around the MU (Marvel Universe) and I was really looking forward to Avengers: Age of Ultron.  Although I had no clue who or what Ultron was.
There is an AMC theater about a mile from my condo, so obviously I go there for most of my movie viewing.  (Unless I have gift card to the other theater in town – which is more often than you might expect!)  Generally, when a new movie in a series comes out, AMC will have a marathon, usually the Thursday evening before the movie officially comes out the following Friday, and they show all the movies in the series AND the new movie.  I attended one of these when the third Batman movie came out.  I have to tell you, sitting in a theater for almost 9 hours watching Batman movies, while enjoyable, was very overwhelming!  And my butt was numb afterwards.
Then when the most recent Hunger Games movie came out… I’m thinking Mockingjay(? Isn't that the third book, the one they’ve made into two movies in order to squeeze a few more dollars out of the fans?)  Well, whichever, it was the first one of those.  So I sat and watched three movies in a row and really had a good time.  Except when the final (new) movie ended so crappily… but that would be a different blog article and this one’s already dragging on and I haven't got to Ultron.
Needless to say, when I received the email from AMC announcing the plans for an Avengers/Avengers: Age of Ultron evening, I signed up!  The cost was $22 and part of me thought, “Hmm… that’s a lot, maybe we’re getting some cool freebies or snack money” but then didn’t think any more about it.  Imagine my surprise when I checked in and the girl gives me 3-D glasses!
I’m one of those oddballs that really doesn’t care for 3-D movies, AND I happened to be wearing my glasses and not my contacts that evening, so that meant I had to sit there wearing glasses over my glasses.  But it wasn’t that bad, and after not too long, I forgot they were even there.  Obviously there’s a difference between movies that were probably filmed with 3-D in mind versus those that seems to be made 3-D as an afterthought.
I’m really glad I watched the first one before watching the new one.  I hadn’t seen it in its entirety since the first time I saw it in the theater.  I’ve caught parts here and there on cable, but never watched it all.  AND I got to see the clip at the end – which I’d not known to stay for the first time.  Of course, it really didn’t do me any good because I didn’t know who the blue guy was.  But still, good call.  (I did recognize him as the same blue guy at the clip at the end of Ultron, so.... that was good, and I was able to ask someone as we were leaving who the blue guy was - since I know you're wondering, it was Thanos from Guardians of the Galaxy.)
I really enjoyed the first one (both the first time I saw it, and this second time).  And I really enjoyed Ultron.  But they were definitely different movies.  (Duh!)  Here’s what I mean.  In the first one, Hawkeye might as well have been a red shirt for as far as I cared.  He was just a goob with a bow and arrow.  But in the second one, he was more important to the team and we got to learn about his family and his reasons for being on the team.  I actually cared about him and hoped that he wasn't going to die in the end, but I had a sneaky suspicion that he was going to, since we were getting so much insight on him.
We also got to know more about Black Widow.  I did not realize it, but have since read that she’s been in four of the Marvel movies, (I suppose I’m really going to have to catch the Hulk).  But I, not having read any Marvel comics, knew nothing more about her than what my pod(cast)-people told me.  But we got some background on her and found out more of what makes her tick.  Plus there’s a wee bit’o romance with the Hulkmeister in there.
Another aspect of the movie I really enjoyed it was packed with cameos of other Marvel characters.  Each time I recognized another one I got a little thrill or pride in my growing knowledge of the MU!  I listened to a podcast review of Ultron and the person had a problem with this, though; saying it made the movie too clunky and unwieldy.  I didn't think so, but then again, I watch things shallowly and don’t get too bogged down in the details; so if I didn’t know that that guy talking to Tony Stark is the same scientist who makes the XYZ potion that turns some guy into Whack-a-Mole Man, it doesn’t bother me.
Ultron – voiced by James Spader, who I will always remember as the creepy anti-Andrew McCarthy in Pretty in Pink – was basically an artificial intelligence system that Tony Stark set out to create, but that went wrong.  He added a good dose of comedy to the movie along with being the bad “guy.” 
As my regular readers know, I like my movies to be escapist entertainment – mix together some plot, a few explosions and car chases, a little smut, and some humor and Rose is very happy with a movie.  Now Ultron did have a few “deep” moments and conversations between characters, but all in all, I thought it was a very entertaining movie!  It met all of my requirements for a good movie! 

Two thumbs up!
Now, I just have to bide my time until the new Fantastic Four movie comes out later this summer!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Sharp Dressed Man... er... Cat

When I left the condo this morning, Sophie and Gizmo were peacefully napping on the balcony.  Blatantly rubbing it in that they don’t have any responsibilities and telling me that I should just leave because I was harshing their collective buzz.
But I knew that I’d be back.  Mwahahaha!!
See, Sophie, my very expensive baby girl, currently has this hot spot on her belly where she cleans it excessively.  Last fall when this happened, the vet prescribe the “Cone of Shame” to keep her from getting at it. 
But it was just to pathetically funny watching her bump around the ‘do in it.  So I took his other suggestion, which was to put her in a Onesie.  She didn’t particularly care for the Onesie, but she tolerated it, as it was preferable to the alternative.
(I figured that if looks could kill, I wouldn't have made it past last Thanksgiving.)
Now, flash forward to spring, and we are back at it.  The problem with the Onesie is that the only workable way to put a cat in it, is to have its neck hole at butt and tail area, which means that in order for there to be a place for her head to come out, she has to wear it sarong-style… and although it would stay on for a while, I would eventually find it on the floor and her running naked and free!
Amazon – the seller of all things wonderful – suggested to me, in its list of “Things You Might Be Interested In” list, that there’s this thing called the “Suitical” which is basically a Onesie only for animals (i.e., an appropriate number of holes, spaced strategically.)  It’s rather pricey, but I got one for her, thinking it would involve less struggles in getting her “dressed.”  Ha!
She had been wearing her outfit – BTW, it only comes in camo… really!? – anyway, she wore it all weekend, and we took it off of her last night to let things breathe.  Which is why this morning, she was playing dead on the balcony, just hoping I’d leave for work so she could have the whole day free.  What she didn’t know was that Mom was going to wash it this morning, and I (not having my usual Tuesday lunch date) was going to come home over lunch and shove her fuzzy butt into it.
As I left work, I told my co-worker to wish me luck.  I don’t think she did.
I arrived home, and running to greet me at the door is my beautiful fuzzy girl.  By the time I drop everything and make my move to nab her, the synapses in her walnut-sized brain have connected (Mom’s home for lunch + Mom never comes home for lunch + I’m out of my outfit = RUN!)  Now the wise thing to do before starting the nabbing process would be to close all doors.  We were not wise, but we will be next time.  First she runs for the balcony.  That’s fine, there’s a finite amount of places she can hide from me, but they’re all under the chairs and lounge chair, and while I’m moving chairs and trying to reach for her, she runs inside.  To Mom’s bedroom.  Under Mom’s bed.
Mom brings the dust mop, we shut the door, and I get in my catcher’s position.  I can’t possibly describe the Laurel and Hardy-esque things that happened then.  Just assume that it involved Sophie, running in and out of our grasp, and both me and my “older” mother on the floor on our knees.  Eventually we caught her.  Her little heart was a pumping and despite the air conditioning, I was sweating.
I held her in my death grip while Mom squirted the anti-biotic spray on it and we shoved that fuzzy butt into the camo suitical.  Hair a mess and dripping in sweat, we were successful!  And I looked forward to returning to the (relative) calm of the office. 
Our sweet curmudgeon did her best to stay out of my grasp until I left for work.

I decided I needed a reward for braving a fierce creature with terrifying teeth and talons,

so I went to Sonic on my way back and got me a hot dog and a slushie!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

I've Been Working on the Railroad...

Ive Been Working on the Railroad,
All the Live Long Day!!

Rest assured I haven't lost it.  Today's escapade will be train related.  But first, a little background, as it were...

Exhibit A: Mom does genealogy - she has since she was bit by the bug while pregnant with her favorite child... so, about 46, going on 47 years now.  In fact, over a year ago, she did the paperwork to get her, and subsequently me and the twins, into the Daughters of the American Revolution ("DAR") which, for those who don't know, means she's proven that an ancestor of hers served the cause ... either by actually being a soldier, or financially, or housing soldiers, or whatever ... for American Independence.  Consequently,

Exhibit B:  I cannot tell you how many vacations, growing up, were planned around or, at a minimum, involved a genealogy-related side trip.  I clearly recall sitting in the back of the pickup truck, under the camper top, parked at some county courthouse in Virginia, with the twins who were ignoring me, during a rain storm,  staring mournfully at the swing set on which I really wanted to swing, for HOURS while Mom and Dad were inside the courthouse having fun (i.e., doing research).  But I'm not going to go into details, because I've gotten over it.  However,

Exhibit C:  Mom doesn't feel like she is up to TRAVELING anymore.  Trekking through airports or long car rides exhausts her.  Consequently, we go on day trips.  If figure if she's willing to stay at home and cat/condo sit (as opposed to cat condo sitting) while I venture off to the beach (October can't get here soon enough for Rose!!)..., uh.. then I can chauffer her around the general area and assist with her "diggin' up bones," as Dad used to call it, once in a while.  Specifically,

Exhibit D:  Mom's grandfather, David Hollis grew up and lived in the Cape Girardeau, MO, area.  He worked for the Cotton Belt Railroad.  In fact, he even has (had?) a patent for something, but unfortunately technology (the invention of the steam engine, maybe?) soon surpassed the need for whatever the doohickey was that he'd patented, so I'm not living comfortably off his millions.  Whenever Mom tells me about him or something new she's discovered, each time she mentions that he worked on the railroad, I (probably to her major annoyance) have to break into song with "All the Live Long Day!!"  Hence the title of this piece. 

Hmm.. do we need any more background?  Don't think so.. 

The next day trip involves going to the boot heel area of Missouri to see the general area (see map below) where my great grandfather lived and worked.  Mom discovered a company that operates a train and rides passengers on a two-hour ride in the same general area, the St. Louis Iron Mountain and Southern Railway. Initially, her hopes were that we could go and that the train ride would through Bollinger County so we could look at the same scenery he looked at and that it would be the same kind of train. 

And let me interject at this point, that when Mom reads this, she better be darned proud of the fact that I know all these names, places, etc.  See, Mom, I DO listen to you when you blather on about this stuff!

Unfortunately, after contacting the people for more information, the train is neither the kind that Gpa(x2) worked on nor does it go up into Bollinger County.  Undaunted, Mom still wanted to go! 

Now, if you follow the link for the train company, you'll see the schedule and discover that there are a lot of "theme" rides.  When we first discussed going on this trip, last fall, the weekend we were considering was "Dress as your favorite superhero day."  Now, as we looked over the options ... "Dress as your favorite Star Wars character" anyone? ... we had a choice to make.  For some reason, ever since that episode of the Brady Bunch where Bobby was fascinated by Billy the Kid and then he had this dream where Billy stopped the train the Brady's were on and proceeded to shoot the entire family "just to watch'em die," I've been leery of train robberies, fake or otherwise. 

We decided on May 9th - "Civil War Train and Encampment - Confederates soldiers will ride the train and the Union soldiers will try to take over. Come in costume, join the fun. Join us for a mint julep during the ride. Play our trivia game and win prizes. Come dressed as a southern belle or gentleman and join the fun."   Ok, I'm not dressing up as anything, Batman, Wookie, or a southern belle,.. besides, I don't know how I'd begin.  But since as Mom can tell you, we have ancestors who fought on both sides of the Civil War, I figure we'll be comfy on the train with either Confederate or Union soldiers!

Anyway, I'll report back to you about the trip.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Those Were the Days, My Friend...

A couple of years ago, I accompanied my mother to her high school class reunion – Class of 1958 – I’m thinking it was maybe in 2013?? So that would have been her 55th Reunion.  I do have to point out that I haven’t bothered to attend any of my OWN high school reunions, but…. 

The whole event was more memorable for me because we spent the night in what is now a bed and breakfast, but what used to be the hotel owned and operated by my grandparents.  My mother and her sisters grew up there.  Pretty neat!

All of that is irrelevant to today’s point.  Mom reconnected at that reunion with a couple of her close friends from high school.  So this past weekend, a couple of years later, I drove her down to Paducah, Kentucky, where one of them (Alma Jean) lives.  The other one (Norma) lives somewhere in Tennessee and she drove up to Paducah, it being in the middle.

When we got there, Alma Jean sat us down to a veritable smorgasbord of food.  She said she’d fix one thing and then think, “Well, what if they don’t like that?” and then she’d fix something else!  The thing is, there were only four of us!!

I found it very eye-opening to sit there and watch my mother interact with these women.  I liken it to my interactions with my girlfriends.  Years ago, there were a handful of girls (we’ll always be girls) from the Wadesville Church that would get together for food and friendship.  We called ourselves the “Cluck” – if memory serves, it was in response to someone making an overly sexist comment about us having a hen party, but I could be making that up.  It has been many years since we had a Cluck party, but I remember clearly sitting there laughing so much it would make my face hurt.

Back to Mom’s party, I sat there watching these “girls” and I could see me and my friends in them.  Honestly, I’d worried (because of all the things I’m good at, that’s what I do best) that when they got together, it would be awkward and they wouldn’t have anything to talk about.  Of course I shouldn’t have worried.  I know from experience that when true friends get together after a long separation, they pick up exactly where they left off, without any effort.

As I sat there listening to them giggling and excitedly talking over each other (“I dated him.” “No!” “Really!?”), I had to remind myself that these three girls were women in their mid-70’s!

The time flew and it was 5pm before we knew it.  Before breaking up and hitting the road to go back to our respective homes, we pottied down.  I only mention this because the bathroom I used was the biggest bathroom I've ever seen.  I honestly think it is bigger than Mom's bedroom!

As we left, Molly, Alma Jean's dog, was very pleased to see the backs of us, having spent a rather uneasy afternoon by her mama's side with the three strangers in her house.

On the way home, Mom asked me if I'd had a good time and I honestly told her that I did.  It's good to be reminded that your parents are people too.  And as the difference between my physical age and my mental age increases, I feel less weird knowing that deep inside, my mother is still that teenage girl!
Those were the days my friend
We thought they'd never end
We'd sing and dance forever and a day
We'd live the life we choose
We'd fight and never lose
Those were the days, oh yes those were the days
-          Boris Fomin and Gene Raskin