The Sound of Thunder

The sound of thunder clapping fills many folks with dread,

But for me, it’s no more ominous than the voices filling my head.

“You should get this done,” one whispers, regardless of the pain

That makes my body weary and tires out my brain.

Another voice reminds me that I have it easy,

That the chores and things I have to do are breezy.

But my body cringes at the thought, so mere

Adding to the existing pain fills my soul with fear.

And when the demons decide to chime in

My mood drops me into a mindless tail spin.

Days pass by, sense of time is lost

As an emotional being

I carry them at this cost.

Like thunder, my body rattles

In the aftermath, the voices tattle.

I fight so hard for an appearance that’s normal

But always know that this fake smile is formal.

So do not judge the thunder or stories that it tells

For inside of my mind, is where the thunder fell.

Hacks from my Happy Place – X

As promised in an earlier post, this post is intended to give you some suggestions on how to prepare your kitchen if you live anywhere where winter can be – and often is – a big white beast!

If you live in an area which is prone to power outages during storms, here are some important hints for you:

#1) If you don’t already have one, buy yourself a manual can opener.

#2) For less than $25, you can buy yourself a sterno stove and several cans of sterno. These can be found in any sporting goods store in the camping section, and can also be purchased online. I suggest you buy a stove that allows you to place a pot/pan on top. And for fun, cook hotdogs over the flame from a can of sterno – just like camping!

#3) Stock up on canned goods (you can because you have a manual can opener!). Tuna is good to have on hand. There are other canned meats available as well. A wide variety of soups are out there! Things like non-refrigerated pudding cups, applesauce cups and fruit cups are good to have on-hand to satisfy a sweet tooth.

#4) Did you know that you can freeze milk? Well, you can! Just remember that you need to empty some of the container first due to expansion when it freezes. Also, milk thaws very slowly, so I tend to buy a few pints from a convenience store to put in my freezer. Lunchmeat and cheese also freeze well.

#5) If you don’t already have one, invest in a cooler. If you lose electric for many hours or days, just put your frozen foods in the cooler and sit it outside!

#6) If you are a coffeeholic like me, life changes drastically when you can’t have a cup due to a power outage. Now is the time to buy a box of single-use coffee bags (they look and act like tea bags). I also have a steel thermos, which, if I suspect a power outage, I will fill with boiling water. Now, I’ll be honest, this stuff isn’t nearly as good as fresh-brewed coffee, but even bad coffee is better than no coffee, right?

#7) You won’t want to be opening and closing the refrigerator door more than necessary. Be prepared by having, on hand, a bunch of condiment packages for things like mustard, ketchup and mayonnaise. These little packages don’t need refrigeration and they are handy for making sandwiches, etc., even tuna salad (which again, you can make because you have a manual can opener!).

#8) The joke that goes around Pennsylvania, where I live, is that, at the first sight of a snowflake, there is a mad dash to store to buy milk and bread. A little trick to keep bread fresh longer, without getting moldy, is to put a stalk of celery in the bag with the loaf of bread. Celery tends to dry out, and it will ‘suck up’ the moisture in the bread so that it doesn’t go moldy! (Me? I live alone and it takes me a good while to go through a loaf of bread, so mine goes into the fridge when I bring it home.)

#9) Make sure you have paper plates, paper bowls and some plastic utensils on hand. Whether you have a dishwasher or wash your dishes by hand, no hot water means they can’t be washed. No one wants to look at a growing pile of dirty dishes filling the sink! This is also true for hot and cold drinking cups.

Though I know it’s not really true, a part of me wants to believe that being fully prepared plays into reverse psychology with Mother Nature – you know, like carrying an umbrella to keep it from raining. I’d prefer to be prepared for a disaster that never happens than to be unprepared when it does happen. Think of these ideas as insurance!

(Just Another) Day in Paradise

I had to start this post with the title of one of Phil Vassar’s more well-known songs. It is, after all, about him and the most deliriously happy I’ve been in a long time after seeing him perform at Sellersville Theatre (a small, 325-seat venue) on Saturday night.

I have been a country music fan for many years now, and I’ve seen a few artists in concert. I first saw Phil Vassar perform some years ago at a large, outdoor venue when he was in the ‘height’ of his career, and it was truly amazing! I hadn’t been aware back then of his musical talents on the piano, and I was fascinated. The highlight, however, had to be his encore, when he re-entered the stage by himself and sat down at the piano. Within the first few notes, we all knew he was going to perform Billy Joel’s classic hit “The Piano Man” which, to me, seemed the most appropriate song. A crowd of over 1000+ started singing along, and he let us take over, simply accompanying us as we sang. Thinking about it still gives me goosebumps!

I had another chance to see him this past summer. I drove to Lancaster, with an overnight stay planned. By the time I arrived at my lodging, my sinuses were in total meltdown, and I ended up feeling too ill to attend the concert. Major bummer!

I happened to see a sponsored ad about him playing at Sellersville, which is only about 1/2 hour from home for me. I used social media to plead to find another person interested in attending.

And that’s when my friend, Gayle, whom I met through another mutual friend, reached out to me. She and her husband are avid followers of Phil, and she asked me if I would like her husband’s seat for the show, since he had seen him in concert many times already. Would I???? I mean, do I breathe???

To make a long story short, we had front row seats at a table, positioned perfectly to face Phil at his piano and still be able to see all of the other musicians. The music was phenomenal, and the show so engaging because it was such a small venue. Every table across the front contained people he knew – his loyal followers – and he made eye contact with each of them (even me!). He had me singing along, tearing up over one song that had special meaning or me, and wanting to pinch myself several times to show me that I wasn’t dreaming.

I didn’t think the night could be better, only our tickets included a ‘meet and greet’ right afterwards. Oh. Em. Gee. I was going to meet this amazing musician in person! I swayed between giddy and delirious while waiting in line, and I was nervous! When I walked up on my turn, he immediately opened his arms to hug me! My friend, Gayle, then introduced us officially, and I told him about seeing him some years ago. Photos were taken and as we walked away, I started crying. I couldn’t believe that this had all just happened to little old me!

I don’t remember the drive home. Fortunately, I was on somewhat familiar roads and my handy GPS got me home without me having to think about it. I remember heating up something for dinner because I hadn’t eaten the entire day. I remember climbing into bed after changing into sleeping attire. Now, I normally have trouble falling asleep at night, and the memories, the moments, the incredible experience were racing through my head. Yet, I must have fallen asleep pretty quickly.

This morning I am reminding myself of the adage, “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” And I have the memories – and PHOTOS to prove it!

Up close!
You can tell he’s having a good time!
Amazing guitarist and back-up singer.
This gal plays a mean sax!
Fantastic drummer – and he can sing, too!
This! This is going to happen!
Oh. Em Gee!
My amazing friend, Gayle, with Phil and me!

Mentally Preparing for Winter

Autumn is so special when it begins to unfold, but it is, it seems, the season that ends on a desperate note. We look forward to winter passing into the beauty of spring, we look forward to spring passing into the warm weather and vibrant green of summer, and we look forward to summer passing into a cacophony of color for autumn. But at autumn’s end, it is nothing more than stark, bare trees awaiting the cold of winter. And while we can groan and mumble about it, it IS going to happen! So why not set yourself up with preparations and ideas to keep engaged during this time?

Our days are filled with less sunlight hours, making the nights seem endless. Our minds tell us subconsciously that it’s time for bed when the skies are dark, and our bodies sometimes struggle not to give in and go to bed far too early. The holiday season – Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years – give us planning to do, but once the holidays are over, the doldrums can set in rather quickly.

One of the things I’ve found that helps me cope with the early darkness at night, and with my S.A.D. (seasonal affective disorder) is to use what are called “day” bulbs in several of my lamps. These bulbs burn a bright light, very white, and make us feel like daylight is around us.

Being cooped up during artic weather is another difficulty. I suggest taking up a craft, or reading, or saving movies you’ve never seen before to help fill the hours. Of course, if you’re like me, you’ll spend time in the kitchen making all of those comfort foods we seem to crave. Also, winter time is a good time to have your evening meal at the table, instead of in front of the TV. The pleasure of eating is always increased when we choose to “dine” appropriately. If you’ve got kids underfoot, depending upon their ages, engage them by letting them help you prepare a meal. I remember that jigsaw puzzles were always fun during the winter, and they can be a family event.

Just try to find things to do other than relying on social media to fill your hours! It’s important to keep occupied so that your mind is active and not lingering in the sadness that winter can bring in varying degrees to each person. And remind yourself that you will get through it!

I’ll be writing a post on preparing your kitchen for winter next, so stay tuned for that! Meanwhile, enjoy the autumn season as much as you can!

KEYS: GUEST POST OF JODY, RAMBLINGS AND RUMINATIONS ❤️ — IT’S ALL ABOUT LOVE

My muse, which has been oddly silent, finally came up with something to write that I thought might fulfill the request I had received to write a guest post. Fortunately, for me, sweet Yeka, my fellow blogger, did all of the hard work of taking my words, in draft form in an email, and fixing them up and posting them.

Since this was such an honor, I’m posting the link below so you can go and check it out for yourselves. I hope you enjoy it!

Photos from my Happy Place

After paying homage to cabbage in my last post from my happy place, I thought I’d share some photos of my recent ‘escapades’ with said item.

Fresh from market

This beauty, which weighed over 4 pounds, came from Shady Maple Market in Lancaster County, PA. Heads of cabbage there, all huge like this one, were only 99 cents each – that’s right, each, not per pound. How could I refuse such a deal?

So, what’s a girl to do with over 4 pounds of cabbage? Make all three of her favorite cabbage recipes, of course!

Batch of cabbage soup

First up was cabbage soup. In case you missed my previous blog, this is just cut-up cooked chicken, a can of diced tomatoes – juice and all – some chicken stock and the star of the show, cabbage. I do add some sauteed onions to start, but that is optional.

Batch of unstuffed cabbage rolls

Next up was unstuffed cabbage rolls. My friend, Deb, told me that she makes this using already browned hamburger and already cooked rice, so I tried that this time. She uses a crockpot, but I’m still more comfortable using my stove top and being able to stir now and then. Honestly, the taste is no different.

Batch of fried cabbage

Now on to fried cabbage. Certainly the most tedious of the recipes because the diced onions, loose sausage and bacon all get sauteed separately and are only combined once the cabbage has been steamed to soften it. Oh, but it is so worth it! With the extra time and work that making fried cabbage takes, it’s the most difficult of the three for me to share a lot of.

Now, as an extra bonus, I want to include some photos of hog maul/pig’s stomach for anyone who heard me talk about it and wondered exactly what it was.

Fully baked hog maul
Insides of the pig’s stomach. I was expecting loose sausage, but it was still yummy!

In closing, the saying is that “a picture’s worth a thousand words”. In that case, I hope you enjoy my 6000+ word post! LOL

Cynical(yet hopeless)Romantic

I arrived at this title and the contents contained within after some time spent pondering a request to write a guest post for another blogger. This particular blogger’s site tends to revolve around love in its many forms, and that made me focus on what I might share about my concepts of love that would engage her readers. Writing of the amazing relationship, full of love, that I have with my brother has already been done – by him – and by me in assorted tidbits throughout other blog posts I’ve written. So I started to think about other loves in my life and my thoughts began racing to all of the romantic relationships I’ve had in my many years.

We’ll bypass the angst of teenage love/high school love. I had a couple of crushes during those years, all of which were unrequited. I did have one boyfriend that I recall but I wouldn’t have said I loved him then, and I wouldn’t say that now. He was cute, as I recall, but all I cared about was being able to say I had a boyfriend. Obviously, that went by the wayside.

I had a boyfriend in college. Terry was a nice guy, and beyond good to me. My problem with our relationship was that he was somewhat of a mama’s boy. His father was gone, and he was an only child. That made him feel compelled to go home almost every weekend. Meanwhile, I had been kept very constricted in social life and social activities while growing up, and my college life finally gave me the chance to break out and explore. Our college was close to the state line, where the drinking age was only 18, and while I didn’t like beer (still don’t), it wasn’t uncommon for a group to cross the state line on a Friday or Saturday night for pizza and beer.

Unfortunately, on one of those yet again weekends that he went home to see his mother, I got invited to a frat party. I wasn’t expecting any problems because these were always keg parties and I knew I couldn’t stomach the taste of beer to have too much to drink. However, it was on this night that I was naively introduced to grain alcohol. Meanwhile, the wall flower that I was stayed to the edges, and then I saw this guy, his entire right leg in a cast, holding a pair of crutches, and figuring he was as lonely as I was against the wall, found the courage to go over and say hello. Because I was naively sipping a punch which I had no idea was laced with tasteless alcohol, the events became very sketchy after that. I remember walking out the door, with my new friend holding onto me. I remember walking face-first into a huge tree, stepping back and immediately, out loud, apologizing to the tree for walking into it. And I remember waking up the next morning in his dorm room. I was assured that nothing happened – I was too drunk and he was encumbered with a full leg cast – but I felt pretty bad about it.

Needless to say, my boyfriend, Terry, was neither accepting of my behaviour nor willing to believe that nothing had happened between us. I made a stupid cry out in anguish, which was eventually enough that my mother was called to come. She took me home, and I never returned to college.

That became a pattern that it took me years to understand. I understand now that I would always find a way to sabotage my relationships becauses I had in innate belief that something would end up going wrong and I would get my heart broken. If I was going to lose this guy – and I always believed I would – then I was going to choose how and when.

Now, here I am, two marriages and two divorces under my belt. I understand now that I married for all of the wrong reasons and sadly, without a concept of what real love was. I’ve been single for a long time, with only one long-distance relationship under my belt in all of that time. I tried numerous dating sites, and had some really bad dates from them. And the longer I live alone, the more I realize that it would be difficult to give up my space, even to share it. I treasure the silent time I have in the early morning hours before dawn begins and the day starts. I treasure not having to clean up after anyone else but me. And let’s face it, my fault or not, I’ve been in enough relationships that I’m not sure I deserve another chance.

I have more than enough reasons to be cynical about true love and a committed relationship. And yet, I am still a hopeless romantic at heart. Some part of me is still open to the idea that a man will enter my life and capture my heart. I don’t believe in that possibility intellectually, but emotionally.

And so, I have chosen to label myself as a cynical romantic…