Sunday, September 30, 2012

20. To Lunch or Not to Lunch

[Marriage is always a matter of give and take. This is especially true when traveling. Always remember-- Would you rather be right, or would you rather be happy? Sometimes when you choose one, you also get the other.]

"I swear Janice, if I hear one more word out of you, I will stop this car and one of us will have to leave.”
Charles and Janice had driven thousands of miles in their trusty VW van, from Chicago to southern Mexico, all around the province of Oaxca looking for interesting pottery and then back to Illinois.  Although they usually got along, on the last stretch home they were arguing about where to stop for lunch.
            Charles wanted to keep going to get home before dark.  He thought they had enough peanuts and other snacks to stave off starvation.  Janice was tired and knew he was too.  She thought it would be safer to take a break.       
            “If you’re that tired, climb into the back and sleep,” he snorted. “I’m not tired.  I’ve got plenty of get up and go left.”
            Janice held her tongue and climbed into the back of the van.  Although her mind raced with thoughts of what she should say to Charlie, she decided to keep the peace.  That old question played in her mind, “Do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy?”  Happy she decided and slowly fell asleep.
            Two hours later, Charlie noticed they were getting low on gas.  A billboard advertised a cheap price and he decided to pull in to the service station.   He got out, filled the tank, and went inside to pay.             
            Coming back to the car, he thought, Boy, Janice must be tired, usually she hops out at every rest stop.  Well, I can manage the driving until she wakes up.
            He continued cruising down the interstate under the speed limit, not wanting a ticket to ruin this last day.  Checking his rear view, he was surprised to see a state trooper coming up behind him.  As the trooper turned on his flashing lights, Charlie was astounded and called back to Janice, “Hey, there’s a state trooper wanting to pull me over.  I don’t know why.  I’m not going over the speed limit.”
            He carefully pulled over to the shoulder, rolled down his window, and started to pull out his wallet for his driver’s license.
            The trooper leaned into the window, smiled and asked, “Are you Charles Jordan?”
            Eyes bugging out, Charlie admitted that he was.
            “Did you forget something?”
            “I…I…don’t think so.”
            “Where’s your wife?” 
            “She’s…she’s …just in back, taking a nap.”  And Charlie turned around and took a good look in the back of the van.  “Oh, my gosh, she’s not there.  What happened?  Where is she?”
            “You left her back at the gas station.  She got out to use the restroom while you were inside paying.  I guess you didn’t see her, unless you did it on purpose?”  The trooper looked at Charlie with a question in his eyes.
            “Oh my gosh, no, no.  I got to go get her.  Oh my gosh.  How mad is she?”
            “Well, let’s just say, you’d better get back there as soon as possible.  There’s an interstate crossing you can use up ahead.  I’ll follow you to make sure you don’t get lost.”
            Meanwhile back at the gas station, Janice was sitting at the lunch counter, enjoying a hamburger and fries.  It had been a shock not to see the van when she came out.  And she did have a few bad moments when she thought Charlie had left her deliberately.  But she knew he would never really do that.  Everyone had been so nice.  The station manager had called the state police to track Charlie down and then had offered Janice a free lunch to sooth her frazzled nerves.
            Poor Charlie, Janice thought.  Nothing turned out the way he thought it would.
                                                               The End



Friday, September 21, 2012

19. Birthday Cake Blues

I used to work for a major weight loss program, which shall be nameless.  With obesity rates in the United States approaching the 50% mark, the program was turning out to be a platinum mine, for the owners.
          My job was to provide group counseling for our enrollees.  I also focused on how to substitute appropriate for inappropriate behaviors associated with eating.  You know the drill, always eat at a table, never eat while watching TV or reading.  Yada, yada, yada.
 I always told my classes they knew more about calorie content than I did.  But we were meeting to learn ‘mindful’ eating.  Sort of like a Buddhist retreat for chunky monkeys.
One of my clients was a sweet faced woman about 45 who was cute as a button, but the button was for a supersized jacket.  She never missed an appointment and took lots of notes.  She was a star performer, on a great losing streak, working off one to two pounds a week. 
However, at her most recent weekly appointment she had not lost any weight, which wasn’t that unusual for people trying to regain a healthy weight level.  But she had gained two pounds.  I went over her daily activity and food intake chart with her to find out what had happened.  Hopefully, if we located a problem she could avoid it in the future.
I pointed out one notation for Sunday and asked, “What does, “Badly Behaved Cake” mean?  Did it jump into your mouth and force you to chew and swallow?”
She sighed.  “I wish I could say that, but I was badly behaved not the cake.”
            “Well, that’s what we’re here for--to learn about behaviors-- so what happened?”
          “It was my husband’s birthday so I made his favorite chocolate cake.  We each had a slice and with four kids that meant half of it was eaten that night.  I put the rest of it away in the freezer.  I thought it would be easier for my husband to slice a piece for himself each night and easier for me to ignore it if I couldn’t see it.”
“That sounds like a good plan,” I complimented her.  “Out of sight, out of mind.” 
“Unfortunately, that’s not what happened.  It was more of an ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’ plan.”
The rest of our group started smiling as if they knew what was coming.
“I couldn’t stop thinking about that cake and how good it looked and how good it tasted when I ate my small piece the night before.  I kept thinking about it and thinking about it.”
“Ok, now Linda, we’ve talked about this before.  What are you supposed to do?”
“I know, get out of the house or start cleaning a bathroom.”
I nodded encouragingly.  “That’s right.  So you know what you should have done.”
“Yeah, my mind knows, but my mouth overrides it.  I finally couldn’t stand it any longer and took it out of the freezer, cut a thin slice, and ate one thin slice at a time until the whole cake was gone.”
“Well, that wasn’t a good decision.  But now you can learn from that mistake.”
“Oh, gosh.  I’m not done yet.”
Now I was getting concerned.  “What else happened?”
Cindy, another group member with a love of chocolate, wanted to know more, too. “Yeah, we need full disclosure here.”
Linda continued, “I was so upset with my lack of willpower.  How could I eat all of my husband’s favorite cake.  He was probably looking forward to some when he came home for work. “
I pushed her to keep going, “What did he say when he discovered you ate the rest of his birthday cake?”
She laughed and admitted, “He never found out.”
I shook my head to clear it. “I don’t understand.  I can’t believe he forgot about it.”
“No, he didn’t forget.  I just hurried and made another cake and ate half of that one, too.”
                                      THE END


Monday, September 10, 2012

18. The Winds of Change

[Note:  This story is longer than usual--about 1,000 words, and it has a very different tone.  I hope you like the change of pace.]

She always knew that someday she would have to move—everyone said so.  She was too old, too weak, too frail to continue taking care of this old, frame house.  Its paint was peeling, window sills cracked, chimney leaning.  In fact, the house looked like she felt some times.
            But she had been born in this prairie house, married in it, gave birth to 3 sons in it, watched her husband, Don, sicken and die in it, and God willing she would die in it, too.
           Yes, she lived alone now.  No one wanted to come out here to the middle of nowhere, 20 miles from town and the grocery store.  Everyone thought she was foolish when she could live in comfort with one of her sons.   Or so they said. 
            Sometimes when she woke out of a sound sleep, she forgot that everyone was gone.  She thought she had to jump out of bed and run to the kitchen to start breakfast.  She didn’t want Don to start a hard day’s work without a full stomach and she didn’t want the boys to be late for the school bus.  But then she’d remember she had no one to cook for, no one to hurry for, and she’d sink back into bed, her heart rate slowly returning to normal.  And part of her would be relieved but part of her would be sad.
            Well, she’d tell herself that was what life was all about—some times you were happy and some times you were sad.  If you were lucky you had more things to be happy about.  Or at least you made up your mind you would be happy no matter what things you got in the life of chance.
            She didn’t want to be one of those old women who always complained about their health and how no one came to see them any more.  Actually she was in pretty good health for a woman of 88 years.  She supposed that’s why no one really pushed her when it came to the issue of moving.  And her boys and their wives were good about checking on her.  Even the grandkids, now that they could drive, stopped by to see her.  Of course, they all liked her chocolate chip cookies.  “Maybe I bribe them but at least I don’t whine,” she thought to herself.
            She heard the wind quicken and swirl around the house.  She peered out the dusty window at the setting sun.
            “Looks like there might be a breeze tonight.  I guess a little freshening wouldn’t hurt this old house and me any.”  She smiled as she climbed back into the bed that had once belonged to her parents.  These days she seemed to go to bed with the sun and rise with the sun.  Of course, that didn’t mean that she slept those long hours.  She happily opened her book.  Thank God, she still had her vision.  Heavens knew what she would a done if that had gone.  It was a new murder mystery that her oldest son’s wife, Martha, gave her.  Martha was a reader, too, and knew the joy of losing yourself in someone else’s life.  Not that her own life wasn’t interesting enough.
            “I guess that’s the problem.”  She thought other people couldn’t understand how she enjoyed watching the clouds shift across the sky, and how the breezes and occasional rain moved across the fields.  In town, in another house, she couldn’t live her own life and see the beauty she was used to.  She’d be living someone else’s life.  And although that might be fun to read about, she didn’t think it would be fun to do.  
            She would continue living her own life in her own house.  The only way she would leave this house, no matter what they said, was in a box, God Willing. 
            People asked her why she liked murder mysteries--weren’t they morbid.  But she didn’t think they were morbid.  In fact, most of them were funny.  The victim was usually hated by everyone in town, so you didn’t feel sorry he or she was dead.   Course then you did have to worry that the wrong person would be jailed and convicted.  But you just had to remember it was just a story and that justice triumphed in the end.  At least in the books she read.  She didn’t want any of those dark, dismal miscarriage of justice miseries.
            She noticed that the wind seemed to be picking up.  “Well, I better get to sleep now, so I can get up early to clean up any wind damage.”  She said her nightly prayers, asking for blessings on everyone she knew—which still took a long time.  And then she added, “ And please God, let me stay in this house forever.”  She slowly fell into a deep, comforting sleep.
            But it seemed that God was not willing--Later than night was was woken by a fierce, roaring windstorm that was sweeping across the prairie.  She used to laugh and say nothng was between her house and the Rocky Mountains, a thousand miles away.  The winters could get might cold.
             She sat up in bed, wondering if she should go down to the storm cellar.  The windows were rattling, the house was shaking, the chimney making sounds like a groaning ghost.  She shook her head, “No, I ain’t running away from a storm.   This house and me have stood up to much worse than this.  I reckon I’m safer where I am.”
            As she said these words there was a great creaking and breaking sound as the roof was torn clear off the house, she watched branches blowing over the open ceiling and felt the fierce strength of the wind come down into her room.
“Oh, dear, everyone was right,” she cried.  “I am going to have to move.  My house is going.”
She scurried out of bed and under it.  Laying there in shock she felt safe.  Her parents’ bed had been build from sturdy oaks that had been on the farm a long time.  She felt it could withstand anything.  But just then a ceiling beam still hanging from the remains of the roof, was pulled away by the wind and dropped across the bed, crushing it and the old woman beneath it.
The Winds of Change helped her keep her vow.   She would be leaving her house as she had wanted.
                                                               The end