Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Life is a Puzzle

The third day of our trip quickly approached, and it was about to come to an end.  I was more confused than ever. 

Do you ever wonder if there is a greater plan and purpose for your life? 

Life is a puzzle.  God seems to unveil only pieces of the puzzle at a time.  How frustrating.  Yet, would I yield to His plans if they were made known to me all at once?  Most of the time He is gracious enough to reveal big changes in my life slowly, over time.  As weary as it was to live with uncertainty, God wanted to teach me to lean on Him, to trust Him.  I could truly say that in all my past experiences and adventures with God, He had always been trustworthy, so much so, that I had no reason to doubt Him.  I know I can put my life in His care, I quietly reminded my heavy heart. 

Now calm my soul. 

Rest assured within the hands of your Creator.

Wait on Him with complete assurance that He will speak when it is time.  In his perfect time.

Isn’t it during the times that we have to wait on Him that we draw the closest to Him?

Wait for the Lord;
Be strong and let your heart take courage;
Yes, wait for the Lord.
Psalm 27:14

I wondered, when God answers “Wait” to a prayer, is He really just saying, “Trust me”?

And so I yielded.  “Okay, I will trust you, God, until I forget to which will probably be in ten minutes.  Then please remind me again.....and again....and again....and…..because I am not sure if I will ever get this trusting thing.  Amen.” 

A part of our life's puzzle would be pieced together by the end of this trip.  Little did we know, an appointment had been set for us.  It would be a brief encounter with two complete strangers, and it would make an impression upon us and our future.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Santa Claus

For the ten minutes I stood upon the rolling hill and decided to live atop it, it felt like the perfect idea.   

And then ten minutes later, as we were riding the quad back to the house, I was like, “What the heck are we talking about?”  I don’t even want to move, and now I am thinking about moving to a green rolling hill that is very windy when you stand upon it?????  I imagined a stormy night, fierce wind blowing tree branches and other things against the house.  Scratch.  Scratch.  Gasp, what was that?  The house would be shifting, creaking, scaring the life right out of me.

But there is family here in this place, family that still spends holidays together, I reminded myself.  My family back home stopped spending holidays together a long time ago.  I remembered back to Christmases past, when holidays were celebrated with grandmas and grandpas and aunts and uncles and cousins.  I loved spending time with these people with whom I never got to see frequently enough.  But as time goes on, you know how it goes, grandmas and grandpas all move to a place called Hemet, which is hell on earth, but for some reason the elderly think of it as paradise on earth.  When my grandma and grandpa moved, sure we still had some family functions, but they were far and few between.  Soon it became too far to drive for get-togethers.  And then one day, it was the last holiday we spent together in Hemet.  I wish I could remember this one last hoopla we had as a family.  I would have probably been crying the whole time, mourning the loss of family functions, so it is probably better that I didn’t know.  When I cry hard my eyes get really puffy, I get a migraine, and then I throw up. 

Unlike my family who had parted ways to start their own traditions, this family still celebrated together, quite often.  What if we could be a part of it? I thought in my head, deeply wishing this could be so.  Every Christmas Eve Jeff dresses up as Santa Claus and walks on the roof shaking bells and peeking in the window.  Then he comes into the house while hollering popular Santa sayings and bearing gifts he brought from the North Pole.  This sounds so wonderful, but to tell you the truth, my children are afraid of Santa.  "Is this one the real one, Mom?  Is this Saint Nick?" they ask every time they see one.  

"No," I answer, "it's a guy that is dressed like him."  

And then they ask me, "So, this guy is a stranger dressed like Saint Nick, Mom?"

"Yes.  Now go sit on his lap," and then I push them toward him, and suddenly my children scatter, and I can't catch them.  Santa pictures never go so well.  You would have to admit, some Santas are scary. 

My kids are also scared of clowns and the Easter bunny.  With good reason.

Within me I felt inner turmoil.  I knew I shouldn’t have agreed to come.  I was tempted by this place, by Santa and family traditions, and I was irritated and confused because of it. 

Maybe if it is Santa I wanted so bad, I should have my husband dress up each year, and then after midnight it could get even more interesting.  It would save a lot of hardship of moving so very far away.  But I knew this really wasn’t about Santa.  This was about simplifying our lives so that we would have time for the things that are important to us. 

Would moving to this hill make us one step closer to living according to our values?


Saturday, June 25, 2011

How to Get Your Man to Listen to You- My Research Findings

Once a week I take a moment to interrupt my simple life journey to share with you some extra bonus material to make you smile.  Enjoy!

The question is:

Can a man hear a woman’s voice or is he just ignoring her?

I made it my experiment.  I would find the answer, to bridge the gap of communication between the sexes.  It had to be done.  To save our marriage.  To save all marriages.

I made a list of different methods I could communicate with my husband to find which would work best.  These are the methods and these are my findings.   

Talking With Seduction.

Of course this had to be a method.  Seduction is a very powerful tool when it comes to men.

I floated across the dining room looking as sexy as I could make myself, my fingers opened wide, pushing my hair away from my face, making me look like a Victoria Secret model.  He would be sure to hear what I had to say.  “Dan,” I called out.  “Dan?” He didn’t even turn his head.  Well, he would be sure to notice what would come next.  I purposely dropped a pen right next to him and bent over, bending as far and seductively as I could while saying, “Dan, can you take out the trash.”  No answer.  He just kept eating his breakfast cereal. 

Talking with seduction.  Don’t bother.  It doesn’t work.

Next up:  Singing Your Message

I picked the Happy Birthday tune, and I put my message to it:  “Dan, I need you right now.  Dan, I need you right now.  The toilet’s overflowing and I need you right now.” 

Slowly he turned his head, “What?”

“Are you kidding me?  You couldn’t hear what I just sang to you?” I was so irritated.

“What did you say?”  he asked again.


Singing your message.  Don’t do it.  You’ll have to repeat yourself.

The next one to try:  Dance Talking

It’s like doing the salsa.  With a message.

 Outfit may increase the chances of him hearing you.  I don't know.  
My research did not include attire. 

He was on his computer, looking at it intently.

“Dan.  Hey, Dan,” I said as I breathed heavily from all of the movement.  It was more movement I had had in a long time.  “Can you stop throwing your dirty laundry on the closet floor?”  I wrapped up the message with a sudden turn and a striking pose.


There he sat still working on his computer, more focused than before.

Dance talking.  Just isn’t worth the energy, and you get all sweaty.

I was at my whit’s end.  Was it a fate I had to live with?  My husband can’t hear me or he ignores me; I am not sure which one.  I just need to get used to it?  And then….

I found the solution.  It was one last attempt at what seemed to be impossible.  I looked at my list of methods I had already tried:  Talking with seduction, Singing your message, and Dance talking.  Hmm, all of these had been ignored.  Suddenly a light bulb went on!  He might not be able to hear my voice!  It is probably the wrong pitch!  Just like a human cannot hear a dog whistle, the man cannot hear the woman’s voice.  Yes!!!! The missing link!!! 

He was sitting on the floor fixing his bike.  I walked up behind him, and said, “Hey, Dan, the garbage disposal isn’t working.  Can you fix it?”  But I didn’t just say it in my voice.  I decided to try on a different voice, one he would be sure to hear.  I did it in the voice of……

A man.

Which, in all truth, really just sounded like a transvestite.

I disregarded the female high pitched sounds that usually come from my vocal chords.  I softened and lowered my voice, arriving at a bad falsetto.  Would it work?  Maybe he wasn’t ignoring me after all?  Could it be that the tone of my voice was out of his hearing range?  Would this be the missing link to our communication?

Do you know what?  He heard it.  He heard the transvestite voice! 

“I’ll be right there, Honey,” he responded, and I was floored.

I found a way to bridge the communication gap between the sexes!!!! 

In the end, my findings have concluded:  The man cannot hear the woman’s voice.

Now whenever I really need him to listen, whenever it is really, really important that he hears, I pull out my Francine Justin voice because I am certain that this voice he will hear.

Ladies, you need to change your voice.     

And he will get your message every. single. time.

Woman to woman- let’s spread the word, saving one marriage at a time.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Ride

And now that I am older, Things change, I tell myself.  It’s one thing to have a desire; it’s another thing to make a desire like this come to life.  But I am arguing with the ten year old me who just doesn’t understand that.  You don’t have to stay true to a promise you made to yourself when you were ten years old do you?  But the ten year old, still living within me, keeps urging me to leave all of my family and friends for this romantic idea of living in the country. 

The sun’s early morning beams shone through my cousin’s kitchen window.  My husband finished his breakfast, excited to have a little adventure exploring.

“Be sure to wear your tennis shoes, and I will pick you up with the quad in 5 minutes.  Meet you out there,” he said to me as I finished my last bite of cereal and ran to get myself ready. 

Right when I pulled my sweater up over my shoulders, I heard the roaring engine of the quad.  It was my signal to get out there.  I grabbed my camera, threw the strap over my head, and ran down stairs.  There he sat straddling the quad, looking all manly and debonair.   His muscles bulged as he revved the engine. 

“Ooooo, Honey, look at you.”  I said, but he couldn’t hear me and I couldn’t hear myself from the loud humming of the quad.  I pulled my ear plugs out from my pocket and secured them in place within my ears.  Yes, you read right, ear plugs.  I carry them with me wherever I go.  You never know when a loud sound will come creeping into your life, and so I always carry protection.  I believe I already suffer from hearing loss, and I can’t afford to lose anymore or I will have to learn sign language.  While watching a movie with me, it goes like this:

“Dan, what did the guy say?”

“Dan, what did the girl say back?”

“Honey, I missed the entire conversation that the two main characters just had, and I believe that was the most important part of the movie because everyone is fighting now, and I am not sure why.  What were they talking about?”

I already brought up the idea of learning sign language with my husband so that when we are old we can still communicate with each other, but he thought it to be a ridiculous idea, and so you will never find me without my ear protection.

We took off on the quad.  It was a bit jarring, which made me wish I had packed my sports bra.  My husband wanted to impress me, so he sped as fast as possible down the broken path through the trees.  He called something out to me as he pointed over in a certain direction, but for some reason I couldn’t hear a word he said, but I nodded anyway.  It was probably an animal or something not of great significance to me anyway.  I don’t get that excited about animals.  Now if he pointed out a celebrity or something of significance like that, I would jump off a moving quad to get a chance to look at him or her, especially if it was Harrison Ford, twenty five years younger. 

 Oh Baby!  I'd be jumping off a moving train for you.

He drove us to our final destination, the top of a rolling hill.  Oh my word, my favorite place to be.  We stood atop the hill and looked out at the most beautiful landscape I have ever laid witness to.  I don’t get out much, but I have seen pictures.  You know, like Ansel Adams?  I looked out into the vast surroundings.  Trees for miles, green rolling hills everywhere.  Only the earth’s curve discontinued our view.  It was breathtaking.  And the wind was blowing so hard, it was literally taking my breath away.  I gasped for air.  “Honey, it is hard to breath up here.”

“Imagine this Janna.  Living atop this hill, looking at this view over breakfast every single day.”  The wind blew my hair across my face, whipping my lip.  It was almost too beautiful to take in.  My mind did not have the capacity to contain its beauty. 

“Yeah,” I stared out into the abyss of splendor, jaw hanging open, my mind beginning to entertain the thought of settling here, making this our home, forever. 

But how could we afford this?  I mean, we would have to build a house.  “Ohhhhh,” I practically sang the word, signifying the brilliant thought within my head.  “We could borrow money from my dad.”  We looked over at the hill sitting next to us; I pointed, “That is where my parents can build their house.”  I picked a spot that was close but not too close.  “Every day the kids can run over to Grandma and Grandpa’s house and Jeff and Carrie’s house, I mean, Uncle Jeff and Aunt Carrie.”  I smiled as the idea came to life in my mind, “Let’s do it.”

After coming up with house plans, we decided to explore a bit more.  We hopped on the quad and continued past rows of Christmas trees, and through fields of long grass.  I could smell pine aroma so strong and thoughts of Christmas rushed through my head.  And then we had to stop when we came upon the loveliest of sights.

A field of flowers.

Then we made love in it.

I’m kidding.

But we had an idea of where we wanted to live.  Well, at least for the moment. 

Women sure are fickle, aren’t they?  And I may be one of the ficklest.  I don’t know though; I can’t make up my mind.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

My Love for the Country

I have always had an attraction to the country. 

It was instilled in me from a very early age.  My grandpa, before I was born, scouted out a considerable amount of acreage up in the Yosemite area of California.  He bought it, pulled a trailer down into the part of it that bordered a quaint little creek, parked it, and the rest is history.  That was around 50 years ago, and the trailer still stands today.  The trailer is nothing of great significance when you see it, but for me it is full of memories etched within the very walls. 

We loved coming to this place, so much so that my dad soon decided it was time to have our own trailer.  So another large trailer was dangerously lowered down a tiny dirt road.  It was parked, and then it was filled with an excited family eager to make it their home away from home.  Over the years many of our family members moved here making it their permanent home, and building houses on the land.  Every time we visited, it was like a family reunion.

We all sat down for dinner together one night, sitting shoulder to shoulder feasting upon my uncle’s naughty chicken, which we spent all afternoon trying to catch. 

We normally didn’t eat my uncle’s chickens, but this one kept pecking at the other chickens, so his consequence?  Death and feeding upon him.  It made all of us children a bit more behaved.  

We kids played for hours upon hours on this land doing all sorts of outside activities. 

Swinging on a rope swing- a rope swing so long that it swung us kids so high it felt like you were touching the sky.  And on the way back down, your stomach felt like it was going to come up through your throat. 

Playing in the tree house, which was just a large piece of wood nailed to the top of four sturdy trees.  To the simple glance, it would have been thought of as a weak attempt at tree house building, but it was amazing to us. 

Riding our motorcycles.  Up the hill, down the hill, all day long. 

Every so often my mom’s voice would call out from the trailer, “We are going to town!” “Yessss!” I said delighted, as I and my brothers came running.  Going to town was a major ordeal because all that surrounded us was trees, forest, and, in the cleared parts, country land. 

As we drove into town, I gazed out the window of our van, soaking in the country side.  Cleared land covered in green grass, grazing horses slowly taking their time to enjoy each tasty pasture.  I took a deep breath, attempting to let in as much fresh air as possible.

We approached the only stoplight in town.  “I remember when this light wasn’t even here,” my mom would state, as if she was disappointed that she had to wait for one entire light in the whole town.  It wasn’t like she wasn’t familiar with stoplights.  They were at about every corner at home in the city.  But here they were unexpected, and it activated her road rage a little. 

Just kidding.  Her road rage isn't this extreme.  It is more like this:

Sadness and a little bit of anger overtook me every time we drove this very way through town, passing the market one last time before driving back to Los Angeles.  I didn’t want to leave.  I resented going back.  I wanted to see beautiful countryside and breath in fresh, nonpolluted air forever.  Why don’t we live here in a beautiful place like this, I thought to myself every time we left.

I will when I am older.  I promised myself.  When I am older.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Pools, Swim Lessons, and Logs

Once a week I take a moment to interrupt my simple life journey to share with you some extra bonus material to make you smile.  Enjoy!

It was a normal day at swim lessons

A strong smell of chlorine filled the air.  Children laughing, kicking and splashing.  Everything was normal.  Everything was good.  My husband and I sat along the poolside watching on as our three children were being taught by their separate swim instructors.   

“Look at her in her little, pink ballerina tutu swimsuit, Dan, isn’t she darling?”  Oh, yes, he could not deny it.  She bounced up and down out of the water, every once in a while her knees would bend too low and she would get water in her face and do that crazy, violent breathing and gasping for air thing, as if she were drowning.  Precious.

We looked over at our 5 year old boy.  How proud we were of him.  “Look, he doesn’t even notice anyone or anything around him.  He is so into it, and he is so coordinated,” I said to my husband.  My husband nodded in agreement as he looked on.  

Then suddenly, my 5 year old boy and his class and teacher were all exiting the pool.  “What is going on?” I asked in confusion.  I looked up at the clock and we were only halfway through the lesson.  “They can’t be done,” I said, puzzled.  Oh, but look, the teacher was leading them to the adult pool.  Maybe his class is so good that they are moving them up to another class already.  Yes, that was it.  My son was so talented, as his mother I knew, but this time someone else saw his talents as clearly as I did.  “Honey, look,” I hit him in the arm, “He’s moving up a class,” I said proudly.

But then…. What?  Why were the other classes exiting the pool?  In an instant everyone was rushing to the sides of the pool, pushing one another, screaming, swimming over one another.  There was a frantic, crazed exodus out of the pool.  What was going on? 

I looked around.  All of the parents who had been sitting beside us were gone.  All that was left was me and my husband.  We sat there wondering what the chaos and commotion was all about. 

We looked across the pool and there stood the three year old class outside the pool, arms crossed over themselves, shaking.  They were standing in a row facing the teacher, and she was bending down talking to my daughter.  She said something to her; then she looked over across the pool at my husband and me.  Then she said something to her, and then she looked back at us.  Over and over again.  Her head going back and forth.      

What in the world?  I looked at my husband.  He looked at me and shrugged his shoulders.

I walked over to the other side of the pool.  “What’s wrong?” I asked the instructor.  Her eyes met mine and the words that came out of her mouth couldn’t have been more disturbing. 

“I think your daughter pooped in the pool.”

Everything around me went silent.  The blood rushed to my face and suddenly I could feel every eye turn my way.  Eyeball lasers.  And they were making me feel very hot.

“I think your daughter pooped in the pool,” she said again, attempting to get a response from me.

I walked forward to my daughter and pulled her bathing suit away from her body to look inside.  On no. 

“Did she?” the teacher asked me.

All I could respond with was, “Maybe.”  Yes, maybe sounded like a safe answer.  Maybe yes?  Maybe no?  Maybe you’ll never know?  But she did know and I did too.

My daughter pooped in the pool!!!!!!  My brain was on overload and about to explode.

Because why would I put a swim diaper on my daughter when she is old enough to know that you don’t poop in bodies of water?!!!  And if a child does poop in a pool, it will be in the form of a log, right?!!!  Easy pick up.  One scoop and on with the lessons.  It won’t separate into small floating pieces not easily retrievable by a pool net.  People won't have to navigate through the waters to escape the floating particles.  Am I right?!!!  Maybe I need to back off on the high fiber diet before summer swim class starts.  Plus I have never had a child who has pooped in a pool, so I knew for certain it would never be my daughter. 

It would never be my daughter

The words still ring a little in my ear. 

Then behind me, there was a great commotion.  Two large doors opened and out raced 5 members of the hazmat team with all of their gear.  “Everybody back!” one of them shouted out. 

My husband and I looked at the pandemonium before us.  Everyone had terror written on their faces.  Everyone but us.  We felt alone, alienated.  We timidly waved to anyone who would dare look our way as we mouthed the words, “Sorry.  Sorry.  So sorry.”  I could have sworn people were shaking their heads at us in disgust. 

We began making our way down the long walk of shame to remove ourselves from the premises.  We walked with our heads and shoulders slumped forward as low as they could go.

“Why are we leaving so early?”  “What happened?” my boys were questioning loudly.  “Shhh,” I tried to quiet their voices.  I whispered in a muffled manner, hoping no one could hear me, “Ah, um, well, your sister pooped in the pool,”  The truth.  Yes, it was best to stick with the truth.

“And it wasn’t in the form of a log,” my husband added.

And he was right. 

It was more like an underwater explosion. 

Who knew that poop could break apart into fine particles and spread throughout an entire pool within seconds?

Be warned.  And always be watching.  Because it can.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


I set off to prepare myself for a long awaited night’s rest.  It had been a tedious, wearisome day, emotionally and mentally.  Traveling is exhausting, which I have never been able to understand.  All you are doing is sitting and waiting for a plane, sitting in a plane, and sitting in a car driving to your destination.  It sounds like the most relaxing activity ever. 

As I pulled my pajama shirt over my head, I looked around the room.  My eyes wandered to the framed Tiffany poster on the wall, then to the pink girly bed spread; my eyes kept traveling through the room until they came to rest upon a collection of photographs displayed upon a photo board.  I stepped closer to view this family’s precious moments captured on thin pieces of glossy paper.  This was their life.  Their little boy, who was now in his 20s, was around 5 years old in the pictures.  In one of the shots, he was diving into a kiddy pool.  In another he was perched high upon his horse, smiling from ear to ear, his posture straight as a board, holding himself so high and proud.  The landscape in the background of each picture was the country. 

How different life would be growing up in this place, I thought to myself.

I pictured my kids running out in the wild, fishing, hiking, riding horses, enjoying the freedom to explore the landscape.  Life in the city seemed like a bore compared to the possibilities of adventure here. 

“Raising our son here was wonderful.  There couldn’t have been a better place to raise children,” Carrie had said in response to my inquiring.  The large house was empty now, but at one time it thrived.  It became grand central station to their son and all of his friends.  They were the parents that embraced everyone with open arms.  They were the ones who loved the unlovable kids, the rebellious teens, with grace and generosity.  Their son knew that he and his friends were not only welcomed, but wanted in this home.  Their son and many of his friends now thrived because of it.

I stared at the pictures.  Could this be the best environment to raise my children?  But is environment more important than keeping them near the people who love them and are deeply involved in their lives? 

I turned my gaze away because something was pulling at my heart strings. 

I lay my head down on my pillow slowly.  As I lay there in the dark, my husband had already dozed off into a deep sleep and was just about to start "puhing".  The uncertainty about my life and where we were going began to take a toll on me.  Even if we decided to move, there would be an uphill battle to fight with all of our loved ones who would be pulling all stops to talk us out of the idea.  Something began to form in the back of my throat, a lump.  I tried to swallow it, but I don’t think a crying lump is swallow-able.  All it is really, is a swelling of your glottis, and you can’t swallow your glottis.  My eyes began to water.  A tear began to form and I quickly wiped it away.  I tried to think of other things, distracting me from my emotions, but my thoughts kept circling back to fear, fear of the unknown.

“God, I don’t know what to do.”

I breathed deeply, and before I knew it, I had dozed off into my own sleepy state of unconsciousness.     

Monday, June 13, 2011

Candy and Stew

“Ohhhhh,” Jeff said with a big smile, his voice fluctuating this simple word up and down to sound like a simple melody.   I could see that in his mind one of his memories came to life.  “Keep going, keep going,” I urged him to continue.

“Grandma always had candy for us kids," he said. 

Oh, how nice she was, I thought.

“Yep, whenever us kids came over she would say, ‘You want a piece of candy,’ in her old rickety voice,” he continued; “But none of us would say anything.  We all just stood there looking at her.”

“Why?” I asked puzzled. It seemed odd that a bunch of children wouldn’t jump at the chance for a piece of candy.

“Because she kept the candy in her bra,” he answered, and then he said,

“It was all warm and melted.”

Right when he finished his sentence, I was putting a big bite of my salad into my mouth.  As the lettuce reached my lips, and as he ended with the word “melted,” my mouth lost all appropriate control over itself and emitted the salad back onto my plate.  “Ugh.”  I suddenly appreciated the invention of the candy dish, taking back every joke or negative comment I made about them over the years.  

“Tell her about Great Grandpa’s stew, Jeff,” Carrie chimed in.

“Well,” Jeff fidgeted, making himself comfortable for what I could see would be a story worth telling. 

Grandma and Grandpa invited me and Carrie over for a stew.  Grandpa had been preparing it, slaving over it all day long.  When we walked in the house to greet them, Grandpa was busy stirring the stew, so we all gathered in the kitchen for greetings.  “The stew is just about done,” Grandpa said as he stood over it, taking in the aroma through his nose.  But Carrie noticed something.  Was that something hanging from the tip of his nose?  Carrie stepped closer to be sure, and evidently, yes, there indeed was a something hanging from the tip of his nose. 

It was a drip.

Of snot.

Now what happened next is only for people who do not have tender sensitivies of the stomach.  Prepare yourself; brace yourself.  This is fair warning for those of you who are brave enough to read on. 

The drip became very, very heavy and full, and then to Carrie’s utter horror, the snot departed from Grandpa’s nose and, in slow motion, it traveled, ever so directly right into…


Carrie’s stomach queased as she lay witness to this dreadful occurrence. 

 And as Jeff spoke these words, my stomach queased as well.  I pushed my salad away from me, unable to finish it.




Time to eat.

Carrie sat at the table, her face as white as a sheet, staring at what she now knew was not stew, but rather Snot Soup.

“What did you do?”  I couldn’t handle the suspense, “Did you eat it?  Oh no, Carrie, did you eat it?” I looked at her, she looked at me, and then we both looked at Jeff.

She sat ill faced staring at it, and I knew I needed to come to her rescue, “Carrie,” I said as I finished a mouthful of stew, “Why don’t you go outside for some fresh air.  You don’t look too good.”

Silently she rose and headed out the back door. 

“She will be fine, " I reassured Grandma and Grandpa,   "She just needs some fresh air.”

They both seemed to be appeased with my reassuring. 

Then Grandpa asked me, “So how’s the stew?”

And I said, “Delicious, Grandpa.  The stew is fantastic.  Nice and salty.”

I smiled and continued spooning it into my mouth.

I was horrified by this story of my great grandpa and at the same time I loved it.  We all sat around the table laughing for what seemed like hours.  I smiled as I looked at Jeff, thrilled to meet my second cousin once removed. 

He definitely was a link to my past.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Does Your Husband “Puh”?

Once a week I take a moment to interrupt my simple life journey for extra bonus material.  A recipe, decorating ideas, a tip, or a post to make you smile. 

What is a “puh”?   

Oh, you might not know.  This may need an explanation.  Some of you may be more fortunate than others to have a husband that does not “puh".  I need to prepare you in case he starts. 

It is when a set of closed lips is affected by a sudden brisk of air that abruptly pushes out, and as it exits the lips, it separates them while releasing a soft “p” sound.  Wait, there’s more.  The air continues to release so to form the “uh” sound.  Put the two sounds together, and you have a “puh".

It is a soft sound.  It could almost be a relaxing sound like that of a gentle wind blowing through a tree’s leaves.  It is so soft and quiet, hardly a sound that would be considered a disturbance.  It might even be cute…. during the middle of the day!   BUT DURING THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT IT IS NOT CUTE!!!!  A “puh” decides to visit you right in the midst of your deepest sleep.  I want to destroy the “puh”!  I want to swing my arm at it and whack it in the face to destroy it, especially when it has visited me for the third time in one night. 

I suddenly understand why elderly people have separate rooms to sleep in.  It's in response to all of the "puhing" going on. 

“Which room do you want to take, Honey, the spare room, the bonus room, the living room, how about the bathroom?  I think we are old enough to have our own bedrooms now.”

Let’s just make this clear.  You can love your husband without loving his “puh". 

So I thought we were the only ones with this problem.  But, as I was about to find out, we are not.

My husband and I went on a double date with some friends.  We were laughing and talking, and one thing lead to another, and I was reminded about the “puh”.  I wanted to share it with them, but I didn’t want to embarrass my husband.  So I looked at him and under my breath I asked, "Can I tell them about the "puh"?"  Well, when I said “puh” the husband of my friend looked at me intently with concern on his face.  He asked nervously, “What?”  Unbeknown to me, he is a husband who also deals with “puhing”, and at this very moment, he was thinking that his wife had told me about this personal detail.  I was about to reveal it. 

My husband signaled to me that it was okay for me to continue telling the story.  As I shared this condition of his, I saw worry decease in the other husband.  The couple started to laugh.  “He also does the "puh"!’’  All four of us were overtaken with that uncontrollable laughter that you seldom experience, the kind that feels like a workout. 

At this precise moment, I believe both husbands were relieved to find that they were not the only ones who “puh”.

And I believe they are not alone.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

My Second Cousin Once Removed: A Link to my Past

Now my cousin Jeff is a bow hunter, and by the way of hunter I don’t mean that he is a little hunter who hunts small animals like rabbits, squirrels, and quail.  Oh no, my cousin Jeff hunts everything and mostly everything that is BIG, VERY BIG.  Very large bears, moose, deer, elk.  Anything and everything that moves.  He is a diehard hunter.   

He hangs from trees, covers himself in deer pee, has perfected his elk call, and can sit awfully still for hours.  He has a freezer full of meat that lasts him all year, and he has animals hanging in his garage, as well as skulls of bears, and claws and teeth.  I have heard all of the stories.  My dad idolizes him because of his feral ways in the wild.  Jeff this.  Jeff that.  My dad can go on and on, each story becoming more elaborate with each telling.

We walked into Jeff's house; he hadn't arrived home from work yet.  As I walked into the country home, it was as I thought it would be:  charming, inviting.  His wife, Carrie, toured us through their home.  There was a quaint sitting room and an open country kitchen with a window framing a beautiful picturesque view.  We walked around past the kitchen, past the stairwell, and dun, dun, dun, dunnnnn, there it was, The Wall.  It was lined with all sorts of stuffed animal heads, numerous sized deer, a moose, a fish.  And there on the ground below, was a bear, a stuffed one, frozen in his last stance.  It would be startling me in the middle of the night.  Suddenly I had a great respect for this man who had these magical abilities to magnetize animals into his realm and then, BAM!, take them out.  

To tell you the truth, I was a little nervous to meet him.  I expected a wild, untamed, burly man to walk through the door any minute and introduce himself to me.  But who came through that front door was nothing what I imagined.  This lovable, warm man with a smile from ear to ear came in and embraced me, practically picking me up off of the ground.  “Cousin Janna!  We are so happy to have you here.”  Right away he began making me laugh.  His personality is Chris Farley come back to life.  Jeff is a wild rascal full of pranks and an eagerness to laugh and make others laugh, and I am not one to miss out on laughter.  We must be from the same family.       

Jeff grew up with my great grandma in this very valley.  We sat down at his dining room table over a light lunch, and he began telling me of days gone by, when he was little.  Every morning before the start of school, he would wake up before the early morning light of day pierced the dark shadows of night; he would tread on down to the stream, a small journey from his home, to cast lines of string and a heart of hope to land a fish to fry.  Once he caught his fill, he would mosey on over to great grandma’s dwelling to have a fillet ‘o’ fish feast for breakfast.

I never knew my great grandma.  I hung on every word, my mind stretching for a small glimpse of who this person was, of her being, her life, knowing very well that my existence could not be without hers.  Who was this woman?  It is history, only really known by those whose paths interconnected with hers.  

“Tell me more,” I sat eagerly listening, attempting to piece this person together into a whole being within my mind.  "Tell me more, Jeff....."

I was all ears.  

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Country Living Come to Life

Country living.  What was it like in real life?  All I could imagine was the cover of this magazine:


I wouldn’t be disappointed.

When our airplane landed, we quickly headed our way to retrieve our luggage and pick up our car rental.  As we exited the airport and drove through the small town, our eyes grew big to soak in what we saw.  Green.  Green.  And more green.  Rolling green hills everywhere.  We drove along a two lane highway considered the freeway.  On both sides of the road were quaint little stores with shabby worn signs, the kind that people in Orange County hang in their homes as decoration, the kind that merchants who sell to Homegoods attempt to duplicate by using sandpaper and antiquing gel.  I was tempted to casually take one so to hang in my living room above my couch.

As we pulled off the highway, onto a one lane road, we began to pass farmland bordering both sides of the road.  I looked out onto the acreage, my eyes searching for the houses that were set back behind the trees, away from the road.  Beautiful wooden slat homes with welcoming porches.   Oh my word, this was beautiful.  I imagined myself picking through peas on my porch, throwing out the stems to the chickens.  Do chickens eat pea stems?  I don’t know, but the ones in my day dream did.  I imagined myself ringing a dinner bell and calling the family home with a Southern accent.  If I moved here I would need to start talking in a Southern accent.  But this isn’t even the south, I argued with myself.  So?, I retorted back in my mind, if you are going to live in the country you have to have an accent.  And so I began practicing aloud, “What do you think about this acreage, Dan?”  I said in a Southern drawl, but to him it wasn’t a Southern drawl at all.  To him my accents, all of them, no matter which one I attempt to copy, sound like an elderly Chinese woman’s. 

We turned down a small lane trimmed with tall flowing trees bowing over, framing the lane on each side.  Why does every county road look so inviting?

We drove around a bend, and there it was, my cousin’s country home, sitting atop a green rolling hill, my favorite place to be.  It was like I was being transported into Country Living magazine, but instead of cold, glossy pages, everything was real, in 3D.  We parked the car next to the house and stood looking out at the view, an eternal sea of green.  I could have stood there staring out for hours.  The barking of dogs cut short my lingering gaze.  I turned my head toward the house.  

There beside us stood a two story wooden slat home with, of course, a porch off the front, but this wasn’t just any simple porch.  It was enclosed and there beyond the thin screen, a long, light teal handmade picnic table sat with rows of different colored shabby chic chairs lining both sides of it.  A setting duplicating the finest Southern BBQ scene.  My mind began to play tricks on me, and I could have sworn I smelled the distant smell of Southern Comfort BBQ Sauce and ribs smoking over mesquite chips to tender perfection.  My mouth began to water, and just as drool began to leak out the side of my mouth, the door to my cousin’s house flew open, and there was my cousin’s wife, Carrie, with a welcoming smile and open arms to receive us.  I quickly wiped the drool from the side of my mouth and sucked in any remaining excess spit.  We embraced this person whom I hardly knew, yet in the embrace it felt like home. 

Deep down within me, I felt a tinge of uneasiness.  Nervousness flooded through my body.  I didn’t want to like this place.  I didn’t want to feel at home.  Because if I did like it, I feared what might come next.  

Breathe deep, Janna, I told myself.  This is just a vacation.  This is just a vacation.

But I knew it really wasn’t.

This was not just a vacation.