Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Eat More Chicken

My father has been visiting my brother and his family out in Washington. He was due to fly home today. Instead, he will be there at least one more day. What follows is a recap of the last 24 hours.

Monday 11:40pm - the phone rings, waking me from a dead sleep. It's my brother.

Him: I thought you would be up. We have laughed so hard we are crying and we thought you would be up to share it with us.

Me: I'm up now.

Him: We have been having dinner and got to laughing. Listen to Dad . . . (in the background I hear a loud gagging sound). He's trying to hock up some broccoli or something and it's so funny that we are both laughing and crying. Sorry, we thought you would be up. Go back to sleep.

Tuesday 8:40am - blackberry message from my brother:

"Dad was cracking up earlier but hasn't stopped. We've been at the ER for three hours now. They think he has something stuck in his throat because all he pukes is mucus and saliva. They are calling in a GI doc to maybe scope his throat and pull out that chunk of broccoli or chicken. Will let you know what happens."

8:41am - call from my brother:

Him: Do you have Mary's number? (My dad's girlfriend)

Me: No. What the heck?

Him: Listen

(Very loud extended gagging followed by "oooowwwwwwwwwwwww".

Me: (laughing hysterically) Oh my gosh! I am so glad it's you.

Him: Hey Dad, she's laughing at you.

Me: Call me later.

9:20am - I send my brother a blackberry message:

"Could he have sucked it into his lungs?"

9:24am - He responds: "Nope. It's blocking him from swallowing rather than breathing. We would be talking about the will if it had gone down that pipe 11 hours ago. He got to talk to Mary. He just really likes it out here and wanted to figure out a way to miss his flight."

9:35am - I respond: "It's in your long term best interest that he make his flight."

10:08am - He replies: "I'm pretty sure he'll be asleep at his scheduled flight time of 1:30. They are getting ready to take him to the GI Lab. He may just move in if I'm not careful."

10:14am - I say: "Not a good idea. You know he can only do "Good Pappaw" for short periods of time."

10:18am - He says: "He's much better at Good Pappaw now than he used to be. Around my kids anyway. But just as Superman steps into a phone booth, once our father has me alone, Tourettes Man emerges. It's amazing how people are a lot stupider when I drive somewhere alone with my father."

12:37pm - My brother: "They started an upper endoscopy 10 minutes ago. Should be simple, go in, push the blockage through, and done. Waiting to see the doc. It sucks to hear our father say he's scared."

12:38pm - Me: "I love you."

Approx. 5pm - Phone call from my brother:

Him: Well it took so long because the doctor said that in 25 years, that was the most food he had ever seen impacted in an esophagus.

Me: (Laughing hysterically) In 25 years?

Him: Yeah, and when they tried to wake him up from the anesthesia, he did his Ozzie Osborn impression.

Me: (Laughing so hard I was crying) Is he okay now?

Him: Yes, he's sleeping at my house now. He will probably fly out tomorrow if he's okay. I am going to bed. That is if I can ever get the image out of my head of my father, in his patient gown, butt nekkid, trying to get down off the gurney. He didn't get out far enough and got his testicles caught on the edge. My God, my father had a man-gina!

Me: (crying, laughing, snorting) Go to bed. I will call the others. They can call you tomorrow for the details.

Now you have heard the newest of the many "Cunningham" stories that we retell at family gatherings. This one will be told and retold. Get sick in a funny way, we WILL laugh at you. There is nothing sacred in our family.

Monday, August 25, 2008

I Love StoryPeople

Do you know about StoryPeople by Brian Andreas? Until a few weeks ago, I did not.

My youngest sister was looking for a sign. She believes strongly in signs and was looking for one that would tell her that things were going to get better. Something that would give her some comfort that our Mom was nearby. She was getting nothing. She called a friend. She called me. She cried. She was killing some time while her son visited with his paternal grandparents. After hanging up the phone, she wandered through some shops in Laguna Beach. She found some comfort in a new age store among the crystals.

Later she saw a store with funky prints that were different than what you normally see. The drawings looked like they had started as doodling that turned into something more ethereal. The prints had "stories" on them. She found her sign. It said:
"I used to wait for a sign, she said, before I did anything. Then one night I had a dream & an angel in black tights came to me & said, you can start any time now, & then I asked is this a sign? & the angel started laughing & I woke up. Now, I think the whole world is filled with signs, but if there's no laughter, I know they're not for me."
She was calm again. And excited. She read more. She found more "stories" that related to her life. She called me again. "Have you ever heard of Brian Andreas? Write it down. Look it up on the internet". So I did. And I loved it too. I went to the website where I found hundreds of the stories to browse through. I signed up for an emailed Story of the Day. I ordered most of his books. I will order his prints as I can afford them. They also have a blog called PeopleStories. I have become a little obsessed.

All I know is how I feel when I read the stories. Some are funny, some touching. I always find one that applies to me right now, however I am feeling at that moment. The one above says:
"Is willing to accept that she creates her own reality except for some of the parts where she can't help but wonder what the hell she was thinking."
Let me know what you think. And I am sorry in advance if you become obsessed too.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Read Much?

I read junk. I would love to say that I have read the classics and devour a new novel each week. That would be a lie.

I really love to read and actually read all the time. But I have a hard time focusing on novels. The problem is if it's interesting, I want to stay up all night and read. But I always fall asleep while reading, not because it's boring but because reading puts me to sleep. I can't go to sleep unless I read.

I read lots of trivia books and magazines because of my short attention span. I have had a subscription to People for so many years that I have forgotten how long it's been. I have been reading People since it first started in the 70's. Every night, I go to sleep with my People.

It's always the same . . . the new weekly edition arrives on Friday. I start that night on the first page, read the reviews and trivial stuff in the first section. Then, in the articles, I look at all the photos and read the captions but don't read the articles. I do that until I get to the end. Then I go back and read the articles. This process takes about a week because I always read until I fall asleep. Some nights, that's after a few words and sometimes it takes a few pages. It has become difficult to stretch it to a week lately as People has shrunk. There are WAY less pages than there used to be.

It's kind of hard to fit a novel into my People routine. Occasionally I find one that interests me and it becomes my priority. I read a review for the book above - "What Happened To Anna K.?" and it really sounded interesting. It is an updated retelling of Anna Karenina set in a Russian immigrant section of Queens. So I bought it and I am going to start it this weekend. We will see.

What are some of your favorite books?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Litton's, Since 1946

Yum! Litton's is a Knoxville tradition. Although they are a restaurant, they are also a market and bakery. They are one of those places that are still around after many years that all the locals know about. Although you can get a salad or a grilled chicken plate, you don't go there when you are on a diet. And you don't go there when you are not real hungry.

Litton's is known for their Thunder Road Burger, pictured at left. It is a HUGE burger, topped with pimiento cheese, sauteed onions, and a jalapeno pepper on a homemade bun. Way too much for me but I have eaten 1/2 of one. It was yummy but I prefer the regular cheeseburger or the bacon cheeseburger with their hand-cut french fries.

I love restaurants that are "local" and that have character. When you enter Litton's, you WILL have to stand in line, so you walk over to the chalkboard and write your name and the number in your party. Have a seat in the church pew looking benches along the wall and they'll call your name soon. On the chalkboard, you will find the specials of the day. They have daily blue plate specials, so you can check the chalkboard to find out what home cooked vegetables you might get with your entree.

The wood counter and cash register wrap around the center of the restaurant. To the left of the register are the market cases where you can get meat, poultry, seafood, and some prepared items. To the right of the register, the dessert case is right up front, tempting you while you wait. All the desserts are homemade at the restaurant and they are soooooooooo good. Red Velvet, Italian Cream, Neopolitan cakes, pies, cheesecakes, cupcakes, cookies, oh my! My favorite is the coconut pie because it tastes just like my grandmother's. But they also have this dessert called a Baby Jane that is to die for. It is like a strawberry shortcake but made with white cake. The whipped topping is a white chocolate rum mousse!!!! It melts in your mouth and you understand what heaven might taste like.

Ok - now I am really hungry. I should never write when I'm hungry. Looks like lunch tomorrow will be at Litton's.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Laughing On The Inside

A few months ago, I came across a website called Stuff White People Like. I started reading the list (coffee was #1, go figure), reading the explanations, and cracking up. Then I had a thought . . . should I be laughing? Should I be offended?

I perused the site some more and wondered to myself, would I laugh if the name of the site was "Stuff Black People Like"? Probably, but I would feel bad about it. Just wrong.

So over the next few months, I struggled internally with whether it was a site I would visit again. I consider myself to be sensitive to the stereotyping of all races, sexual preferences, sizes, ages, do I need to list everything? I hate stereotypes. But I also acknowledge that stereotypes exist because of our need to classify people. Ultimately, I decided that I just needed to get over myself.

Last night, as I was returning from Nashville, I listened to the Gayle King Show on Oprah and Friends XM station. Gayle was interviewing Christian Lander, the author of . . . yep, you got it . . . the new book based on the site Stuff White People Like. Gayle shared that she was laughing but that inside, she was cringing a little because she felt it stereotypes people.

She said that she asked herself if she would laugh if the book was about black people. Gayle decided that she would laugh if the book about black people were written by a black person but not if it was written by a white person. Lander, who happens to be white, agreed that his site would not be funny if he was not white. He said it would not work for him to do this about black people. However, he shared that there are lots of spin-off sites, including a site called "Stuff Educated Black People Like" and "Stuff Queer People Like". Look them up on Google, they are also pretty funny once you get past the cringing.

They went on to have a very interesting discussion (you can read a summary here) about race, stereotypes, humor, satire, acknowledging our differences, and the need to sometimes make people uncomfortable to start a dialog towards understanding. It was so interesting and enlightening.

So now, I am laughing, still cringing a bit, but acknowledging that sometimes we cringe because we recognize some truth. But I'm still laughing.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Sun Will Come Out, Tomorrow

I am moving on, looking toward tomorrow. Things are calming and we have all moved on to other drama in our lives.

This week has been a difficult one for my youngest sister. She and her family have moved from San Diego to Lake Arrowhead to Sacramento to LA, all within the last year. A move is stressful enough but when it doesn't go well, it's down right depressing.

Her move last week from Sacramento has not gone well. I hope at some point, she will come out from under her cloud, clarify her thoughts, and put them all down in her blog. And I am hoping she can see some humor in her situation. I assure you that right now, she does not. I can't blame her but everything that has happened to her in the past week has been so bizzare that no one would believe it if it were on the news. Everything that could go wrong, has. Every person that she has come in contact with has tried to cheat her. There are quirky characters involved. Flat tires. Getting stuck in elevators. She sobbed last night. I hope she can one day laugh about it.

The photo above is one I took. The words were given to me by my Weight Watchers leader some time ago . . . about 25 pounds ago. I am not sure where she got them but she said at least one of the 17 words could be used to help you through any situation in which you find yourself. I have this sitting on my desk at work. It has helped me this week and I hope it helps you at some time. And I also hope my sister can see through the fog of her life this week to use a couple of the words. Even if she can't yet, I am thinking them for her.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Looking for Peace

This week has been kind of strange. Since the church shooting, I have been very introspective. I didn't want to share here just because I wasn't really sure just how I was feeling. I have gone from sadness to joy to pride to anger to fear. Right now, I am hoping for distraction, looking for peace and understanding.

As I write, I will not give the shooter's name. I will not dignify him or give him respect by using his name. I want him to receive no attention as a result of this event. The media, as they seem to always do, have created a circus around the events at TVUUC here in Knoxville. They have "harrassed" the injured and their families and interviewed anyone that would talk to them, including the guy that sold the shooter the guitar case in which he carried his deadly shotgun. What the heck??????? But they are searching for answers just as everyone else struggles to do so. As a result of the media attention, the church has used phone trees to contact members directly, asking that we not leak memorial service information to the media. So sad.

After learning many of the details of what occurred in the church that day, it is amazing that more did not lose their lives. True heroes rushed the shooter to stop him. One, Greg McKendry, lost his life as a result. The shooter had over 70 rounds of ammunition and has said that he planned to kill many people that day. His reasons? He could not find a job, hated gays and lesbians, and blamed the liberal movement for his difficulties. He said he could not get to the elected liberals so he went after those that voted them into office. The irony? Most of those injured were not members of the church. They were visiting to see the children's play - either their grandchildren were performing or they were friends of those performing.

I was out of town this week and needed an update. I went on line to the website of one of the local TV stations and saw they were trying to explain what Unitarians believe. I began reading the comments below the article. They started off nice enough. "Our thoughts are with the families" and "We hope your members can have peace once again". Then it got ugly. "This is not a church, it's a cult" and "The devil always gets those who don't accept Jesus as their personal savior". I was appalled at the lack of knowledge and understanding and the level of cruelty people will go to in their efforts to feel holier than thou. I went through most of the 17 pages of comments and finally had to stop. I remembered that this was the reason I joined this church in the first place - their acceptance of all beliefs and people.

I will be attending the services this Sunday to reconsecrate the sanctuary. I have downloaded some of the podcasts of past sermons from our minister, Chris Buice, to bring me some peace. I need to hear his words. He is an amazing minister and teacher who always finds the words whether funny, sarcastic, calming, or profound to help you understand, whatever the subject.

I will be spending the weekend at a cabin in the mountains with friends. I will find peace there. I will think of those that were in the sanctuary that day. If I feel this way, it is unimaginable to me how they must feel. And maybe by Sunday night, after the services and a calm weekend, while I don't think I will find understanding, I hope to have forgiveness in my heart.