Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Back to the Drawing Board

After a two-hour interview over a month ago, then a half-hour phone interview two weeks later, and previous employer and reference checks over the last few weeks, I still didn't get the job.

Talk about sucking!

A while back I had applied for a position and received a call. Everything went really well, at first, but after waiting and waiting (getting my chain jerked) I have slowly and painfully realized that in order to get a job at one of the major corporate entities of this city you basically have to... Have to what? Be related? Sleep with the boss? Commit a crime? If I knew, perhaps I'd have been hired already!

So it's back to the drawing board as far as the Job Department is concerned for me.

It's not that I haven't been looking. I've been scanning the Moron's Wanted (still) and keeping an ear peeled for any news. Believe me, I'm trying and there's nothing out there. And just yesterday the evening news said that Michigan's unemployment rate had reached 7.7% (still the nation's highest) but had started to fall slightly based on summer employment having ended and seasonal employment kicking in. Ya gotta love the good ole' service industry.

Keeping with the trend, I guess I'm going to have to cast my credentials aside and just go look for one of these service-industry positions too. Not my top choice, but I need something. We can't keep on like this - Something's Gotta Give (to off-quote the famous phrase), but it can only get worse before it gets better. Thankfully, I have a lot of relatives... I think one of them can give us a place to sleep!

Well, it's not that bad, really. I'm just exaggerating (imagine that!). So in the meanwhile I will Keep on Keeping On, that's my motto. A writer can never give up!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Look Out, Tom Turkey!

Thanksgiving morning. So much for sleeping in until the alarm went off. My bladder woke me up at 5:11 a.m. In all the confusion I must have forgotten to go to the bathroom before I tucked the whole family into bed the night before. Up and out of bed I went, the only one who noticed was the cat and he just winked a lazy eye and went back to sleep.

The power had been out all night. I lay in bed thinking of everything I had to do, primarily stuff the turkey, which didn't bother me as I've cooked turkey before, but as I mentally prepared for the task I realized in terror that there was no way I could cook the turkey without the necessary electricity to regulate the oven temperature.

What did I do? Well, I said a prayer.

"Dear Lord" I prayed, "I have to cook that turkey or there'll be no Thanksgiving dinner today, and I've got all those people coming over. What am I going to do?" I asked.

I'm not too kooky (despite popular belief), so I didn't expect to hear a voice come out of the ceiling telling me what to do. I didn't hear anything. I just lay there worrying and dozed off.

As if in answer to my prayer, twenty minutes later I heard the familiar beeps and chirps of appliances returning to life and all over the house the lights, that were on the night before, were illuminated again. I had to get out of bed once more, but did so happily to turn the hallway and bathroom lights off so's not to wake the family, oh, and the cat, who gets really grumpy if he doesn't get his beauty sleep.

As I said my thanks, I felt completely relieved because now the heat was also working, I prudently decided that since it was still before six that I should lay down and catch a few more winks. I overdid it, and somehow ended up turning off the cell phone alarm and sleeping until seven. And then I had to get up!

I didn't bother dressing, just tied on my apron over the pajamas. I had left Tom in the sink overnight to thaw and it seemed to have worked well. I clicked on the oven and pulled the onion and celery out of the fridge to start chopping them and add to the stock pot where a stick of butter lay melting. I always make my own stuffing, but whereas I used to chop stale bread into cubes by hand I have wised up and now buy unseasoned croutons from the bread store, saving me a lot of extra time and elbow grease.

In no time I had the stuffing ingredients sauteing and I prepared the turkey. First of all, let's just say that dead poultry is disgusting. I know that with all the advances we've made in food production that I shouldn't complain. Gone are the days of going to the market, selecting your bird, and bringing home a really fresh one, but there's still something gross about it anyway. And because Tom weighed 23 pounds I soon realized that handling him was going to be difficult. I could barely handle him at all. Have any of you seen the commercial where the woman has a 50 pound turkey in the sink and can't pick him up? Well that was me, and that's where my husband came in. He washed the turkey and put him in the roasting pan and we stuffed it together, chucking Tom into the oven at 8 a.m.

The rest of the morning went smoothly and as the hours ticked away... I dressed myself and the kids. Basted the turkey. Set the table and decorated it. Basted the turkey. Gathered the chairs. Checked the turkey, "Hallo, Tom!" Took out the serving dishes. Basted the turkey. Popped the other dishes into the oven. Basted the turkey. Greeted the first guests. Basted the turkey. Had a few cups of holiday cheer with the guests. We all checked the turkey. The rest of the guests arrived. I buttered the turkey. Everyone was present and crammed into the kitchen. Buttered the turkey some more. Helped prepare the dishes the guests brought. Poked the turkey with a meat thermometer as the pop-out timer was still popped in. Had some more holiday cheer. We consulted over the turkey, "Is it done yet?" Made merry and were feeling dizzy. Decided, "What the heck! hic The turkey's got to be done!" Finally.

By 3:30, we took Tom to the table. I must have done something right as everyone said just how delicious he was. The meat was cooked to perfection - not too tough nor dry. The guests were in good cheer and all the food was great. We took our time eating and, halfway through, shared what we were thankful for. The adults sat at table for a long while, relaxing and conversing. The finale, of course, was the dessert and the pies.

Despite all the preparation involved in hosting a Thanksgiving dinner, at least two days worth, the best thing about this holiday is being able to share, abundantly, the many things we have with others. Thanksgiving isn't just about the turkey, but about appreciation and gratitude, and about passing a pleasant afternoon in the company of family and friends. I know this sounds cliche, like the subject of a greeting card, but if you can look past any of the negatives, you'll find that the sentiment rings true.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

When the Lights Go Out

The day before Thanksgiving is not a day for slackers. And since I can potentially fall into this category, I made sure I was up early, considering the kiddies didn't have school, quietly making breakfast and coffee so's not to wake the little heathens, er, darlings. I saw hubby off to work and finished some housecleaning - about two hour's worth during which the children finally woke up and I made their breakfast, helped them dress, and also served as referee when, from time to time, they would have minor outbursts and otherwise start punching each other.

Fortunately for me I managed to get most everything that I had to do done and just in time. I showered and dressed and started making lunch - a simple tuna casserole - as an old friend of mine was coming over to visit. We did have a nice and relaxing afternoon, considering, but soon enough it was time for her to go and for me to perform the Dreaded Six-Letter Family Ritual like I always do, wash a mountain of dishes, and then roll up my sleeves, slap on an apron, and really get to work.

With my son's and daughter's help, I made seven pumpkin pies from scratch, popped the cranberries for the sauce, sliced, sugared, and buttered the yams, slopped the green bean casserole together, and submerged Tom, the 23 pound turkey, in a cold water bath. I was hosting dinner the next day and wanted to be prepared.

Let's just say everything went as smoothly as it could with children running to and fro, tussling over who gets to help Mom with the pumpkin pies as son nearly sneezes into the bowl of raw filling, daughter insists she just washed her hands but has black lines under her fingernails, and the cat jumps on the kitchen table and onto the floured surface that's waiting for the pie crust. Oh yes, dear reader, that's just a sampling of what it's like around my house.

As I juggled all this, the hours were creeping away. Soon it was eight o'clock, then nine. Somehow, the children had listened to me enough to put on their pajamas, but kept running up and down the stairs. They were having a high time of it. At ten to ten, under threat of bodily harm and imprisonment, I ordered them upstairs (for the hundredth time at least) to start brushing their teeth and that's when it happened.

The lights flickered out for a few seconds but popped back on again. It was a little odd. We had been under a high wind advisory, but there was no real bad weather. Just a cold rain. I didn't think much of it. I had taken the last two pies out of the oven, had been washing dishes and utensils, and was nearly finished with everything (not counting the next morning). Not bad considering it was ten thirty. Of course, without my constant supervision, the kids still hadn't brushed their teeth! (Now you know why I'm half-nuts...)

What happened next?

The lights really went out!

The house plunged into darkness and I could hear terrified calls for help from the upstairs bathroom. Of course, inside I was howling with laughter. Serves the little scamps right! If they would have listened to me in the first place (brush your teeth and go to bed) about two hours ago they wouldn't be in their current predicament. And on the outside I was groping about for the matches because, wonder upon wonders, the flashlight was dead ( who could have been playing with the flashlight?) Just as I struck a match, the kiddies came stumbling, huddled together, into the kitchen.

We lit several candles, found a working flashlight, and I rekindled the fire from the coals that remained from when my friend had been over hours before, because when the lights go out, so does the heat. The kids were even more excited, if that was possible, and were having a great time of it, for some unknown reason running about the dark parts of the house and tripping and falling or running into each other. I finished covering and putting away the food and the pies. Soon the kids were hatching plans.

"Can we all sleep in front of the fireplace tonight?" they asked, hopefully.
"Are you crazy?!" I exclaimed. "I'm sleeping in my bed." The last thing I needed was to sleep on the floor the day before I had to cook a turkey and put on a dinner. I'd never be able to stand up straight and walk the next day.
Hubby added, "Are you sure? There's no heat."

I don't like to pull my Laura Ingalls Card out unnecessarily, but I had to. I had earned the moniker "Laura Ingalls" from the time when I shared with a group of friends how I had grown up. It was the first and the last time that I had done this because, personally, I think they were just plain-old jealous that they hadn't lived like the pioneers as I had.

So I pulled the card, told my kids why we didn't have to sleep in front of the fireplace (making my rendition of Little House in the Big Woods brief), started snuffing out the candles, and made my way upstairs.

"Just put an extra blanket on the bed," I said over my shoulder as they scrambled up behind me, "and you'll be fine."
"Mom," daughter pants, "can I sleep with a candle in my room?"
"Oh, yeah, sure," I agreed, "and I'll be the first one to come and visit you in the burn unit tomorrow. NOT!" I said firmly.

Who were these kids and where did they come from? Planet Pyro?

I went and got an extra sweatshirt and a pair of thick socks to put on each of them. My son had his favorite dinosaur tucked under his arm and my daughter had her pillow. They were waiting by the end of the bed, looking at us expectantly.

"Oh, alright!" I exclaimed, "you can sleep with us."

Hubby skooched over to make room in the bed, thankfully it's king-sized. The kids clambered up and I tucked them in, safe and snug. I was the last one to get in; we were stacked up like cord wood (Laura Ingalls here I come) when the cat jumped in too, curling himself into a ball at the foot of the bed, right next to my feet (what's new?).

By this time it was midnight. I set my cell phone alarm (six thirty and the turkey come early) and somehow, balanced precariously on the edge of the bed, with an elbow wedged into my rib cage, unable to move my legs, and with only half of my body covered by the blankets, I managed to fall asleep.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Update on the Mutant Corn

Just before Halloween, we cut down the Mutant Corn to use for decorating. Surprisingly, since my last post, the corn had continued to grow, reaching about 12 feet and had sprouted quite a few more ears. Sadly, those ears never reached maturity, evidenced when it was de-husked to reveal tiny cobs with pale yellow kernels, which reminded me of the mini-corn that you eat in Asian cuisine. Now the corn is tied into two bunches, each leaning against my two front porch columns. The corn shocks were eerily appropriate for Halloween and are now harvest-time appropriate for Thanksgiving. Here's to the Mutant Corn!