The Plan

Read parts 1 and 2 here and here.

Rubbing her eyes and stretching, Maggie woke up in the late afternoon momentarily forgetting the events of the day. She and her cousin Jenny had been shocked earlier in the day when their grandmother Kitty confessed that she and Gramps were smuggling drugs from Mexico back home in Texas. When Maggie realized where she was, she sat up straight and said, “Whoa! Drugs! Jenny? Jenny! Wake up!”

Rolling over and flopping onto the floor, Jenny stayed asleep.

“Geez,” Maggie said, rolling her eyes. “Jenny, get up! We’ve got to figure out what to do. We’re in a big mess! How can you still be sleeping?!”

Jenny got up and languidly went into the bathroom of their hotel suite. After being in there for what seemed like hours to Maggie, she emerged and rummaged around for a snack. More organized and serious, Maggie sat at the desk, tapping her pen on the notepad. “The Plan” was written at the top of the first page. She hoped that Jenny would be quiet and not her usual loud self because she did not want Diego, the man Kitty had hired to keep them in their room, interrupting them.

Maggie sighed, “OK, let’s list everything we know.”

“Do you want some Oreos?”, Jenny asked.

“No. I do not want any Oreos. Wait. Sure, gimme one.” Maggie took the Oreo, sighed again and opened her mouth to speak when …

Jenny interrupted, pointing at the door leading to the main room of the suite. “Do you think there’s any milk in the fridge out there? Maybe Diego could get us some or a Coke. I’m gonna go ask him.”

Tiptoeing to the door, she slowly turned the knob and peeked out, whispering back to Maggie, “Hey, it’s not locked.”

She crept out and discovered Diego asleep on the velvet couch. She crawled on the floor to the mini-kitchen and investigated the contents of the refrigerator.

Back in the bedroom Jenny reported, “Nothing but some tonic and limes. Yuck.”

“What about Diego?”, Maggie asked.

“He’s asleep. So what should we do?”

Maggie was ready. “Okay. While you were looking for milk, I wrote some stuff down. We could try to escape again, especially with Diego asleep, but…”

Jenny jumped off the bed, “Yeah, let’s go.”

“Sit down, Jenny. As I was saying, trying to escape didn’t work so well this morning so no escaping for right now. Besides, we don’t know how long Gramps and Kitty will be gone. They could be back any minute. So. What if we pretend to be sick? I really don’t feel that good anyway.  We can ask Gramps to take us back to the bus station or maybe he can call our Dads to come get us. We can promise not to tell.”

It was Maggie’s turn to roll her eyes. “We already promised.”

“Oh, yeah. Well, what do you think about that plan?”

“Let’s try it. We can eat this whole box of Oreos and then barf them up. It will be so gross they’ll want us to go home. But I need milk to go along with them. Nobody eats Oreos without milk. Let’s ask Diego to get us some. We can go with him if he thinks we’ll try to run away while he’s gone.”

Maggie jumped up! “Yes! Eating all those cookies will really make us sick so we won’t even have to pretend. But ewww on the barfing. I hate barfing. Wait. Sshhh. I think I hear Kitty.”

The door opened and there stood Kitty, one hand on her hip, the other holding a freshly made gin and tonic. “Girls! Put on dresses and brush your hair. Jenny, your’s is a mess. We’re going out to dinner in 15 minutes.”

Kitty closed the door, leaving behind a lingering odor of perfume and gin. The cousins smiled and put on the party dresses they had packed. They would get their milk while they were out and begin Operation Oreo when they got back to the hotel. As they left their bedroom, they looked at each other and both whispered, “Perfect.”

Balancing the Scales

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Two years ago I beat my demon, conquered my foe, slayed my monster. I flipped the bird at the body shamers, took to heart the quotes on my “Words to Live By” Pinterest board and vowed to love my body as it is or as it ever will be. I changed a fundamental belief that my body needed improvement everywhere, that it was not good enough and therefore I was not good enough to a belief that my worth has nothing to do with how much I weigh or what size I wear and that I am worthy. I am enough.

Growing up in the United States my old body image beliefs had long roots with seeds planted in childhood by Barbie, Twiggy, mini-skirts and a thin mother always on a quest to be thinner.

As my sister and I sat eating our not necessarily healthy after school snacks, watching Gilligan’s Island reruns, our not overweight mom sipped her hot beverage and chewed an Ayds weight loss candy before exercising. We all laughed as she butt-walked down the hall of our mid-century, not yet modern, ranch home.  I can still see her sitting on the shag carpet, legs straight in front of her, scooting by pulling one leg and then the other forward until she reached the far end of the hall, the end of the hall with the full length judgment apparatus, um, mirror.

The specter of dieting loomed throughout our house and because I was a skinny teenager my mother seemed to delight in warning me that “it” would catch up with me. What? Was I simply outrunning some kind of monster waiting to lob globs of fat that would stick forever to my hips?

Apparently.

After having both my children and losing the pregnancy weight quickly, I still found a need to join Weight Watchers using the thin woman’s diet excuse that my clothes didn’t fit. Well, duh, having two small humans inhabit your body has some lasting effects on your shape that have nothing to do with the number on the scale. But, hey, I lost my 10 pounds and became a Lifetime WW member. A curse, I’ve decided now, that says you aren’t good if you don’t fall between the range of  numbers they have assigned your height.

I watched my weight increase over the years and made the same old, same old New Year’s Resolution to lose weight because, ugh, there wasn’t anything I really liked about my body. Until my epiphany two years ago, that is.

After spending decades soaking in the toxic waters of Skinny is Best Lake, I climbed out of that stew and headed straight to the top of Eat Whatever You Want Mountain. There, the air is thin and judgement can be just as impaired as it is in the lake.

So here I am, with clothes that don’t fit, searching for balance between denial and indulgence, coming to the realization that neither is healthy. This search is much harder than I expected it to be, but I’m confident I can at least get close to that place where I can love and accept my body as it appears and also love and accept that to keep enjoying the health that I currently have I need to replace all-out indulgence with some moderation and restraint.

Fiction (I’m Reading) Friday

Switching gears here from fiction I’m writing  dabbling with to fiction that I’ve been reading. For the record, I’ve given up on the Bingo reading challenge. How many lists can one merge together and make work? Focus!

List Challenge Page Update

Of the 18 books on my list, I have 6 that are still not crossed off. As a challenger of one, I can make up my own rules, right? So I’m crossing off the Holy Bible since I had already decided that I wasn’t going to read it cover to cover. I’m also crossing off the Chronicles of Narnia because I have read at least 2 or 3 books in the series.

That leaves 4: Crime and Punishment, which I am currently reading, Fahrenheit 451, The Book Thief and Where the Sidewalk Ends. Woohoo.

Great Kindle Deals

Damn that Amazon! I’ve started following a new blog, Modern Mrs. Darcy, and if you sign up for email notifications, she emails you Great Kindle Deals from Amazon. Of course, you can look these up yourself on Amazon.com, but she curates the list so you just have a few to think about purchasing. I have, ahem, purchased a few, several still unread. My top price for these is $1.99 so what’s to lose? Two that I recently read were Still Alice by Lisa Genova and the debut novel of Sara J. Henry, Learning to Swim: A Novel.

The mother in her believed that the love she had for her daughter was safe from the mayhem of her mind, because it lived in her heart.

~Lisa Genova, Still Alice

Still Alice. Wow. What can I say? If you are in your mid-50s like I am, the thought of early onset Alzheimer’s makes this book more of a horror story. The book is well written and does not put a pretty spin on what must be a devastating illness for everyone involved. It was made into a movie that came out last year starring Julianne Moore which I did not see.

Learning to Swim: A Novel is an enjoyable easy read of the mystery genre. I would classify it as a beach read: won’t be great literature, but fun. Suspenseful enough to keep you interested.

Banned Books Week

Banned Books Week is the last week in September (9/25 to 10/1) and I’ve decided to make a month of it. There’s nothing my inner rebellious teenage self doesn’t like to do more than read a book someone has said should be banned for some reason or other. In September, I plan to read books from the Top Ten Most Challenged in 2015, and maybe a classic or 2 that has been banned at some point (even if it means putting Crime and Punishment down for a little while).

Happy Reading!

 

No Escaping

You can find part one of this story here.

The golden Cadillac Sedan de Ville gleamed under the hot Mexican sun. With Kitty at the helm, other drivers slowed to stare and pedestrians stopped to gawk. Gramps and Kitty had driven their brand new 1972 model to Matamoras, Mexico on its inaugural road trip from their home in Texas. Cousins Jenny and Maggie knew to appropriately ooh and ahh at the splendid car when Gramps and Kitty picked them up at the bus station the day before.

Nobody oohed and ahhed now. The girls leaned against each other in the backseat, waiting for the lecture from their grandmother. Emboldened by their first margarita earlier in the day, they had run away from the cantina after overhearing Gramps speak about some nefarious undertaking,. Getting lost in the open market was easy, but it did not take Kitty long to spot them trudging along the street toward what they thought was the border crossing.

Although well-known for scaring the bejesus out of her grandchildren with her tirades, Kitty had not said a word on the drive to the hotel. Situated near the central plaza, the old hotel felt as grand as the new Caddy. An elaborate fountain with colorful tiles and a fish spouting water centered the courtyard that led to an imposing staircase. Hand-carved wooden doors opened off the inner balcony into plush two-bedroom suites.

Kitty pointed to the velvet sofa in the main room, and the girls sat.

“Your grandfather and I,” she began, taking a deep breath. “ We have business here in Mexico that you two were not supposed to see. But since you did, or you think you did, I’m going to tell you girls what is going on. You may not ask any questions, and you will not tell anyone. When I’m finished, I am going back out, but the two of you must not leave this suite. Do you understand?”

Jenny, the talkative one, opened her mouth to respond, but before she could, Maggie smacked her on the leg, and said, “Yes, Kitty. We understand”

And so their grandmother explained that she and Gramps smuggled prescription drugs into Texas for their friends. In Mexico, medications like valium were sold over the counter, so that part wasn’t illegal, and no one suspected a wealthy elderly couple in a Cadillac to be bringing anything over the border besides turquoise and tequila. Everything was going fine until one of their friends decided to horn in on the business. That was when Gramps had hired Diego to help insure his farmacia contacts would remain loyal.  When she finished, Kitty instructed Jenny and Maggie to go into their bedroom and stay there until further notice. Diego, the bartender from the cantina, would be there to guard them .

Jenny and Maggie shut the door to their bedroom and both began talking at once. When they settled down, each burst into tears and then fell asleep as it was just too much for them to handle.

They awoke rested and with an understanding that 12 year olds need help when dealing with criminals, even if the criminals are their grandparents. They needed Diego on their side.

The Biscuit Bulletin: Buttermilk Kitchen

It’s no secret that I love biscuits, the soft, southern kind that are perfect conduits for butter and homemade preserves. Some people prefer a more savory version with gravy, but not me.

[Disclaimer: I am NOT paid for any products or by any restaurants that are mentioned.]

I’m not particular about how these biscuits are made, i.e., out of a can (hooray for Grands, especially the frozen ones you can bake one at a time), from a mix (Bisquick, the name says it all), homemade or from a restaurant. Just please leave out the extra stuff. I do not want chives, onions, etc in my biscuits, just as I do not want pieces of corn in my cornbread. Cheese is acceptable, sometimes.

IMG_20160803_123302093 (2016-08-13T18_42_37.924)This introduction brings me to my real purpose, writing a review of the biscuit I recently ate at the Buttermilk Kitchen.

They have a picture of the biscuits on their homepage, so you know that they’re serious about biscuits. This is a breakfast and lunch restaurant only, with a fancy fried chicken dinner available once a month.

I had my biscuit as the bread choice with my 2 over-medium eggs and fresh berries. Breakfast is available all day until they close at 2 p.m. (3 p.m. on the weekends). It came with house jam. On a side note, Roland had bacon and you can specify floppy or crispy. Love that!

Yum. A drop biscuit (as opposed to rolled out and cut with a biscuit cutter) soft on the inside and crunchy on the outside. Huge. I began to tire of the crunchiness and toward the end, I picked it off and just ate the inside. Buttery on the outside.

The house jam was delicious, but not enough considering the size of the biscuit and butter was not automatically on the plate. I didn’t ask for any this time, but I have on previous visits. Trying to watch my calories, haha!

My review scale is simple: yes, no or maybe. So…

Would I recommend the biscuits from Buttermilk Kitchen? YES

Would I order them again? YES

If you ever find yourself in North Atlanta on Roswell Road, drop in and try one!

 

 

 

Oh, Mexico

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They slept, talked, giggled and then they slept some more. Jenny and Maggie, two 12 year old cousins, were on a 10-hour Greyhound bus ride to the south Texas border town of Brownsville to meet up with their grandparents, Gramps and Kitty. They ate their mom-made lunches out of brown paper bags, and when the bus stopped for a break they ate dinner at a truck stop, paying with money they had earned babysitting. They could not believe their parents let them go on this trip alone. By the time they reached their destination, exhaustion had replaced excitement and they asked Gramps to go straight to the hotel.

In the morning the four of them drove across the border to Matamoros. The shopping excursion in the market was the second time in their young lives – and in the past two days – that they had been trusted to take care of themselves. Given a fistful of pesos to buy souvenirs, they could not decide what to buy from among the dizzying array of merchandise. Maggie exclaimed over gleaming silver jewelry studded with large turquoise stones and Jenny gagged as they walked by butchers holding bloody carcasses.

The girls caught up with Gramps and Kitty in a book shop which provided an oasis from the din outside. A nearby fan cooled them as they watched Gramps haggling with the booksellers for some old maps.

Hot and hungry, Jenny marched up to Kitty, interrupting as she asked, “Kitty, we’re can’t decide what to buy. Can we get some lunch? Is Gramps almost done?”

“No. Can’t you see he’s busy? We came a long way just to talk with this man about his … maps, and Gramps needs to get things settled,” KItty answered in a harsh whisper.

Jenny asked again, this time more politely. “I’m sorry, Kitty. Do you mind if Maggie and I go to that cantina across the way to get something to eat? Please? We can get something cold to drink for you because you look so hot.”

Tossing a few more pesos her way, Kitty said, “Fine. Order Gramps and I each a margarita and we’ll join you soon.”

The girls had never seen Gramps and Kitty acting so strange. And just what made these dusty old maps so valuable? Shrugging their shoulders and rolling their eyes, they ran out of the shop and into the bar across the street. They chose a booth in the back and Jenny placed the order when the waitress approached them.

“Dos margaritas, por favor.”

The waitress nodded and abruptly walked away. Giggling, Maggie looked at her cousin in confusion.

“Did that waitress think those drinks were for us, Jenny?”

Jenny giggled back, “Yeah, I guess kids can order drinks in Mexico. Gramps and Kitty won’t be here for awhile. Let’s us just drink ‘em!”

The drinks arrived with salt around the rim which seemed weird but important. They licked the edge of their glasses and then sucked every drop of the limey drink quickly through the straw. Sitting up straight after their last slurp they noticed a delicious spin to the room. Guilt erased their “let’s get another” smiles when they saw Gramps silhouetted in the door frame. Diving under the table and peeking out behind the tablecloth, they watched him go to the bar, leaning in close to speak to the bartender.

Maggie whispered to Jenny, “What’s he doing? Maybe he’s not looking for us. Let’s be spies!”

They slid out from under the table, crawling along the wall to a place behind the bar where they could see and hear Gramps and the bartender. Only 12 after all, they hadn’t thought this through and the bartender spotted Maggie’s blonde hair and Jenny’s orange top. Huddled together, there was nowhere to go. The bartender scooped them both up from behind.

“Así, ¿qué es esto?”

Gramps blanched and hissed, “Maggie! Jenny! Diego, take them to the back room and we will deal with them there!”

Not expecting such harshness from Gramps, Jenny started kicking and scratching at Diego with Maggie following her lead. They escaped his grasp and ran out into the busy market melting into the crowd, on their own again.

Wearing newly purchased sombreros as a disguise, they headed to the border to catch a bus back home. As they walked, Maggie wondered aloud, “How will we explain this to our parents?”

The Orange

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The outdoor market looked both inviting and intimidating. I had dropped my kids off at their new school and my next goal was to buy breakfast for myself.

I closed my eyes and pictured myself just two months earlier, pushing my cart along the brightly lit aisles of my local grocery store in Rockville, Maryland. I could find everything I needed, even in the produce department. Rip a bag off of the little stand and fill it with apples, oranges, potatoes or green beans, even strawberries in the winter.

I opened my eyes and I stood in a chilly open air market in a foreign country more than 4000 miles from Rockville. I didn’t speak the language. I didn’t know the process for this kind of market shopping. I didn’t have my own shopping bag. And I didn’t have the kids with me as a buffer to hide my lonely ineptitude for procuring produce in the Czech Republic.

Our little family was not just passing through on a holiday. This country was to be our home for the next few years. I was the Mom, the one who sustained our existence while the Dad was helping the businesses of this former Communist country figure out Capitalism. I needed to get it together before our air shipment of mac and cheese, tuna, pop tarts and fruit rollups ran out.

I picked up a small orange, and like a toddler just learning to speak, I directed a couple of strange sounding words that I had practiced toward the man who appeared to be the vendor.

He shook his head, said something unintelligible and went back to unloading the produce.

Nervous, homesick and trying not to cry, I persisted, asking once more how much for this small orange that didn’t even look that good.

He glared, repeated the (to me) gibberish and kept unloading. On the third try, I held up a coin along with the orange.

Thinking perhaps that I had escaped from some nearby asylum, he grabbed the coin and gestured for me to be on my way.

I took my orange and left. Shame, fear, anxiety and embarrassment flooded through my still jet-lagged body as I realized too late that he was telling me the market was not yet open. I wanted more than anything to find my way back home.

I can hear the fruit guy now, complaining to his wife when he got home that evening. “If she’s going to live here, she needs to learn the language!”

And I can hear those words here. “We need to make English the official language of the United States! If people are living here they better speak English! We shouldn’t have to print instructions in different languages. Tough shit if they can’t figure out how to get a driver’s license! Build a wall! Keep them out!”

Our fear and distrust of those that are different from us seems to be running high these days, at least from some factions here in the U.S. It’s no wonder that Americans bear the label “Ugly American” when they travel outside of their own border. Even away from home we expect people to understand our language. We also expect ice in our drinks and free refills.

What are we so afraid of? I am more afraid of those who fear and despise diversity and anything foreign than those who are different from us. Don’t they know how unattractive their anger, hatred and intolerance makes them? Don’t they get bored hanging around those that are just like them?

I have worn the shoes of a young woman living in a country where she doesn’t speak the language and doesn’t know how to navigate the bureaucracy, where she doesn’t know how to sign her kids up for sports and doesn’t know how to find a doctor who will understand her.

Those shoes are damn uncomfortable.

They don’t have to remain uncomfortable. Those shoes can be broken in over time with care, compassion and bridges of connection, not walls of separation.