I See Dead People

I see dead people from time to time. It has happened for a long time. I see people that I have known that used to be walking around. It isn’t scary. Of course it isn’t the actual person that has passed away, but some random person that grabs my attention. I have to give them a closer look to see if it is the person that I think it is. I stare if I can or follow them visually as they move off.

There was that movie where that kid says he sees dead people. I haven’t watched the whole thing. I know the premise and the outcome and have watched the beginning, the end and the part that the kid says that line. I don’t like scary movies and thought it might be a scary movie, but I see dead people too, but not for the same reason as he did.

Today there was a man working at a construction site as I drove by and I looked at him extra hard. He was standing like my dad and trying to figure something out. Dad has been dead for a long while. I see my friends dad riding bike in town from time to time, I see a dear teacher who I used to teach with, I see the wife of someone I knew, I see the dad of one of my former students and I see random people once or twice unnamed here.

I am not alarmed in these instances. I am aware and curious. I look to see if it is them even though I know it is not. It is just some person that looks like or has some sort of trait of the person that comes to my mind. I don’t think it is a ghost or anything. I don’t believe in ghosts, though some do. I don’t see everyone that I know who has died, just a few. What is that about? It doesn’t make me sad, happy, or anything in between. It just is.

I think it is a little gift from God to see people. I dream of people and after I have my talk with them or they talked to me, they rarely come back into my dreams unless something from the day I had has them appear to just be in the dream hanging out. I think those dreams are little gifts too. It is a way to work out things of the day or my life. I am not sure if either of these is connected, but really I am not concerned with it, just looking at those occurrences and sometimes I ask, “Why?” Asking the question and thinking about an answer that never comes can be enlightening or just healing.

 

I Had Never Been Asked That Before

I was at Job 2 and this man came up to me with his little girl and wanted her to try on some clothes. I was helping her a bit and he was standing around waiting. He was nice and polite. We talked about the weather and then he says, “This is sort of an odd question to ask….” I urged, “That’s ok, what can I help you with?” He asked, “Do you have any nipple covers here?” Me, “Sometimes, and they might go by a different name, but I will check.” At first, dear Reader, you might be pretty surprised that I didn’t even break stride in answering that question. I surprise myself…every…single…day too. The other worker bee also checked and then we told him that we didn’t have any today.

He had told me that he was a body painter and I just assumed that he painted car bodies. I have been assuming all wrong this week and once again had not grasped that he painted human bodies. I was intrigued. I was intrigued because pretty much everything makes me go, “Tell me more.”

He said that he usually is an industrial painter, but got into body painting. That is when another co-worker got into the conversation and thought that she recognized him when he told us that he was on the Netflix Series, “Body Wars”, Season 3, that his name was Otto and that he was the one in the cowboy hat. My co-worker LOVES that show and WAS uber excited. She called her mom. I had not ever heard of that show and did not know it was a thing.

Otto said he lives in one of the towns close to us. We discussed it and he told me what house he lived in. The town is very familiar and I knew which one it was. He then told me that it is no big deal to paint on human bodies as you get used to it. Some people wear g-strings and nipple covers, some wear just g-strings and some come out with nothing on at all when ready to be painted.

He went on to tell me that he was soon to be going to the Playboy Mansion for a job. I thought that might not even be a thing anymore and he said that it was not a big deal as they are just people. He wasn’t boastful or making it seem less than it was waiting to be elevated, but just was telling his story. He seemed like a nice person and the way he spoke to his daughter also showed that he was decent.

He said that after it was all done and the editing was finished that one of the producers called to say that his voice wouldn’t be heard on the show that much as his sound had to be extremely cut because of his word choices. He said his friends were surprised at how quiet he was as he is a talker.

When I got home I told the hubs and we watched a bit of it, texted one of the kids about it and then called my friend and said, “Guess what happened at work today and have you ever seen “Body Wars”?” We discussed the different aspects of doing that kind of art and laughed our way around our thoughts of what a world we live in and wondered at this kind of canvas.

The people that I get to meet everyday at Job 2 are people that we all know and see every day. What we don’t always appreciate are the stories that are inside of them. How great is it that I get to learn about new things and meet so many extraordinarily ordinary people that can just light up my brain? I can’t wait for the next person with an odd question.

 

 

Fine. He’s Just Fine

Today I got to see some women that I grew up admiring from my church where I was raised. They most likely held me as a baby. They are all old and I was so honored that they would have remembered me. I hugged them all and asked about each one. It was really nice to see them. The four of them ranged in states of health. I asked them about their kids.

The mother and mother-in-law of three of them held our Erin when she was a baby and taught me to do what she referred to as the “Mama Swing”.  I had Erin out in the back of the church trying to soothe her and this matriarch, who I loved with all my heart, pitched in to give some kind advise. I go way back with these good women.

Then one of them asked about my mom and I was telling her about that. She then asked how my dad was. The others kind of looked like they hoped I would answer in the best way possible and seemed a bit uncomfortable. They all knew my parents and most likely all were in attendance at their wedding as they were at ours.

My dad died in 2011 and they had all been to the funeral. This gave me the clue that the dear one that asked was having memory issues. She remembered me in my altered state, knew to ask about my parents, but had forgotten that Dad was in heaven. I saw the faces of the others relax when I answered her, “He’s fine. He’s just fine.”

Smoking Jag

When I was a kid and people smoked cigarettes a lot we would say they are having a smoking jag. I just looked that up on the internet to see if that was really a term or if I had made it up in my head. Turns out there are many things that could be that from smoking pot to a Jaguar car that is smokin’ hot. I did find that I was correct in my phraseology.

Then there is smoking like a fiend. I heard that one as well growing up. It sounds like I came from a smoke free home growing up, but I did not. My dad smoked until he got punched in the chest by a steel rod (that is a good story for another day). Since he coughed every morning on waking up because of smoking and it hurt to cough now with this hole he gave it up cold turkey.

My mom didn’t smoke and not many of her side of the family did although my uncle by marriage from Kentucky did. The family’s excuse for his habit was that he was from Kentucky and that is where they grew it so…. He would hold it in between his thumb and index finger and then cup the other fingers under it when not to his mouth. I can see him sitting on some step, bent over, forearms on the tops of his knees wide spread, almost like a squat. The last fingers able to gently hit the cigarette so the ashes  fell to the ground. Sometimes he would have to move his leg quickly to keep from an ash touching his pant leg.

Dad had that same position. I would watch him take a pull. I would watch him grind them out both in an ashtray and when outside on the ground. I would watch how his mouth would blow it out different directions depending on where he was. I remember how he would stick it in his mouth with his lips curved in while he lifted something heavy. I asked him once if he could blow smoke rings as I had seen someone doing that on TV. I sat memorized while he made a few and let me poke a finger and then a whole hand in them. Then he sometimes did that little trick where the smoke came right out of his mouth and would go up directly again into his nose.

He would sometimes make his own cigarettes and had a little rolling machine. It was red and had a cloth band on it where you laid the paper like a mini hammock. In that little now paper covered hammock he would sprinkle the tobacco from the can. I assume it was Prince Albert in a can. Sometimes he let me do it. The papers came in packets very much like the papers for perming hair. Tissue like and the cigarette ones where banded with a label. I remember the label being blue and black. Maybe they matched and were also from the Prince Albert in a can people. I think that sometimes he might have bought filters to add in, but the ones I made for him were sans filters. To make the cigarettes hold together he would lightly use the tip of his tongue to pass over the long edge of the now rolled cig and adhere it to itself. Then he would take the cigarette and tap the ends on the edge of something to bang tiny bits of tobacco back into the tube of paper.

He then would light one up. As far as I remember he only used paper matchbooks to light them, then take his thumb and middle finger to get those tiny bits off his lips. Then he would be calm for a bit.

When I was performing at a talent show where my mom was accompanying me, my dad stood in the back of the school gym near the big doors with some other dads and smoked. You could smoke anywhere then. I could see the glow of the lite ends as the lights were down. They would glow brighter as the men took a drag and then swung their arms down again.

This all makes smoking sound like a beautiful picture. It just was what we knew. Many people in my dad’s family smoked. His dad, my grandpa, smoked a pipe and cigarettes. His sister and his brother smoked too. Some of his really nice relative smoked cigars that I can still smell. It is a nice scent to me maybe only because they were so nice. Most everywhere we went the air was blue. One of my brothers did smoke and one does not.

When smoking came out of our house after Dad got hit in the chest by that iron bar our senses improved and things smelled better. Mostly I noticed that I did not have the respiratory problems anymore. It seems like no one put those two things together. I know that both of the doctors I had as a child both were avid smokers.

It made me crazy when one of my sons took it up for a while. I think the other may have as well. To me it made no sense because it really caused the cancers in our family. What was odd to me at the time he quit was that Dad always said that if he knew he would die tomorrow he would have a cigarette. I understand addiction better now, but when I asked him if he would smoke pot to help him when he was dying of cancer. He said that since it was illegal he could never do that. Whatever, Dad.

So, when I went into a tiny local store today and was at the checkout I was overcome with cigarette smell. I looked around and it was emanating out of the checker. No one else was in there. She wasn’t actually smoking and I couldn’t see anyone outside of the doors out there puffing. It was so strong that I backed up. Did we smell like that back in the day? Since most people our families spent time with had people that smoked, did we all smell like that? Remember when we came home from the bars and hung our jackets outside to air out? Makes me happy not to have too many people I know smoking anymore. What one whiff will remind me of…

 

This Guy at the Store

This man came in and tied on some clothes at Job 2. He about 40 years old. He had two pairs of gray pants and one golf shirt to try.

His head poked out of a fitting room and out slid his reluctant self saying, “Will you tell me what you think about this?”

I said, “Well, sure!”

Guy, “You think these are too tight? Can I go to a restaurant in this?”

I replied, “Um, what kind of restaurant and who are you going with?’

Guy, “It is a nice restaurant (says where he is going), maybe like a 4 star restaurant. I’m taking my wife. She thinks I am taking her on a fishing trip. It’s our 15th wedding anniversary. It will be a surprise! Can I golf in these?”

Me, “First of all, that is a nice shirt for golfing, but you will want to wear a shirt and tie for that restaurant. Are the pants comfortable?”

Guy, they are not anything like I would ever wear, but I don’t have any pants for a nice restaurant. Could I wear them to golf in?”

Me, “So, you are looking for pants that will take you from the course to a restaurant?”

Guy, “I have never golfed before.”

Me, “That shirt will look great on the course if you ever go and will be a good shirt for lots of things.”

Guy, “There is the other pair. If I put those on would you let me know what you think about those?”

Me, “Do you want me to get a younger person over here for their opinion? I won’t be offended. I want to have you get what is best for you.”

Guy, “No, I’m kind of embarrassed and you are doing good.”

Me, “Well, thanks. What shoes are you going to wear?”

Guy, “What shoes should I get?”

Me, “Go put your shoes on. We will see how the hem falls and then decide what goes with your life best.”He went to change and put a bigger pair of pants on.

Me, “They are larger, a bit longer and you would probably want to have them hemmed. How do they feel?

Guy, “Well, I want them to have room so if I get fat (pats stomach) they won’t be tight.” (laughs) “Do they really wear them that skinny like the others?”

Me, “They are not that skinny and they both look ok although I would go with the first one, but that is just me. Are you sure you don’t want to have me get someone else over here?”

Guy, “No, if you think I should get those skinnier ones then that is what I will get. What do you think of these shoes.”

Me, “Well, those are good for just running around, but you need some dress shoes or something a bit more fitting with your pants. You wouldn’t have to get crazy fancy shoes if you are concerned, just something that will surprise your wife and look good with nice pants. The truth is that when she finds out you have a whole different plan she won’t care what you are wearing and will be ready for 15 more years.”

He came out when he was back in all his clothes he had arrived in and this was clearly a change for him. He showed me how baggy his jeans were that he was used to and how large his sweatshirt was on his regular sized self. To think he went out to plan this, got clothes on his own when he evidently keeps them forever as alluded to by the proposed longevity of his pants and how that shirt would be very versatile….

I wished him all the best and told him to have a wonderful anniversary, not to worry as she will love it all. He started off and then turned around and asked if I was married. I said yes, will be 36 years. He smiled and waved the pants at me.

God bless you, you , you…gem.

 

This Stranger Told Me About Her Breasts

There are many reasons to have breast surgery. There are your reconstructions after cancer, there are reductions and augmentations to make a person feel better about what is before them. Personally I think that people should do whatever makes them feel comfortable in their skin, able to move easier and feel better in their clothes and life. I know that it is a challenge for anyone that feels uncomfortable with whatever they get in the gene pool lotto. Some people get things changed and some do not.

Today at Job 2, a woman my age was grappling with how her purposefully changed breasts didn’t really fit with her naturally occurring waist and behind. She went on to tell me how things have widened although weight wasn’t really an issue, and it now wasn’t a good match for her other bits.

She grabbed her breasts (with clothes on..whew) when she was telling me and said she wished that she would have never had this surgery to lift and enlarge, how her husband really pushed her to have them done quite a while ago, and how stupid she was to cave when what she now felt was a mistake.

I really didn’t mind having this stranger tell me these personal details. I’m used to it and it is always a good thinker. She has to tell someone and besides, in the end she found a dress that made them look good to her. What I do mind is that she seemed to regret it not because it was what she really wanted and now was regretting it, but what someone else wanted for her, she did it for them and regretted it.

 

I Am a Poster Child For…

I never thought that I would be the poster child for anything. Maybe I thought that I was too unique to have the weight of a whole label on me. Wrong. You too are a poster child for something. How so, Jane?

Today I was was at Job 2 when someone there that I did not know or had ever seen leaned over and without being creepy whispered that she had lost weight and had gotten into 2 sizes smaller than she had been. She was thrilled and had a little cry in her voice as she went off to find smaller sizes. She felt that her personal victory was safe to tell me just as the hour before a guy told me how his being short and small was his greatest plague.

Mostly I am happy to be the soft place that they can set down their sads, happys and worries. People tell me a lot of things at Job 2, come to think of it people tell me a lot of things at Job 1 as well. Some of it I am happy to hear and some of it that makes me want to walk off. Someone followed me around telling me about their stomach flu. I am a poster child for whatever the person in front of me thinks I am.

I can be a poster child for the following: happy person, friendly person, not quite retired person, grandma type, someone’s mom, someone’s daughter, aunt, sister, determined person, servant to you person, Christian person, horrible example of a Christian person,  writer, librarian, a teacher, the delusional, super angry, academic, idiot….. People tell me things based on how they think I will react, what I can help them with, and most importantly how I present myself to them.

Labels are sticky and lots of time in my teaching career was listening to people reminding all not to slap a label on anyone so they are not stifled by it. That is important to not throw someone into one pot and put one sticker on it. People are many things and although we might bristle at the thought of being labeled, we are poster children for whatever is needed from us from another at that moment.

 

Friendship Shifts

Now that I have lived on this earth for nearly six decades I can look back and see how my choices of friends have morphed over time. I am glad that there will be some years yet to make friends. I still have some from when I was a girl, some new ones and champs that have come to stay along the way. Lately I am not ready to get new friends. It just sort of happened.

I have this group of friends from Job 2 that for some unseen reason have invited me into their pond. They are all young enough to be my daughters and not young enough to be my granddaughters. I get asked to go out to eat with them, they ask if they can come over, if I want to go to the bar with them, ect. Now, that last part should get your attention. I thought that perhaps I would be a little joke or an oddity, but time has proven that they are legit. I really like them. They are kind, good, hard working and on the cusp of being almost 30…or 25. Do I go to the bar? Twice I did. It just doesn’t fit me really, but I met most of them a few years ago and now they are in my orbit and I like it. They are really interesting.

In my vision of friendship there is a circle. I am in the middle with the ripples going out about me. The circles are not solid and people have come to a closer ripple and back farther over time. and visa versa.  It is a weird orbit. It has been my experience that just when I think that those circles are pretty much set in stone they change and the people that I think are far from me have or will not be close ever again have a way of bypassing several rings getting in closer. I like that and have accepted that that way and the other way too.

Not too long ago I heard that one of my co-workers would be moving. I had formed a really good relationship with her and had learned a lot. She was as different from me as a cat is from a pickle. She is an atheist and I am not. She is a young and I am not. She was raised on a clothing optional ranch and I was not. She is a yoga instructor and I can barely walk up stairs. She is involved in this interesting art feature and I am just interested. She is amazing. When I heard she was leaving I thought that I would miss her and that she must have come into my life for a reason. Maybe I came into hers for something too.

When we first met I think we did a jittery dance of the unlikely friends. Her eyes winced a bit when I said something about being a Christian, although she tried to hide it. I get that a lot since I have gotten jobs in the public sector. Maybe my eyes winced a bit when she mentioned the vibe of the universe was askew when a certain planet was in some other alignment, but we both persevered on. Maybe it was because of curiosity or perhaps we saw something in each other that was worth our time.

We got to speak a bit ago and discussed a some about our early jittery dance. How good it is have given it enough time to build trust and respect to listen. I think that she will be gone in a month and I will always be grateful for her coming into my orbit.

There are people in my pond that I would not really want to be in there anymore. Their views are so alternate of mine that I can hardly abide listening to them and they probably feel the same about me. The thing is that they are stuck in there because I used to really, really have hope for them and think that their true self will eventually come out. Then again, maybe this is their true self. Aren’t we supposed to become more of what we really are as we know better?  Since I am a hopeful person I always think that they might come to their senses and get it together. I am willing to over look their ideas that are utterly alternate than mine because they have done that for me. Is that love or is that punishment? I have only kicked out people that have hurt me and now days they NEVER are allowed back in.

There was one person that I knew from college that suddenly appeared here again some years back for a few days as my house guest. I hadn’t seen her since my husband and my wedding. It was the longest house guest stay of my life. I have no idea why she had reappeared, but told me while she was drunk that my life was not interesting in any way. That we were pretty much not doing life right and tried to tell me how that should go. That is someone that anyone does not need to reappear in anyone’s life or actually show up in there in the first place. I always look back on that few days and go, “What was that about? What was I supposed to learn or wasn’t that about me?”

I used to think that if all my friends were in the same room the only thing that they would have in common would be me. I tried it a few times and it is mostly true, but people are nice and they put up with each other. All of my friends are interesting and have so much to offer anyone.

Recently I reconnected with a person that lived in my community that I haven’t seen in 40 years. I discovered we were looking at some of the same information on line and new ways of looking at things. One never knows who will pop up just when you need them.

There is a friend from childhood who knew all the creek and trees of our childhood. We never get together now, but once in a while we will have a little chat on Facebook and think fondly of those days and how we were. It is nice to have her in the world. I think she feels the same about me.

There are those people that knew you then and then know you now and are still hanging tough. That is a wonder to me. Sometimes I have to meet with them so I can remember myself both to see how far I have come and to remember who I still am. I can say things that they might call me out on or just listen and not think I have gone stark raving mad.

I used to try to get into an orbit of certain people. I think most youth do that. Everyone is just trying to find a solar system to rotate in. Does this fit? Should I try to fit? Now I am more selective in who I want to revolve with. Then once in a while someone will come near me and I know they are my friend when they only have known me for about a second. What is up with that? Pretty great.

One of my young friends put up a saying on a page that sort of let folks know that some of them were absent from her orbit and maybe they don’t need to come in closer anymore. I talked to her about it and gently suggested that maybe she should just leave the light on for them, if they were to come back in, maybe someone needs to learn something. I think I will take my own advice, except people who come and tell me that I am not interesting in anyway.

Caster Sugar, Double Cream and Maque Choux

I am a baker from way back, but I am a baker from way back in the 1960’s in the United States. I have some things to learn about baking from recipes from other countries. Right now I am learning about the conversions of making things from the  UK.

I didn’t even know that Castor sugar was a thing. I have heard of castor oil and caster wheels, but not castor sugar. I thought I had all my sugars down. -Ose anything, syrups, molasses, sorghum, substitutes, light and dark brown sugar, confectionery sugar aka powdered sugar, Turbinado, sanding and granulated. I have since learned there are others. How have I not known this? Talking to a pastry chef today made me realize how lost I had become. haha

Caster Sugar is a very fine white sugar mostly used in baking, as it dissolves very quickly. In fact, that’s where its name of Caster Sugar comes from. There was a time when sugar was served in a shaker called a caster, because you would cast sugar or pepper from it.

Then there is double cream. How great is that to have double the cream in something? I had to look that up too and it is just heavy whipping cream. The best part of that then is to put caster sugar in that and whip it up.

I am making a cake that requires these items although the cream is suppose to come from a Jersey cow. I will assume that Holsteins will work as well. I know that Jerseys and Guernseys have a higher percentage of butter fat in their milk as compared to a Holstein. So, I suppose that if I wanted to be very authentic I would go and see if my friend Mary has a Jersey cow in her herd and if I could buy some of it’s milk.

My Grandpa Knutzen used to have a herd of Holsteins and one Guernsey cow. She stuck out from the black and whites with her smaller stature and lovely reddish brown coat. I had asked Grandma why there was only one and she told me about the butterfat content being greater in the Guernsey. My dad told me that the butterfat content along with the volume of milk determined the price that they would receive for their milk when it was sold. Holsteins are noted for their volume of production.

Fast forward. I have made the cake and will now know that I should do the creaming method instead of the all in one method. I think that another name for the all in one method could be the “How Lazy Are You Method”, but it is really a thing. I will also make buttercream for it all next time instead of just whipped cream. Then I really will most likely retire that recipe. I would do it again for the future SIL, but I am stuck in what I am used to except for the Caster Sugar. I think that is a great idea!!! Oh, and using double cream in anything has to be always better.

I am just about to make Maque Choux. For those like me that had to look it up to pronounce it correctly, find out what it is, the best recipe to use, I guess it is (mock shoe) and I will let you know how it tastes.  I felt a little Cajun today and thought that might go good with tonight’s supper. I am thankful for an adventurous partner to eat my trials.