"The Jingle Bell Bum" (Read The Touching True Story...please!) Comment at patriciahanrion.com

"The Jingle Bell Bum" (Read The Touching True Story...please!) Comment at patriciahanrion.com
Still available on Amazon for Nook and Kindle, hard copy booklett to re-print November 2013

Friday, April 29, 2011

I assume the dog died!

I still have hopes of getting in that last door but right now I doubt that task will happen any time soon.  My husband is for the first time in our 40 some years of marriage….working in another state, 6 ½ hours away, down the ten freeway.  He only gets to fly home twice a month (on the company dime) so most likely will not be too interested in my honey-do list. 
We’ve been lucky with Patrick being in the construction industry he has not only had jobs in Calif., but they’ve been near enough that travel over an hour has not existed.  We’ve been able to live in the same house for 30+ years.  I’m not sure we’ll move to Arizona where he is working because it seems they are moving men around like chess pieces.  He told me last week some fellow who had moved to Arizona from Oregon, bought a house, moved his family and has now been transferred to San Diego, go figure!
Since October it has been unsettling at best to know he was going somewhere out of the state.  Now mind you they asked if he was willing to be a trunk-slammer (that’s what a guy on a travel contract is called) and he said yes! We thought with the kids gone…it was better to travel than have no job at all since we recently discovered our 401K  is now a 201X and if we don’t want to end up eating cat-food and crackers after the age of 80 we better work a little longer.
Now having studied gerontology when senior citizen age was in the very distant dim future and learned taste buds are almost nonexistent by the age of 80…I pondered that statement for a while and thought…”Well by then cat-food may not be so bad since most likely we’ll only be getting the texture anyway.”  Then I thought of a missionary in our area a few years ago who had no sense of taste or smell and told us to him food came in two varieties…chunky and smooth.  Ech, I’m not ready for that one!
I must say Chandler Arizona is the best place considering one of the possible choices was Guam?  After I did research about the 8 mile wide and 30 mile long island with a Fanagolo-bolo monster plaguing the residents, I consider Arizona a blessing…sort of, and I’m trying to be positive.  So far only a few melt-downs and a dream about being attacked by crows.  One thing we’ve realized is, after all these years of marriage we hate! Really really hate being apart, and miss each other a lot.  We’ve discussed how weird it is to go to bed night after night…ALONE.
But I’m always telling my nursing students to be positive so I’m really trying hard to follow my own advice and to look for the good.  After all, with tons of poop piled up…there has to be a cute little pony in there somewhere…right?  At least that’s what I tell my nursing students.
One time I had students in a medical surgical area and the nurses were continually sour and nasty…every day…without fail.  I always think, “How can they be grumpy every day? One day they should be happy, or at least smile.  Why are they in health care? Why are they in nursing?  Go get a job at the DMV!”  My students suffered from the abuse and were always afraid someone would yell at them.  Sadly, they got used to taking the blame for anything and everything that went wrong.  I guess things have not changed much through the years when you’re a student…I wasn’t allowed to sit in the presence of a physician, and had to stand and give the doctor my chair if I was sitting. 
One day, during post conference, (where we discuss difficult or interesting medical cases and situations) I tried to cheer up the group and told them to try and ignore the insults and that I knew how hard they were trying to do what was best for their patients. Then I said, “Just assume the mean-spirited nurses and doctors are not really angry or mad at you.  Probably something else has set them off…like maybe the night before a patient passed away, or they had a fight with a spouse, or maybe their dog died!”
A week later one particularly sensitive and serious student pulled me aside and quietly said, “Professor, I know what the problem is with all the nurses on this floor…They’ve all chipped together and purchased a kennel, and every night a dog dies.”  She turned and walked back to the nurse’s station with a big smile on her face.  
 I hope someday those nasty nurses remember how scary it is to be a student and sell that dog kennel!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Easter To Remember!

I was in the UCLA Olive View hospital cafeteria eating an overcooked dried out grilled cheese sandwich with so little cheese it should have been advertised as a bread sandwich.  My nursing students were sharing dog stories and discussed an array of chubby Pomeranians, golden retrievers and adorable lovable pit bulls? 
As it was the last clinical day with my students before Easter my mind tracked back to a memorable dog story that just happened to occur the Saturday before Easter quite a few years ago.  Our first dog was a Labrador retriever/blood hound/cocker spaniel mix.  He was quite odd looking but very sweet, loyal and exceptionally protective to all the family. He considered us all his pack and fiercely guarded the kids and me…and tolerated the pack leader, Dad Patrick.
As tradition in our home went, the Saturday before Easter Sunday we dyed eggs.  Those eggs would then magically be hidden around the yard for them to discover the next morning before we left for church.  By then four of our children were born.  The youngest Megan was barely four years old.  Rebecca was seven, Colleen nine and Young Pat was eleven, almost too old for the egg game to be played out the next day.  But he participated so he wouldn't be left out, and also to have an opportunity to tease his three sisters.  Pat had invited the neighbor boys Richard and Steve Kuroda to join us. (They both had a crush on Rebecca)
I had all the dye, bowls, vinegar, boiled eggs and doo-dads for decoration assembled on the patio table.  The patio was concrete with a shade cover and hanging baskets full of plants.  I dutifully watered the flowers to have a pretty view out the back window and keep my eyes from landing on our falling-down back fence. 

The fence separated us from a twenty two acre plot that had recently been sold to a developer.  A strip mall was to be built on the land within the next few months.  They had given us notice they were building a ten foot block wall along the back of all the homes to shield them from the noise and unsightly view.  The construction of the wall was to take place in a few weeks so our sorry wood fence would be replaced by a nice new tall block one at no expense to us.  I was excited as I knew our budget could not have handled such an extravagance.  I even asked big Pat to move the bee-hives he kept next to the old fence so when the construction crew tore it down we wouldn’t have bees all over the place.  (Another story)
Looking back I realize it's a bit ironic because Patrick had several places where he kept his bee hives; one of them was in a field next to Olive View Hospital which is where those hives eventually landed.  But anyway…because he didn’t have the time to move them properly he put them alongside the house near the back door off the kitchen.  (He said at the time they would only be there for only a few days, but I think they ended up there for several months)
There was a small patch of dirt near the falling down fence where I had been doing some of my impromptu teaching with the kids about planting, water and food.  We were going to make sure when the fence finally came down our little garden of lettuce, carrots, beans and tomatoes would not be touched.  We watered the dirt diligently and plants were starting to sprout.  I remember the lettuce by that Saturday was at least two inches tall and I know we each had our own vision of a great harvest from our small cultivated plot. 
So there I was with bowls and the newspaper spread out, the eggs cooked and spoons at the ready.  The kids gathered around the table trying to carefully place their eggs into the hot water when I heard several dogs barking from behind the house and past our tumble down fence. 
“Oh no,” I thought, “Some dogs are loose!”  I ran to the back fence and saw a man slowly walking along the fences at the back of all the houses lining the lot.  
I yelled, “Hey mister, we have a dog here, and our fence is low in a few places so please take your dogs out away and into the field so they won’t hop the fence.  Our dog is pretty protective and this is his yard.” 
He continued along, as if he didn’t hear.
“Hey mister,” I yelled louder, “Please get your dogs away from this fence, we have a protective dog here.”
“My dogs are nice and friendly.”
“Well mine isn’t so please take your dogs away from our fence!”  By then he had reached the spot where the fence was only about four feet high and both his dogs easily glided over the fence and right into our little garden.
"Tuna Fish", our dog, in a totally protective posture bristled and growled, but when both dogs bore their teeth he jumped on the large collie and also managed to down the other one who looked like a bull dog.  He had them both pinned in seconds.  Tuna managed to hold one under him and had the other by the neck. 
This stranger then jumped into our yard, grabbed a piece of fence board and began pounding and beating our dog on the back and head.  Using the moment to escape because Tuna loosened his grip from the blows, the strangers’ dogs ran past the patio alongside the house right into the two live…humming bee hives. 
The man followed his pets, and just like a “Three Stooges” movie, immediately he and the dogs ran back the way they went in, right into our waiting unhappy dog…AND the wrath of a mother…The man reached down and picked up the board again and began to beat on our dog…Having had enough I jumped on his back to try and stop him and while trying to avoid the waving wood I began to slip off.  I hung on for dear life and in doing so, pulled down and stretched the neck of his sweater around his elbows…The knitted material pinned his arms to his sides and he was now off balance but continued to wildly brandish the wood as he went across the patio…breaking most of my planters sending pottery, plants and dirt across the table and into the Easter egg dye making a huge mess of our little project. All the while I hung on to his back like a tick on a bucking bronco.

The boys turned on the hose and were squirting at the dogs and the man (including me clinging to his back) trying to stop the melee.  The girls ran inside and yelled for their Dad.  He was taking a shower and when he heard the commotion quickly tried to get his pants on while soaking wet.  He was struggling and hopping over to the window to try and discover what I was yelling about.  As he stumbled around the corner and over to the picture widow he was shocked at the sight he saw.  The pots on the patio were swinging like knockers on a bell, his wife was riding around clinging to a strange man’s back yelling like a banshee, the boys were manning the hose like firemen putting out a blaze and all the while the man with his arms locked to his sides was waving a huge hunk of wood scattering eggs, dye, and plants everywhere.
I remember sliding to the ground because by now the stranger was slick with sweat and water...my grip on his sweater finally let go.  Dad Patrick then grabbed our dog and shoved him into the garage.  (Tuna was growling with his few exposed teeth.  He lost most of them from a high fever he had as a puppy because when we bought him he had distemper.  I guess he was planning to gum the other dogs to death.) 

By the time Patrick returned to the back yard, both of the interloper dogs were over the fence and half way across the huge lot.  The stranger followed his dogs so fast, when Patrick, chased after them, he couldn’t catch up.  He could see them far in the distance crossing the main highway.  He got in the car and tried to find them, but never did.  Later he told me he wanted to make sure the guy was okay, but I've always figured he was planning to punch 'em.  The stranger and his dogs had vanished, never to be seen again.
(Here is Patrick, Colleen, Becca and Megan in 1979, and Me with "Tuna."
Tuna was bleeding from his floppy ears and needed some antiseptic on his many scratches.  Later, when I finally stopped shaking and gathered my composure I went to the store.  Along with more eggs, dye and treats for the kids I bought our loyal dog a huge bone.  We all mourned the demise of our little garden, and I didn't replaced my hanging plants. 

The neighbor boys were impressed with my skills and I became an icon.  "Don't mess with the Mom." They said, "She's a good fighter."  They backed up the stories told for the next few weeks at Strathern Street school with some colorful details.  All our kids bragged that Tuna and I were spectacular by providing the best egg dying and Kung- fu exhibition ever.

I think Patrick is still amazed by my behavior, and to tell the truth...so am I.  But I guess you never know what you are capable of doing, until it happens.
We moved away from North Hollywood to Santa Clarita after Michael was born a year later.  Our new home had five bedrooms, three bathrooms, a stream full of tadpoles behind it, and a block wall all the way around. 

Tuna died of old age a few months after the "Stranger" incident and is buried in the yard he so valiantly defended.

Friday, April 15, 2011

"I got no respect for Oprah!"

There seems to be a big fuss about Oprah these days.  That she is ending the long successful run of her talk show and about all the wonderful, generous and kind things she does...I could give a rip!@#$%

Oprah hasn't been connected to the real life of we minions for quite some time, if ever.  With her personal trainer, dresser, cook, accountant, chauffeur, cleaning staff... it seems as though all she has to do is breathe.  If I had all that help, I could be magnanimous, gorgeous and chatty too.  And still have enough money left over to publish my own magazine and a book.

I always marvel at the admiration of the interviewers when they speak to some of the public/famous actors, politicians and/or sports personalities. "Oh! How can you keep so slim?"  "What a lovely complexion you have!"  "You have so much to say in your book at the age of only 15!"  Or, some other gushy, over-wordy compliment implying these men and women are experts at everything! (Do you really think Mr.or Ms. So-and-So actually wrote the cook or exercise book being pitched?  No.....I don't think so...) Don't these interviewers or talk show hosts realize these impostors have never lived any semblance of the day to day lives of us common folk...

You haven't truly lived until you've cleaned up a toilet after your child who has had an explosion of the flu at both ends,..or mowed a lawn, or picked up the dog poop, or tried to feed a large family on pennies, or mopped the floor after a bottle of ketchup smashes onto your newly waxed linoleum floor when your two year old finally figures out how to open the refrigerator door. I once heard a mom say, "Your not a real mom or a real person until one of your sick children climbs into bed with you only to throw-up spagettios' into your mouth and hair!"  So I say, "Get a real life Oprah honey and see what it's all about."

I write this as I recently found a page from my diary of one day when I was particularly busy with five children, Church activities, and work, as well as preparing for a family of seven three meals a day on my minuscule balanced budget, all the while, maintaining a household tidy and clean enough to avoid the health department making a surprise visit.  The page I found had a picture attached of our family many years ago with all of us in the truly disgusting matching stretch-neck tee-shirts I had made.  My family was kind enough to without complaint, wear the variety of home-sewn items I produced even to the point of embarrassment.  Until one day after I had made my three girls matching flowered dresses for church and they refused to wear them.  "Mom if we all stand together we look like a couch...and if there's only two of us we are in disguise as a love seat!  (Well if f I can manage to keep a budget by insisting my family wear home made experiments to save money then why does the government think because they are overly spendy they can constantly reach into my shallow pocket for more to give to others....heck I give to my church where I know the funds will be well spent, and not on golden toilet seats!)

And what truly bugs me is some of the perks these accidental famous people receive.  Such as my recent gripe...getting inane books published.  Recently Barnes and Noble has closed lots of stores and I went over there for their advertised bargains hoping to get ahead on my birthday, Christmas shopping for our family of 25.  As I wandered through the store the vast array of reading material struck me, mostly the books written by notable people.  I picked up a few and was amazed at one young actress who had written a book about her 27 years on this earth.  First of all how did she ever get a publisher to print her book or even come up with the material to interest anyone to care enough to read the drivel on the pages.  And then the stacks and stacks of self-help and how-to, and "dummy" books on the shelves must be an indicator of the lack of skill or talent of the majority of the populace if they are turning to this kind of book to give them a handle on the subject

One of the things I noticed is the vast number of Vampire books.  Fun to read I guess but after a while they all blend together and if people can't figure out NOT to invite a stranger into their home to prevent the visitor from sucking them dry is amazing.  Or how about knowing to not go into the light to avoid being turned into a crispy tater-tot, that is of course unless you have a magic ring.  After a while it must be hard to keep it all straight with all the nuances found in the various plots....but they all end with the fated romance that must overcome differences in culture...That's putting it lightly.

So I wonder what I must do to get my novel published.  Know someone who is an agent or publisher, have a vampire sub-plot, or do something nuts to get attention like launching one of my grand kids up in a hot air balloon and then promptly losing it?  I finally got my copyright back from the government.  I was really excited, it only took six months.  But then realized, "So smarty, here you are with a story no one can copy or plagiarize, neato.  Now how can you get anyone to publish it much less read it?"

As for the subject of my adventurous novel...no public figure celebrity for me...I used history, geography, research of Native Americans and poisonous plants, my own personal knowledge of medicine and pharmacology and also a study of literary forms to create a mystery, adventure romance.  And when I figured out how to have my heroes find the hidden treasure I even went to an engineer to make sure my idea would work as far as the mechanics go...and he said it was a feasible and creative solution to the mystery...Cool huh!  "With all those dummy books so popular maybe my story is too cerebral?  Very few people know what a chiasmus is....!"

"If I was Oprah I'm sure several publishers would be jumping up and down at the chance to get their hands on my manuscript and gush over the ingenuity and cleverness and terrific character development.  Ya know I've been thinking of changing my name to see if that gets me any attention. I have it!!!...how does Oprah sound to you?

Monday, April 11, 2011

I should have kicked down the door!

I was in Chandler Arizona for Spring break...visiting my travelling husband.  My door kicking abilities have gotten me into trouble in the past and so thought long and hard if I wanted to repeat the problems associated with such a decision.  (See "I kicked down the door" my first post in January...funny. If you don't laugh you'll cry...)

Let me take you back to last week and my visit to Arizona.  The week previously I had suggested it would be cheaper (for the company...as if I cared about their money?) and better for my dear husband that he reside in a condo instead of the residence hotel.  I pictured him slowly going mad living for 8 or more months in a single room with only a microwave and very small refrigerator for food and no stove to cook on.  Now granted, he would get a free breakfast and clean sheets and towels once a week, but at best the situation to me sounded grim.  Many of the travel construction guys lived in hotels, but maybe they didn't have a wife who cared to hook them up with something better like I did.

After a bit of investigation I discovered several of the new condo complexes would rent for as few as three months would furnish an apartment with all you needed...or so they stated.  And was quite surprised when I arrived and discovered their promise was true.  Complete down to the bed, tables, couch, towels, sheets, and kitchen items including silverware, dishes, pots, pans, an ironing board, vacuum and mop (which I'm sure will be pristine when he moves out...).

They had done a lovely job of putting everything you can imagine in place and everything was in some shade of tan or beige...very non-descript, but for the most part new or almost new...right down to the dish cloth in the kitchen.  How handy is that! Two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a living room, kitchen, dining area and huge balcony for a little more than half of what a hotel cost!  All I had to do was accent the decor with family photos, colorful pillows, and get a memory foam topper and some sheets for the bed that weren't made of sandpaper and walla! Home sweet home, for my hubby for a while.

So mid-week after most of my Costco-wallmart shopping was concluded I went to the condo management office and introduced myself to Shane, the young man at the desk and asked about the key to the hot-tub and pool areas. After jangling and fussing with a huge ring of keys he produced a key he stated would open not only the pools, but also the work-out, and kiddie play area.  I was on my way back to the apartment and decided to see about the heat in the jacuzzi.  Placing my new key into the lock, even without turning, the door pushed open into the child-safe enclosure and I put my hand in the warm water.

I didn't even flinch when I heard the door clang shut just as I turned to leave. I had the key right! Wrong! I tried my key on the inside of the locked door...no luck!  Then reaching my hand through the gate to the outside lock, placed the key into that lock....nothing!  I turned it so hard it started to bend so pulled it out before we were charged with them having to put in all new locks...and besides the darn thing just wouldn't fit.  Hmmmm this was a flashback to just a few months ago.  How could this be...the key had worked on the pool lock when I tried it, didn't it?  It opened the jacuzzi door didn't it...? or did it?

"Help!", I called out, embarrassed with my situation. I was not very loud at first, then after a few minutes tried again and tossing dignity aside bellowed out, "Help! HELP!"  Looking up and down the manicured lawns and past the fountain, I saw no one.  Well, harrumph! I was not going to remain in that enclosure all day, and assuming no one would magically appear, as I had not seen one sole since I had arrived five days previously, and knew of no one I could call...oops...I didn't have my phone with me! Darn!

What to do?  Kick down the door? I eyed the wrought iron with suspicion.  It was very sturdy but doubted my legs were that good.  It looked not easy to loosen, and the dead bold was clearly engaged.  At the top of the iron enclosure were tall spikes, so climbing over those was out of the question! I was sure I would become impaled on one of them and die bleeding to death, with one of the menacing looking spikes stuck in my rear end.

Then it came to me...if the door to the filter area would open (it did!) I could roll the concrete cigarette ashtray/trash receptacle over there and climb up on the filter then onto the wall...sans-spikes and drop down onto the grass.  Easy, piece of cake...Oh did I mention I'm past social security retirement age...Broken hips and snapped femur bones came to mind, but then I pushed that out of my head since my bone density last year was the thickness of a rhino.

I heaved and shoved and rolled the heavy stone receptacle through the gate and over to the filter...like a gazelle I was up on the fence...like a glove...all fit into place...however...it was still 9-10 feet to the ground and my ankle still hurt from a fall I took a few weeks ago at a hotel with a non marked drop-off...I should have sued!

But anyway once on the fence I noticed a small tree not too far from the wall...I shimmied over to be near the tree (good thing I'm not a little person-midget like my husband told all the guys at work, however that's better than at the last job where he told them I was a paraplegic...see previous entry about the youngest of five boys being an unrelenting tease) and then stretched out my nice-long-leg and with one foot on the tree I could reach out to the closest branch, hang on, walk down the trunk until I hung there like a stranded monkey and finally dropped down the last 3-4 feet to the grass.  I had escaped.

Later when I told Patrick about the harrowing incident his response was, "Gosh I wish I was there with a camera!" How could I have hoped for anything less!!!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Not a good idea to marry the youngest of five boys....!

He was tall and handsome with broad shoulders and thick curly dark hair, and very shy.  I was drawn to him right away, and he tells me he knew we would marry after our first real date.  I found out he was the youngest of five boys....actually much younger than his brothers, France, Don, Leon and Scott.  His next oldest brother Scott was almost ten years his senior...so the new baby Patrick (the only one born in a hospital) must have become the teasing target of the four older brothers. When we were around his family he was always on alert for a prank or practical joke. 

Now this was new to me as I came from a quite formal New York family where everyone wore suits and rode the train to work in the big city.  We moved to California 3,000 miles across the country when most of the silent film studios were moving and switching to "talkies".  My dad was a controller for a sound studio and a money guy of golden age films.  He spent most of his days at a desk balancing accounts and telling directors how much money they could spend.  Patrick's dad had been a stock man and rancher on the Arizona Strip where the older four brothers were born.  I guess you could not have found two more opposite people if you tried...as far as our background and upbringing went.

I remember as a kid going to Sequoia National Park and my brother Timothy and I begging our dad to stop so we could look at the huge trees.  I had on a frilly dress, ruffled socks and patent leather Mary Jane shoes.  My dad was the kind who went on a trip for the drive and was content to see the sights through the windshield of a car.  I don't think I had been camping or even on a picnic until I met Patrick..

In the summer when growing up we would drive to New York from California my brother and I were placed in the back seat with a roll of lifesavers and a comic book....this was to keep us busy in the back seat for the daily very long drive...it took us exactly 3 1/2 days to drive to New York...the Catskill Mountains.  My grandmother's house was huge, they ran a boarding house, taking in city folk for vacations on a farm.  The kitchen always smelled amazing, and grandma would take me on long walks and explain about all the weeds and flowers, naming each and telling me how you could make a tea to heal different ailments.  Maybe that's why I became a nurse, I think my grandma was a healer, she learned about plants from her mom who was part Indian. 

We would then go into the city to visit my father's family.  It was formal and everyone wore suits and ties to breakfast that was served on china placed on a white crisp tablecloth and cloth napkins.  My dad figured a place was not good enough to eat at unless they had tablecloths...I don't think he ever went to a fast food place.

So I fell in love with a country boy who teased and played tricks because he was subjected to such things on a daily basis.  My background was formal and quite stiff. Teasing was not anything I understood or was used to. On our wedding night while I dressed in my beautiful lingerie, Pat's comment was, "So you brought your curtains"...the next day while in the shower...he dumped a bucket of cold water on my head, saying, "Why are you mad..my brothers do that all the time and think it's funny."  He couldn't understand why I was crying.  I got used to the teasing quickly and even learned to dish it out a little.  But he was always doing something new...like hiding in the closet and jumping out to scare me or putting on a scary mask and when it was dark and I was doing dishes looking out the window over the sink...he would appear in the mask.  My screams could be heard for blocks...great fun..he thought.
I had heard for weeks before our wedding that his brothers were going to kidnap him and chain him to a wall somewhere...or put a ball and chain around his leg and chain him to a train going to San Diego.  As a preventative Pat even hid all his old shot puts to stop them from using them for the deed...I refused to go to the church building for the wedding until I got a call from my Dad that Pat had arrived to prevent me from being left at the alter.  And during the reception the brothers showed up with a ball of cement they had made by pouring the cement into an old basket ball and putting the end of the huge chain into it and letting it dry.  The thing was huge and heavy. Then Scott painted it all black.  Don decided it would be bad form to actually chain Patrick to the wall or something since the paint was still wet and ruin his tuxedo..but I was prepared with a hacksaw in my suitcase, and had several extra blades just in case!  I was learning it was best not to fight but to outwit the brothers. 
Through the years I have learned to ignore lots of the teasing and other things  too...it has worked for me rather than overreact and cause an argument and for the most part it has been a good plan except for the fact that I may ignore some things I should be paying more attention to...So my advice if you marry a younger child of a large family is to buckle up and be prepared for the ride!