Rhonda's A 'Muse'-ing Rambles

Life and Times of a Busy Woman

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Archive for the ‘Dad & Family’ Category

Happy Mother’s Day!

Posted by Range Officer Rhonda on May 8, 2011

I miss my Mom. She was my best friend. We had a very interesting relationship and her trust in me through the years is surely part of what made me so strong. Vivid flashbacks.
Mom racing me to the doctor with my arm splinted to phone books and one arm steering while the other holds a rag to my face to stop the bleeding.
Mom telling me I was a big girl now and she couldn’t pick me up anymore.
Mom telling me not to worry about the blood all over my first ever ‘store-bought’ party dress – we’ll fix it after the doctor fixes you.
Mom tearing the police officers a new you-know-what because they wouldn’t let me out of jail when I was pulled in with a bunch of other kids.
Mom letting me keep a snake in my room – that often got loose.
Mom, waking me in the middle of the night and telling me to go catch the noisy mouse in the bathroom because one of mine must have gotten loose – and then shreiking the next morning when she finds what I caught was a big ol’ RAT.
Mom, sleeping on a mattress by the back door to greet me when I snuck back in.
Mom, getting just as many gifts, candy and flowers from my boyfriends as I did!
Mom, being brave enough to let me drag her out into deep water on a raft while I snorkeled around the reef.
Mom, tagging along on some of my adventures even though she wasn’t an outdoor person – and as payment for one, she tripped in a dinosaur track and fell in the river – and I snapped a picture! It’s priceless.
Mom, putting together a very special wedding for me when I eloped to Las Vegas – and took the family with us!
Mom getting drunk with me on an all girls cruise to drown my sorrows about my divorce and loss of home and business.
Mom being there to hold my hand for the birth of my child.
Mom, trusting me to take care of her in her last days on earth.
Mom, as an Angel, watching over me and coming to me in my sleep when danger was present.

Love you Mom!

Posted in Dad & Family | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

Sunset Musings

Posted by Range Officer Rhonda on January 9, 2011

The past few days have shown us some gorgeous sunsets. My son and I grabbed our cameras and shot a few pictures. I will inlcude one for your enjoyment.

These sunsets remind me of our family watching the sunset each night, a standard tradition whether we were at our home in Happy Rock, USA, at the Southern Missouri Ozarks’ lake Pomme de Terre or watching as a blazing ball slipped over the edge of the wall of our compound in the Middle East. The best was perhaps watching the sun dip into the Red Sea after a day on the beach, although we seldom lingered there past dark.

I’ve always been a sky watcher, during my Sky Diving days I would spend most of my ground time looking up. During my Scuba days, I would watch the sun’s rays pierce from underneath the water; like golden spears reaching down to touch me, or watch the moon trail it’s arrowing path across the waters, inexorably drawing the eyes along it’s path. Everywhere and every when, I am a sky watcher.

When my mother and I would sit and watch the sky fall to darkness, those were the times we would talk. At first, it would be just about how our day went, or with Grandma, we’d hear tales of family before, crops, weather and animals. From an early age, mom taught me to focus my thoughts by watching the sky, settling my mind at the end of the day. Dad would get involved too – describing how the contrails were formed as they lay a tic-tac-toe pattern onto the sky’s page.

Now, when I look at the sky, I still see fanicful animals and dazzling displays of color as the evening sun dresses up the end of each day. The first star of the night still has the power to make me wish upon a star. My wish this evening is that my mother is happy in heaven and as she gazes down upon me, watching the sky, she knows I am thinking of her.

Tomorrow, January 10th, would be my Mother’s birthday were whe still alive. Watch for my post over on the new blog, One Woman’s Day. It can be found at: http://www.onewomansday.wordpress.com

Posted in Dad & Family | Tagged: , | 3 Comments »

Remembrances

Posted by Range Officer Rhonda on January 2, 2011

I just finished editing and submitting a piece for a new blog, One Woman’s Day, which can be found at http://onewomansday.wordpress.com

My piece is [hopefully] going to appear on this new blog on January 10th, which is/was my mother’s birthday. While writing it, I started to dig through a box of old photos my Dad had given me so that I could find pictures of my Mom and her good friend, May Riley. I’ll post some of those pictures here.

During the writing of this piece, I was assailed by many memories of what our family and many families dealt with while forming our family groups in the Middle East. As many of you have read before, I grew up in a combination of the Midwest [Missouri Ozarks], a Catholic boarding school [Mt. St. Scholastica Academy in Atchison, Kansas] and the port town on the Red Sea of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. My memories of Jeddah and the familes we met are what I want to write about today, just a bit, so that you can understand a little more of the bond my Mom formed with her friends there.

Back in the early 1960’s, Saudi Arabia was a growing third world country in the Middle East that was struglling to assimilate itself into a Western veneer. They had found oil and were trying to find ways to improve not only their struggling, desert economy but their presense as a power in the great old planet we call Earth. A country ruled by Muslims was trying hard to obtain their goals of economic progress while not being taken advantage of by Westerners nor tormented by their Muslim breathren. It was and still is a work in progress. Back then, in the 60’s, American and European workers, with their families, were being brought into that country to help build and train in a variety of industries, including oil exploration and commercial travel.

Where the women come into play was, I think, an attempt to keep the men there longer and keep them happy. While an adventure for many, those western women such as my Mom had a difficult time adjusting to the status of being just ‘an accesory’ for the men. The dress, the language, the freedoms enjoyed, the food, religion and families were basically left behind and it was hard for these outspoken, sometimes lessly clad [not necessarily ‘scantily’] independant women find themselves having to cover their skin, unable to drive and definitely not speak their minds, They became non-people. And so..they learned to adjust. They learned to ‘Make Do’. And they learned to form new family groups to lean on, laugh with and share – replacing, but not forgetting, the families they left at home. Into this hodge podge of mixed families, my Mom formed many new friendships and one of those nearest and dearest [although not the only one] to my Mom was quirky, beautiful woman named May Riley with her English upbringing and accent.

That’s all I will write about today, but in this month of my Mother’s birth, I wanted to remember her with a few thoughts and pictures on my blog.

Posted in Dad & Family, Middle Eastern Stories | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Home for a week

Posted by Range Officer Rhonda on June 23, 2010

What a wonderful, busy month this June has been. I started off the first week with a guest visit from CJ West as he started his virtual launch tour for the book, The End of Marking Time. Next, I flew off [by plane] to Colorado and drove up into the mountains to Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park. While there, I attended the International Hunter Education Association convention and awards luncheon. At the luncheon, I received the award for International Hunter Education Instructor of the Year, sponsored by Federal Premium Ammunition. Does it look like I am having fun? [Thank you Heidi Rao of TPWD for providing this picture]

After five days in Colorado, I flew back home, unpacked, repacked and in about 12 hours found myself on another plane, along with my son, bound for my home state of Missouri. There I had a sad reunion with my father who currently resides in a well staffed, clean and caring VA home. He is not doing well as his Dementia and Parkinson’s disease leads him to the final sunset of his life. So hard and so sad to visit. I will never take my son there again – this is not the Grandpa he remembers and shared so many fun summers with.

While in Missouri, my son and I had many wonderful visits with family and friends. We have a large and mostly loving family and my son was depressed he wouldn’t have so many wonderful cousins to hang out with in Texas, but that’s not to say he doesn’t love the couple he has in Texas. Oh, and I won a little over $200 in a casino – can’t complain there!

So, then another rush flight home, this time with a 24 hour turnover before I needed to leave again. This time, it was to drive up to near West Texas and attend an NRA Training Counslor workshop. Now I am proud to say I have some new credentials, as well as a new hat to wear! [Literally and metaphorically]

Given a little time, I may actually catch up on some work this week before I hit the road again. I should already be working this week at a Boy Scout camp, but they are doing just fine without me and I have my tax business and writing obligations to catch up on. Plus a couple [eeek] past due bills to pay.

That’s it for tonight folks. I can’t wait to get my fingers busy with all the stories I need to record, books to review and interesting [to me] tidbits of life and living to share.

Posted in Dad & Family, Shooting sports | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Go Green for Spring!

Posted by Range Officer Rhonda on April 4, 2010

Today is the day that many people worship their various ways in celebration of Easter and Spring. One of the many ways we like to celebrate this holiday, after we’ve attended to our morning rituals [outdoor sunrise services are especially beautiful with all the wild flowers this year] is to gather with family, have a picnic or large family dinner and hunt for Easter eggs [Spring eggs?] with the little ones.

One thing we know is that children of all ages like to hunt for the treasures in the grass, near rocks and logs – sometimes in the mailbox or dog house! It is never too early to teach our young ones about respecting our mother earth. So why not have a special hunt? While you are tending to that succulent goose or ham in the oven or the men are slaving over the grill, have someone take the younger kids on a recycle hunt. You have to plan ahead, of course, and plan for a treat at the end. Take them to the lane leading to your home, or a local roadway [not too much traffic!] or even the local riverside or park. Challenge each of them to gather up the cans and bottles they find along the way, maybe even the fast food cups. Give them a rousing story or two, point out the beautiful wild flowers – or flowering weeds – that are having a hard time poking their heads up with the cans and cups crushing them down.

When you are done, hopefully you didn’t keep them out TOO long, bring them back to the nest and trade them their trash for treats and trinkets. Maybe an Easter cupcake, some quarters, a handful of [sugar free] candy – or some fresh apple and orange slices. Make it special, and make it an annual traditions.  Oh, don’t blow off the REAL egg hunt – have that one too. Wow – how many kids get to say they had TWO Easter egg scavenger hunts in one day?!

One more thing – this is National Poetry Month. Please be sure to visit some of the sites like this one: www.riehlife.com and read some of the poems to inspire you. I was fortunate on this blessed day to have my nature piece, titled ‘The Sparrow’ featured on Riehlife today!

Posted in Dad & Family, Daily Life, Writing | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

Happy New Year

Posted by Range Officer Rhonda on January 1, 2010

I thought it was bad trying to work at home with family nearby – but now I am in Dallas with my SIL & BIL and truly, it’s nearly impossible to think. Family – food – fun – can’t be beat for the proper way to start he New Year!

I didn’t know how much I missed the large family gatherings of my youth. The women, whether in the yard, garden or kitchen – would carry on multiple conversations, sometimes even the teen on the long phone card would wander back into the kitchen and get in the conversation – while maintaining the phone conversation. The men didn’t dare intervene in the hive wanderings – they were relegated to tote and carry.

The first time my husband accompanied me home to the ‘hive central’; I could tell that although he had grown up in a large family, he was not happy listening to more than one conversation at a time before he would start getting irritated, like swatting bees that are buzzing around his head. In fact, I’ve seen him schwap at his head and shake it when he gets irritated – I’ll bet he’s slapping at metaphorical bees!

I just want to wish all my friends, family, clients and especially our troops – a very peaceful and prosperous, loving New Year.

Posted in Dad & Family, Daily Life | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Jeddah Brats – Chap 1

Posted by Range Officer Rhonda on August 17, 2009

Where did it all start? Here’s a sneak peek at a cut down version of Chapter 1 in my memoir, with the working title of “Jeddah Brats”

Chapter 1 – Travel to a Foreign Land

 The first time I remember hearing that we may be going to a foreign country is an easy memory to recall. Here I am trying to learn to eat with a fork stuck out of the end of an arm cast; when my parents bring up the subject of moving to another country. Let me back up here already, why did I have a cast on? It doesn’t have anything to do with the story, but it adds a little flavor to where my mind is set and a little later you’ll see how this relates to the story.

 My name is Rhonda, and at the time I was a very rambunctious eight year old tom boy going into the 3rd grade. I have 2 older brothers that I often tagged along with and I also had a history that would continue to the present day of getting hurt in unsual ways.

 That particular summer, my brothers were playing on a team at a baseball game and while mom eagerly cheered the boys on, I played on the jungle gym. Back then, people who made play grounds hadn’t yet discovered that pea gravel and deep sand could prevent or lessen injuries. Remember I said I was accident prone? Up to that point in my life, my folks had only had to make maybe two trips with me to the clinic for emergencies; a broken collar bone at just under age two and a knocked out tooth that bloodied me up from another jungle gym in the first grade.

 Now – back to the ball game. It was a very hot June day and I was playing on this great jungle gym that just so happened to be set in a sea of asphalt. No sand – no gravel. As I got hot and sweaty, I got more daring and began to hand walk across these monkey bars. Before I knew what was up (not me), my hand slipped and I was falling straight down to the asphalt. I think I screamed, I don’t recall, but I do remember putting my hands out so I wouldn’t plant my face in that mean black surface. Mostly it worked, but I hurt real bad and had a nasty gash on my chin with plenty of blood. Kids screamed, parents came running, and mom found me, as usual, in the middle of the mess. Did I tell you mom was a nurse? Somehow, I ended up in the front seat of the car with my arm propped on a Sears catalogue and a bloody T-shirt held to my chin as we sped down North Oak Trafficway to Doctor Hall’s office. They took us in immediately and set to fixing me up. Here’s the important part that you probably thought I would never get to: I had cracked my jaw bone and had a nasty gash. Did I mention I hated shots? The doc said he was just going to ‘clean up’ my chin a little and soon it would feel and look better. The doctor said it wasn’t going to hurt as a nurse draped a cloth across my face so I couldn’t see anything. I asked them if it would hurt and the doc said no; then while my mom and the nurse held on to either side of me, the doctor STUCK A NEEDLE IN MY CHIN! I screamed and was up off that table in no time, but they did finally calm me down, I suppose, as my chin got numb. I left that day with two more shots, both in the butt – tetanus and something for infection, a cast on my right arm and 17 stitches in my face. After a restless and painful night, I had to return the next day for more x-rays and they were surprised to discover I had also broken my left arm and my collar bone. I now didn’t trust doctors and had a morbid fear of needles that would last into my thirties.

 So, let’s get back to the beginning of my story. I’m sitting at the kitchen table with my family and trying to eat with a fork stuck out of my cast, when the folks all of a sudden tell us we are moving to another county. I had never even heard of Saudi Arabia at that point but my brothers were both real excited and exclaimed things like, “Will we live in the desert? Can we ride a camel? Is it true about Ali Baba and his thieves?” I was the book reader in the family, so I had read about the Arabian Nights, but my brothers actually KNEW, as older brothers often think they do, absolutely everything about Saudi Arabia.

 I don’t remember being upset that we were moving, but I could tell that my mom, who was then only 27 or 28 years old, was nervous about something in the deal. I don’t know who made the final decision to go, but soon, preparations were under way. Dad was to leave in just over a month and hopefully, we would soon follow around the time of Thanksgiving. Because of some religious holiday, which I now know was Ramadan, we didn’t actually make it until after Christmas, on December 29, 1966.

 Remember my fear of needles? It was going to come back and haunt me big time. My parents had been very conscientious about making sure we had all our vaccinations as little kids and we had already been through several childhood diseases such as mumps, measles, chicken pox – you name it! But the great American government in its infinite wisdom had declared that we needed to be inoculated for much more. For my birthday in 1966, I was given the first round of shots which was Yellow Fever. Happy Birthday to me! We would go once or twice a week, sometimes getting as many as two shots in each arm, through the middle of August. I screamed and cried through each session, and nearly fainted once when the nurse broke a needle off in my brother’s arm. We had our smallpox repeated, cholera, SPT, Tetanus, Typhus, Typhoid, Yellow Fever and many more. All of this was courtesy of the doctors who worked for TWA on Richards Road at the old downtown NKC airport. In later years, I was to get a job in that very same building, and each day I would shudder and rub my arms as I walked through those doors with the memories of sterile tile floors and SHOTS firmly entrenched in my mind.

 Also during that time, we had to get passports and visas for Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. It took many months, starting in July and ending just before Christmas of 1966 before we could get all the right permissions for our trip. Meanwhile, my stitches came out and the sling and left cast were removed and back to school we went after Labor Day. I learned to write left handed because the right arm wasn’t healing quickly. I started school in third grade that year with one cast on plus sore arms from all the shots. The next few weeks were a blur as we packed up all of our furniture and belongings to be sent in big crates ahead of us. Our house was bare by Thanksgiving and we waited eagerly to get our paperwork. After a tearful Christmas spent saying goodbye to a multitude of cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents, we finally set out to travel half the way around the world. Mom, with three young children, left her family and home and together we traveled to France and then on to Beirut, Lebanon, where we had a tearful happy reunion with dad at the American hotel. The noises and smells were incredible – the mix of people and their dress were astonishing. Amazingly, the hotel seemed pretty modern and treated us well, and mom seemed to be relieved that this wasn’t going to be her worst nightmare anymore.

 Children being the way they are – we soon, or rather, my brothers did – found a way to entertain themselves. Our rooms were about 10 stories up with doors that led to a balcony. While I was still too small to see over the rail, my brothers had no problem climbing up and hanging over. Tired of just looking, they decided to have a spitting contest. It didn’t entertain them too long, so they added more to it. They would time a spit ball to see how long and where it would land below. Then, patiently waiting for the right target to walk by, they’d wait, goober up with a big phlegmy HHHAACKK noise, aim and spit! As soon as it hit someone, we’d fall back and laugh. Finally, one man caught us as a particularly nasty goober got him splat on the cheek. He was angry and shook his fist at us and yelled – then like frightened rabbits we ran back in our rooms, sure that the man would come find us. He never did and I never told on my brothers (I’m TELLING NOW- HA!), so our parents never knew what trouble we had caused. It wasn’t the last time either, and I’ve often wondered these latter years how these foreigners tolerated the Americans or their children anyway.

 On another trip to Lebanon, my brothers showed their neat trick to some kids we were traveling with and they soon graduated from spit balls to girsch coins and pennies. In France, they tormented waiters by puckering up and making kissy noises, then rolling their eyes and saying stupid things like “Ooo-la-la”. I never did figure that one out but it upset a lot of people for some reason.

 Back to the story. The next day we entered the final leg of our air travel. We left Lebanon and boarded a small TWA jet and flew directly to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.  When we debarked at the Jeddah airport, we were assaulted by shimmering waves of heat, noxious fumes and a multitude of men in gowns.

 Before we had left the states, mom and dad had carefully gone over a list of forbidden things while packing our luggage. Things like pork, booze, bibles with pictures, books with pictures and Christian ornaments were taboo. It wasn’t a major deal for our family, although I was upset to leave most of my books behind. We took no chances this first trip. My parents knew as we arrived in this new country that we would have to go through customs, where they would inspect the contents of our bags for forbidden items. My dad had been through this detailed search before and friends had told of their experiences, which were not good. We stood in line and watched with growing apprehension as we watched the agents tear through bags. They would even go so far as to take bags, turn them over and dump everything out. They would then paw through, heedless of the items falling on the filthy concrete floor and rolling under the tables.

 Finally, the time for my family’s turn came. I was first for some bizarre reason and we lined our cases up on the table. I had a cute little black patent leather ‘hat box’ style case with a handle strap and pink cats etched in felt on top. A large grubby man in a white thobe and white lace skull cap approached the table and unsnapped the two gold latches on my case. He lifted the lid – and screamed! Backpedaling away quickly as he turned a sort of pale shade, he turned and fled across the room and through a door. Quickly, two men came out of the door, followed by a now more timid agent who was whispering to them and pointing at us and saying something like “LA…LA” The two new men walked up, slowly opened the bag top and peeked inside. Then, they quickly slammed the top closed, stamped our passports and shooed us away with arms waving while saying, “ Yallah, yallah.” Confused, we grabbed our unsearched bags and breezed on out of the customs building.

 “Sis,” dad asked, “what’s in your bag?”

“Just a few toys – oh, and my troll family. Do you want to see my new one I got for Christmas?” I opened my case, and there, lying on top, were mommy and daddy troll, some kid trolls and a couple of baby trolls, each with its own brightly colored unique hair and that hideous gnarled up troll face. Some even had caveman style clothes on.

 My father laughed then and escorted us out to a taxi line. Later, we would all laugh at the incident as we recalled our quick transit through one of the toughest customs checks in the world. Those men were not used to seeing dolls of any kind, and the strange ugly faces of the trolls probably looked like some kind of demon to them. I know the first man will have had night mares from the encounter, but also a great story to tell his buddies. Most stories about customs are bad experiences, but now my dad had a new, funny story to share with his friends. For awhile, people joked about ‘trolling through customs.’ Forty years later, I still have a couple of trolls in my home as good luck guardians; one of which was my mom’s that I never knew she had until she died.

 Another impression from that first arrival was the horrible condition and facilities of the women’s rest room. Mom and I, very alone, and very obviously foreign, walked through a door into a room lined with chairs, then through another door into a smelly, dark, concrete room. I almost threw up. There were four curtains, sort of, and we pulled one open to find an open drain with a concrete ledge around it.

 “Mommy, where’s the potty?” I asked. I’m sure I probably whined a little too. She had no clue what to do either. I’m not sure how we figured it out, but it was our first exposure to open pit toilets with no ‘throne’ to grace our behinds. Awkwardly, we were able to place our feet on the ledges and hike up our clothes and take care of business. Fortunately for us both, I think we only had to do number one as there was nothing to wipe with. Later, we would become more familiar with this type of toilet facility, and it would not be the worst we had ever seen.

Posted in Dad & Family, Middle Eastern Stories | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Elevator stories

Posted by Range Officer Rhonda on March 4, 2009

It seems many people have ‘elevator stories’ to tell, whether they are funny, heart warming, scary or otherwise. Almost everyone, I believe, has some kind of ‘feeling’ about elevators. For me, when I think of them, I think of something that happened around 1974-75. Although I was only a teenager, my parents had taken me to Las Vegas with them for a short vacation. Mom and dad did not like to gamble much, I’ve never even heard of them losing more than maybe $25 in a day. They didn’t often drink, and when they did, it was not much. But they loved to go to the shows, the bright lights of the Strip and little side trips to places like Henderson, Hoover Dam and the twisty rocky canyons nearby. Not part of this story, but in 1963 we were IN the belly of Hoover Dam when news reached us that Kennedy had been shot.

Here’s the elevator story. My folks, my aunt & uncle and myself had been to a late dinner show in the Sahara. My aunt & mom had maybe had a couple too many drinks (more than one made my mom silly) and decided they needed to go back to the room. As a reluctant teenager, I followed them, but not closely. For once, this holding back paid off. As the gals weaved their way, slightly off kilter, to the elevator, two men headed for the same bank of elevators behind them, not realizing that I was following or part of the group. One of the men starts mocking and apeing the way my mom was walking, but in a much more exaggerated manner. I have to admit, it was funny to see. Then, mom & auntie reached the elevator, pushed the button and the doors parted; to reveal solid mirrored walls. They look up, stepping in, and see these two guys mimic-ing their movements. The two guys stop their antics and STEP INTO THE ELEVATOR with the ladies, not realizing (or maybe not caring?) that they had been caught. I rush to get in as the doors start to close, and much to my surprise, find that it is Jerry Lewis that had been doing all the kidding around. Nobody dared look at each other, it was actually funny considering the entire elevator was mirrored, so no matter how you averted your eyes from the other people, you could see the others in the mirrors. JL has the decency to blush. Not a word was said that entire ride, and it was many floors. As we got out of the elevator, at a much lower floor than the comedians, it was all we could do to wait for the doors to close before we burst into laughter. I remember mom, clutching her stomach and laughing so hard, with the words, “Oh, oh, I gotta pee, stop laughing you two, I can’t take it.”

I know, you had to be there – but this was one of the fond memories I have of my mom, enjoying our deep, can’t look at each other or we’ll bust out again, laughter moments.

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Christmas Cooking

Posted by Range Officer Rhonda on December 14, 2008

Potato Soup

 

One Christmas tradition we always had at our house was to enjoy, the Night before Christmas, a large heaping bowl of potato soup. We always had a huge family dinner on Christmas day that rivaled Thanksgiving and had been baking for days, moreso than even before because we added fudge, divinity, peanut brittle and tons of cookies. For years I never understood how my mother made such a wonderful soup. It seemed easy, but I just could not match the flavor or quality of mom’s soup. Several years ago during one of my annual trips to see the family at Christmas time (an 800 mile drive one way), I was pleased that my mom was going to be making the annual Christmas eve soup. I discovered I had been making just a very simple error and since then I’ve definitely gotten the hang of it – What a dummy I was! While we were cooking the soup that Christmas Eve, mom and I enjoyed some quiet time and I brought up the subject of the one time we were in the Middle East and had a somewhat ‘different’ potato soup that year. Mom was always determined that wherever we happened to be, we would try to maintain a semblance of our stateside lifestyle. And that included comfort foods such as potato soup on Christmas Eve – even if it was 120 degrees outside with the wind blowing sand under the door faster than we could sweep it out! This particular year, mom had sent dad to the market (souk) for the groceries and had mentioned she needed more potatoes. I have to remind you at this point that A) Dad grew up on a farm and spent many years in the garden hoeing his share of potatoes and B) food shopping was often a hit or miss deal in the Middle East – more like a treasure hunt. Well – dad brought home potatoes – but they were sweet potatoes! Whatever were we going to do? Mom was great at something I called her ‘make do’ mode – so we were going to make, yep – Sweet Potato Soup! We had always made SP bread, SP pie, just SP’s with marshmallows, SP casserole – so we could do this! It turned out great of course, but never became a staple at our house. But the story, of how dad went out to get some Red potatoes and came home with the sweets, stayed around for years. I decided to learn to make it all over again, using trial and error and some left over sweet potatoes from our Thanksgiving dinner – now I make it whenever I like, and YES – I like! I hope you will like this as well.

 

Sweet Potato Soup

 

Peel three large sweet potatoes, cut into small chunks and boil until mushy with a teaspoon of salt (about 20 minutes). Drain, reserving 2 cups of the cooking water. Mash or puree the potatoes. [Hint: I like chunks in my soup, so I reserve 1/4 of them and cut into little slices to add at the last] [Hint #2 – you can cook the potatoes days in advance or use leftovers!]

 

Gather your ingredients:

1 Tablespoon Arrowroot (flour works as well)

1 stick of sweet cream butter

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 cup cream (heavy whipping cream is best, Half–n-half works OK)

½ cup brown sugar

½ Tablespoon grated fresh ginger (or ½ tsp. powdered)

½ teaspoon nutmeg

¼ ground cloves

1 Tablespoon cooking sherry (optional)

 

In a large pan, sauté the Arrowroot and butter until you get a light brown roux. Add 2 cups of the reserved water from the potatoes, the sugar and spices. Bring this to a light boil, and then add the precooked, premashed potatoes. Simmer for about 15 minutes, then stir in the cream & sherry; then continue cooking for 5 minutes more. If you prefer a very creamy soup with no lumps, you may want to puree once more. If soup is too thin, simmering for a longer time will reduce moisture and thicken it up – or you can cheat and add a little cornstarch or arrowroot. If you like the chunks, stir them in when the soup is complete and heat thoroughly. This soup is great served hot or chilled (like I had it once on a cruise ship in a prior life) and makes 4 large servings. You can garnish with a dollop of whip cream or even float a few marshmallows on top.

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Get out and Vote!

Posted by Range Officer Rhonda on November 2, 2008

Many people this year are speaking up about the Presidential election whereas before, politics may have been a taboo subject. I may as well put in my two cents worth.

The first writing piece I ever had published was an editorial comment that was published in the Kansas City Star newspaper in 1978 or shortly thereafter. Actually, it may have been 1979 after the election. I was full of myself back then and had voted for the first time in a Presidential election. I was in college and paying much attention to the world around me. I was incensed at the number of people around me who were complaining about the person(s) who had won the election. There were lots of comments about how the government was going down hill and the current ruling political power was ruining the country, how bad the President was, etc. This sparked a little interest in me, and just as part of a conversation once or twice, I would ask the question – did you even vote? It wasn’t ‘did you vote for so and so’ – it was a plain – did you even vote? More times than not, the answer was No, with lots of excuses attached. This led me to some research, because now I was curious about how many had voted. The internet was a distant glimmer on the horizon, so I had to research through phone calls, newspapers, books and more to come up with the answers I was desparate to find. I was shocked. The numbers were staggering when I did the math. I can’t remember the numbers, but first I started with the number of eligible voters. Got it. Then I added up the number of registered voters. Much smaller number than the eligible ones. OK, next I looked for the number of registered numbers that had ACTUALLY voted. Whoa! This was staggering. I didn’t even have to take it any farther – such as how many voted for this and that person. Just the percentages alone rocked my world. Out of all the eligible persons to vote, only a very tiny percentage (I believe it was under 20%) had actually voted and placed this political party into the ruling houses.

Then, feeling rightfully justified, I wrote a letter to the editor, quoting of course, the numbers I had researched so they would see I wasn’t just flying off the handle with rhetoric. I was full of vim and vigor (I think we called it piss and vinegar back then) and stated to the editor that he had been selecting letters to print about people complaining against the government and the current powers to be. My challenge to those other letter writers was this,”Don’t even think that you have the right to complain if you didn’t get out there and vote.” I truly felt that if you had voted, and the party you wanted didn’t win and the party in the ruling majority was goofing everything up – then, yes, you had the right to complain. Otherwise, shut up and learn your lesson.

Talk about flak! Yes, they printed my whole name, I never dreamed they would print the letter nor did I even think twice about them using my name. I was just pleased as punch that my letter took up most of the editorial page. Then the fallout of my little bomb started coming in. Insults, irate come backs to the editor and more. People actually READ that stuff and would shun or congradulate me. One of my college professors had the gall to tell me I was ignorant and shouldn’t try to speak up about things I didn’t understand. Then I asked him if he voted and he would not reply. I got lots of ‘That’s neither here nor there’ and ‘Whether I vote or not has no bearing on this conversation’. To me, that means he didn’t vote. A-hole.

Oh, and it gets better. (Or worse). My father, a Union man, perhaps even a Steward at the time, got called to task. They (Union management) actually called him in for a meeting and asked if this person who wrote this article was related to him. When he saw the name, (he hadn’t seen the editorial) and they had him read the article, he boldly told them, yes, that was his daughter. They instructed him to have a ‘talk’ with me and ‘reign her in’ so that something like this doesn’t come about again or there would be serious repercussions with his job. This was a Union that told people what stores they had to boycott if they were good union employees and wanted to keep their jobs. My mom was always in fear of being seen shopping in a grocery store that was currently being picketed or quietly boycotted. God – this was the 70’s – what were we thinking to let them bully us like that? And me, did I do what my father asked and keep my mouth shut? Well, yes and no. I had already written the letter, and I wasn’t going to make any kind of retraction. But I didn’t write anymore about that subject in a public forum. I had already said my piece and I stood by it in conversation. It did quickly fade away too, and the newspaper dropped that line of conversation. But whenever someone brought up the conversation of complaining about the current government, I still used the question, “Did you even vote?” If you did, then I will be glad to listen to your arguments and sympathize with you. Otherwise, just shut up and next time, get out and vote so that your voice will count and you have a leg to stand on.

So, here we are with a really nasty election coming up and I hear more people speaking up and talking about the virtues or failings of one candidate over the next. Instead of choosing the lesser of two evils, as it has seemed in the past few years, we are now faced with some life changing issues and a chance to exercise our ‘Power of the People’. Whatever your color may be, Red, White or Blue – if you want to complain about the rulers of our nation, then first use your RIGHT to vote; then you have the right to speak your piece.

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