It’s Great Up Here

July 19, 2021 by  
Filed under Humor, Stories

By Karen O’Connor –

I was sorry to hear about the unexpected death of my neighbor, Carl. I knew it would be difficult for his wife, Marion. They’d recently celebrated forty-five years of marriage and in recent months they were inseparable—well almost. Marion was totally committed—devoted even––to keeping Carl healthy so he’d be around for a long time. She couldn’t imagine life without him. And I could see why. He was tall and still good-looking for seventy-nine years and he was a fix-it man besides. There was nothing Carl couldn’t do around the house and yard. Maybe Marion had an ulterior motive for serving her hubby seaweed and wheat germ!

I have to admit, though, sometimes it was a real drag to be with them, especially at community potlucks or holiday buffets. Marion was a broken record (make that a CD) on the subject of healthy eating. She prepared lots of veggies, bran muffins from scratch, raw fruit at every meal, and plenty of fresh, purified water. And whether or not you wanted her advice on how to renew your energy, you got it.

Carl went along with the plan because he loved her and he wasn’t the kind to make waves in a calm sea, but I could see the mischief in his eyes when she wasn’t looking. His friends saw it too.

Henry, who lived in the house behind Carl and Marion, once told me that when he and Carl met for lunch on the days Marion played golf, Carl indulged himself in all the no-no’s like chocolate cake (sometimes two big slices), hot fudge sundaes, eggs cooked in bacon grease, and a double portion of pure whipped cream on his apple pie. He loved them all. Figured it didn’t hurt to have a little fun once in awhile as long as he was being “good” most of the time.

Carl used to joke about what it would be like in heaven. He could imagine St. Peter ushering him through the pearly gates and then pointing for miles around at the huge buffet tables filled with all the goodies Carl loved. And best of all, they wouldn’t be forbidden in heaven. Surely God wouldn’t post a list of healthy and unhealthy foods. New creatures in Christ wouldn’t have to worry about counting calories anymore.

“There will be no more tears and no more pain in heaven,” he said chuckling at the prospect, “so I won’t have to watch what I eat. No cholesterol to check either!”

Henry said now that Carl was gone, he could picture his dear friend looking down on him and shouting, “Henry, it’s great up here. No diets, no exercise regimes, no restrictions, no bran muffins. If I’d have known all this ahead of time, I’d have come a lot sooner.”

Heaven does sound heavenly at this point in life. There are still so many things to deal with on this side of eternity. I’m watching Marion now that her partner has left for his reward.

Sometimes I ache for the time when I won’t forget where I laid my glasses, whether or not I brushed my teeth, what my own phone number is. But then I stop and realize it’s wrong to wish my life away. God will bring me “home” soon enough. Meanwhile, pass the bran muffins.

Make Way for (Elder) Ducklings!

May 11, 2021 by  
Filed under Humor, Stories

By Karen O’Connor –

Parents of eight ducklings need a bit of help finding a safe place to raise their brood. During a rest stop in Boston’s Public Garden, Mr. and Mrs. Mallard agree they just might have found the ideal spot. But when Mrs. Mallard and her darlings are stuck on a busy street in downtown Boston, their policeman friend Michael rushes in, stops traffic, and makes a way for them. And so goes the story, Make Way For Ducklings, the children’s award-winning classic by Robert McCloskey, published by Viking Press in 1941.

Perhaps there have been times in your life when you needed someone like Policeman Michael to make a way for you. I have! Especially now that I’m older. Sometimes I feel as though I’m invisible. I want to throw up my hands and say, “Look at me. I’m a person too. An older person, I know, but still a person. Make room for me, please. Couldn’t you at least acknowledge me?”

Maybe that’s why I pump iron and jog and hike. If I stay “buff” I won’t be overlooked so easily. Maybe my age won’t matter.

Well the time came when that almost occurred. One summer morning I jogged along the beach near my home wearing a pair of old shorts, a ratty t-shirt, and a bill cap to keep my hair from flying in my face. There I was––with my naked, lined face––and the rest of my body tagging along too!

I finished my run, wiped my face on the tail of my shirt, and slowed to a walk. Just then a teenager on a bike sailed past me, then stopped, turned around, and jabbed the air with his right thumb. “Not bad for an old broad,” he shouted, and then pedaled out of sight.

What nerve! Who does he think I am? Then I broke out laughing. At least he looked. He was rude, but he had made a way for me that day—a way to feel good about myself just as I was.

A year later my husband Charles and I were on our way to one of my speaking engagements. One evening at dusk we ventured out of the hotel where we were staying and walked up to the corner of Highway 1 and a cross street that led to a restaurant on the other side.

We were about to make a run for it (no traffic in either direction that we could see) when suddenly a small truck appeared. We back-stepped in surprise as it squealed to a stop. The driver leaned out the window and motioned us to cross. “Go right ahead.”

Kind enough, I thought, since he was in the wrong. We stepped in front of the vehicle, waved a “thank you,” and then started across.

“No problem,” he called after us. “We have to take care of our older folks!”

Darn! Here I am, fit as a farmer, but to this younger generation I’m still an “older folk!”

There’s something about that phrase that clangs in my ear. I’m not ready to listen to it. But maybe I should, since chronologically I am one. I surrendered, jumped off my high horse, and became willing to admit that people of any age can use a bit of support now and then. I decided to view the situation with new eyes.

That evening the young driver had been our “Policeman Michael,” making a way for two elder ducklings to cross the highway safely, so we could return home the following week and get back to the gym.

Furry Friend

April 4, 2021 by  
Filed under Humor, Stories

By Karen O’Connor –

One morning as I reached for my breakfast food in the back of my station wagon at a campground in the Sierra Mountains, I noticed that several of the plastic bags had holes in them. One in particular was badly punctured. I had filled it with various nuts and dried fruits. When I picked it up, most of the contents fell out.

How strange. I was certain I’d put this mix in a brand new zippered bag. “Oh well, I’ll deal with this later,” I muttered. It was time for the group’s morning hike and I didn’t want to be late.

My friends and I returned to our site that afternoon and I opened my car to take out a snack and some water. To my surprise several more bags were full of holes. Even my Kleenex tissues were perforated. I assumed it was an insect and let it go. Flies and mosquitoes were all around so I chalked it up to life in the outdoors.

At the end of the week we broke camp and said our good-byes. Then I drove down the mountain to the motel where I planned to spend the night before heading home the following day.

I organized my gear, did a couple loads of laundry, ate dinner, and headed for bed. The next morning when I opened my car a terrible stench hit my nose. What is that? I wondered. I didn’t have any fresh food in the car so I was really puzzled.

Then suddenly I noticed a small furry creature curled up in a little open box I had left on the floor of the back seat. A long tail hung over the edge. A field mouse. “Eeek!” I shrieked and shivered at the sight. Poor fella must have snuck in when my car was open, and then died in the extreme heat of the day after I locked my car.

“Help!” I called to one of the employees at the motel. “A dead mouse. I can’t bear to touch it. Would you please remove it for me?”

The man chuckled, reached in, and carried the little guy, box and all, to the trash container. I thanked him and off he went. But then I had a shame attack. It was just a field mouse, after all. Why did I make such a big deal out of it? He was one of God’s creatures, too. And if the Lord could make a place for him on the earth, surely I could allow him to help himself to a few nuts and berries.

“But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you.
Which of all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this?
In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind” (Job 12:7-10 NIV).

Spray Away

February 16, 2021 by  
Filed under Humor, Stories

By Karen O’Connor –

It had been a long flight from California to New York. I was tired but excited about the opportunity to speak at a large convention. Finally I arrived with time to spare before walking onstage to wow the crowd with the dynamic message I’d prepared and then rehearsed at least a dozen times. I checked into my hotel room, unpacked, rested my voice, and ordered hot tea with lemon and honey from room service. There wasn’t anything I hadn’t thought of––or so it seemed. I took time to press my business suit and apply my makeup carefully.

At the last moment I walked into the bathroom to refresh my lipstick and touch up my hair. A little spray would do the trick. I didn’t want even one hair to escape. I hadn’t paid the stylist thirty dollars for nothing.

I opened my purse, took out a small plastic bottle and turned this way and that in front of the mirror, taking charge of every stray hair. Spritz! Spritz! Even a stiff breeze couldn’t ruffle my tresses after that.

But something went terribly wrong. Instead of holding my hair in place, the entire ‘do’ collapsed into wet strands. I looked at the container in my hand, ready to pitch it out the sixteenth story window. So much for my professional coiffure––not yet twenty-four hours old. Indignant, I looked in the mirror, ready to return to the corner drug store and demand my money back. How could the clerk sell me this counterfeit when I expressly asked for a purse-sized bottle of hair spray?

Then I glanced at the label. Starry Night cologne. Oh for heaven’s sake. Where were my glasses when I needed them?

It was too late to start over. I had to walk out there and hold my own—regardless of how I appeared. Well, I smelled nice that day––but I didn’t look too swift!

I was pleased to see how well my audience paid attention. Every eye was on me––but probably not for the reason I hoped. I soon found out.

A woman came up to me after my presentation. It was clear she had a few words of encouragement for me after listening to my lament over the state of my hair. “You may not be the most attractive thing on the block,” she said, “but you’re a good speaker!”

Costly Cookies

December 24, 2020 by  
Filed under Humor, Stories

By Karen O’Connor –

When I think of my mother, I think of her butter horn cookies. Mmm! The kids in our family could polish off a plate of these melt-in-your-mouth treats in minutes. So when it was my turn to provide dessert for the married couples group my husband and I belong to, I decided to make a batch of Eva’s Butter Horns.

I looked in the pantry and fridge for the ingredients and realized I didn’t have any of them on hand. Our oven had been on the blitz for months, so I had not been able to bake anything. But the day of the meeting I had no more excuses. We had purchased a new oven when we updated our kitchen.

I drove to the store and purchased flour, butter, cane sugar, powdered sugar, chopped nuts, eggs and salt. Then I remembered I didn’t have a rolling pin, so I picked up that too. Total bill: $40.21. Add to that the $1634.03, the purchase price for the built-in oven, and I could see this was going to be one expensive batch of cookies, let me tell you. To be exact, each cookie—48 in all––cost $34.88.

But the worst was yet to come. As I tried to roll out the flour mass (make that mess), the dough stuck to the rolling pin for dear life. I added a bit of flour to the board and to the dough, but no luck. So I started over. Then it dawned on me that it makes sense to flour the rolling pin before rolling out the dough. That helped a bit, but the result was anything but the perfect circle my mother used to make.

It’s pretty hard to make butter horns (visualize miniature crescent rolls) unless the circle of dough is very thin and very round. After much frustration, I managed to make three-dozen cookies that only vaguely resembled the perfect ones Mom used to make.

However, the guests didn’t know the difference. Every cookie vanished from the plate within ten minutes of my arrival. I was lucky to eat just one, but I was determined to get my $34.88 share.

Recipe for Eva’s Butter Horns
Dough:
1 cup butter (softened)
2 cups flour (white or wheat)
1 egg yolk, slightly beaten
3/4 cup light sour cream

Filling:
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup of finely chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans)

Directions
Cut butter into flour. Combine egg yolk and sour cream. Blend with flour mixture. Form into ball and cover with waxed paper. Chill in refrigerator overnight or for several hours before baking.

Divide dough into three parts. Roll each part into a circle about 12″ in diameter. Cut each circle into 16 wedges with knife or pizza cutter.

Prepare the filling. Combine sugar, nuts, and cinnamon. Sprinkle mixture over the dough. Roll each wedge, starting with the wide end, shaping into crescents.

Bake on ungreased cookie sheet until light brown at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes. Remove from cookie sheet to cool. Dust with powdered sugar.

Share and enjoy!

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