This is how pathetically organized I am.

I have divided my friends into categories, and I have even given the categories names. This comes as no surprise to them and it doesn’t seem to bother anyone. They accept this quirk I have and love me anyway. Okay, maybe it is a bit anal.

One of the groups is called simply “The Ducks.” However, we arrived at this title together. The six of us met while working at a bank downtown 10 years ago. Even though most of us have moved on to other jobs, and even other parts of the country, we always kept in touch and had a “Duck Lunch” or a “Duck Dinner” every couple of months. We always made it a point to meet at Christmas time and have a “Christmas Duck Dinner”. Not every one of us could meet for the lunch or the dinner, but nobody ever missed the Christmas Duck Dinner. None of us orders duck, by the way. It would be too cannibalistic.

I don’t think there’s any chance of any group meeting another since they all belong to different parts of my life, begun in different and varying eras. Although there was one time a Duck met a Codder at a ball game one evening, it was weird but not unmanageable. Like two universes had collided and I was in a black hole. Some kind of fuzzy karma thing going on, but I got through it.

How did we come up with this moniker? One lunch time meeting we were discussing our kids and the cute but embarrassing things they do sometimes. One woman was explaining how she met her new neighbors. “Remember the cartoon Darkwing Duck?” she began. “Remember how the character was a super hero and just before he would pounce on a villan he would yell ‘Suck gas and die, evil doer’. We all nodded because it was such a stupid cartoon and since most of us had boys, it was something we had to view regularly. “Well” she went on, trying to contain herself while a grin tugged at her mouth, “my new neighbors were moving into the house next door to me and we were chatting on their lawn as the movers brought in their furniture. All of a sudden, here comes my 6 year old son, with a blanket wrapped around his neck like a cape, pretending he’s flying.” She is starting to look apoplectic. “I called to him to come over to us so I could introduce him to our new friends. As he lands at the foot of my neighbor and I am about to announce my pride and joy, he screams out “Suck ASS Evildoer!!!!” They looked at him, then at me, then back at him, and went in to the house. We only wave hello at Christmas.”

Needles to say, we were howling on the floor by the time she got the final words out, tears rolling down our faces. We were laughing so hard, people started coming over to us to find out what was so funny. So she would have to tell the story again, and by this time none of us could breathe.

So we simply became the Ducks.

Christmas is a great time for the Ducks. It’s a time to catch up with one another. The highlight of this dinner is when we give each other gifts. These are not just any gift, they have to have a duck theme to it, and they have to be under $10. You would be amazed the things out there with a duck connection. But its more than just having a laugh with a couple of girlfriends. Sometimes it’s a real effort to get together because it just doesn’t fit in to our busy schedules. We sometimes have to schedule and reschedule these lunches, and it is because of the diligence of one particular Duck that we do finally meet. She won’t let us forget how important we are to one another. We have been through many things together over the years. Even though all six of us may have not been together at the same time, who’s ever there fills in the blanks that our boyfriends, husbands and kids can’t fill.

We don’t compete with one another. We give each other advice when asked, and even if it isn’t. We don’t talk about each other when one of us isn’t there. We laugh about bad haircuts and incompetent bosses. We listen to the different stages of romance, and the lamentation of wondering where all the good men are. We don’t complain about who paid more on the check. We talk about movies and books and how we would have changed the ending. We celebrate the marriage of a son or daughter or the arrival of a baby, whichever comes first. It doesn’t matter to us, we don’t judge.

We were there for each other when our hearts get broken, be it by men, parents, or children. When we lose jobs, there’s no lecture or I-told-you-so looks. I know this fact the best because I think I hold the record of losing the most jobs. Hell, I lost a whole company once, but that’s another story. We take care of each other.

The point is this. It’s simple. We take so many things for granted. Our quality of life is just so because someone made the effort to insure it would be so. It is the same with friendships. Make the effort to keep quality friendships. It’s worth it. Even if you have to name the friendship, it’s worth it. Even if you think you’re being pathetic, so what? Who cares? You’re with the Ducks. Quack Quack.


Peeling Potatoes

ImagePeeling potatoes. If I have peeled one potato in my lifetime, I have peeled millions.

Being the oldest in an Irish house full of five children, we ate mashed potatoes every night. I mean every, single night, without fail. Sometimes mashed by hand, other times with the mixer, it was the secret ingredient for stretching the food budget for a limited but rambunctious family. My three sisters and my brother all had specific duties when it came to mealtime, but since I was the oldest and a girl, I was given the responsibility to peel the potatoes.

I actually looked forward to this job, since it gave me a sense of accomplishment. I became quite adept at de-skinning the spuds, whipping out a five pound bag in under five minutes. I also developed my trademark method of slicing the skins off quickly, handling the peeler by scraping away from me, rather than towards me, as was traditionally done.

Sitting on a stool in front of the kitchen garbage can, silver peeler held in my right hand, I would systematically turn and slice the potato held in my left until it stood white and naked, shimmering under the kitchen lights in all of its potato glory. The tip of the peeler swiftly dug out the eyes of the most stubborn interloper, creating craters envious of any man on the moon. Whether the snow fell silently on the ground or the rain slapped loudly against the kitchen window behind me, I sat there and peeled potatoes. The cool afternoon breezes of summer wafting through the screen door beside it, or the sun streaked beams of spring danced across the linoleum floor like an invited ballerina, I sat and peeled potatoes. It became a time of pondering, wondering and dreaming, long lasting and ever present in my memories.

I’ve noticed over the years the transition of the lowly potato peeler. From a slim and somewhat feminine looking piece of metal, it has become refined and bulked up into a black, thick handled Adonis. Handles which now have grips, so as to avoid the once common journey into the trash along with the skins, as the peeler became airborne once my pace picked up.

I’ve peeled potatoes during the greatest events in history, dragging the kitchen trash can into the living room to sit in front of the one television set we owned. As a young girl whose feet barely touched the ground, I sat on the couch and watched from the corner of my eye the sadness in my mother’s face as she watched President Kennedy’s coffin pass by Jackie and her children.

I sat in disbelief and watched the Challenger explode on that cold winter morning, while my own babies played on the floor, unaware of the changing of history at that moment.

I’ve sat in darker kitchens and peeled them silently, tears streaming down my face as I prayed for those who needed it and even those who didn’t.  

I’ve sat and peeled them while admonishing angry teenagers, angst filled voices screaming over the sound of the slap slap of the skins into the trash.  They yelled, I peeled.  They stamped their feet and slammed their bedroom doors, and still I peeled.  When I really wanted to throttle them, I peeled and peeled and peeled.

I’ve peeled potatoes as therapy, watching the skins pile up on the countertop as metaphors for the challenges in my life. Day after day, I would peel them away until they no longer had any power over me, becoming dark piles of yesterdays that went to the trash can outdoors and hauled away.

Countless mounds of white sustenance when all I could afford to eat as a single mother, they sustained me and those who needed me to stay healthy and strong. Even as my children grew and left to create families of their own, I peeled potatoes for one and was happy with the task of the day, a warm reminder that some things never change, that everything changes, and it was going to be all right.

Then suddenly, society’s outlook on the potato became slanted. They were now considered nuisance carbohydrates, adding unneeded pounds to those trying to lose weight. It was time for me to back away from my old friend, leaving behind my once trusted confidante.

I didn’t peel a potato for nearly two years, freeing up my hands to do other chores at dinner, and finding other outlets to occupy my time. I always felt something was missed at mealtime and I was right.

Slowly and steadily, I worked the potato back into the menu, for I now had a welcome partner at the table and who enjoyed them as much as I did. It was if the world had been slightly askew, but now righted itself, with the return of mashed nirvana to my table.

Watching me grasp the peeler again in my right while I looked at the small mound of potatoes calling from the plastic bag on the counter, he gently touched my other hand and offered to start peeling.

“That’s okay.” I answered softly. “I like peeling potatoes. It’s what I do.”

I must have peeled my millionth potato this Thanksgiving week, and I can’t imagine starting the holiday doing anything else while anticipating peeling many more in the years to come.   Little faces now watch me curiously as Nana begins the afteroon again with getting ready for dinner, curious but not yet ready to assist in the duty.

When it finally is time to hand the peeler to someone else, I will sit back and watch with a smile, as the skins pile up on the counter Imagetop, signaling life continues on.

I don’t think it can get much better than that.

Listening to the Music

It seems whenever my life is in flux, I respond the most to music.

More importantly, live music.

I crave it.  It seems to relieve some deep animal instinct within me, calming my fears and soothing my nerves.  Whether I sit with friends or by myself, the effect is the same.  Peace.

When my father died, it seemed I couldn’t get enough.  I would travel from coffee house to open mics and any little out of the way café, looking and listening for the sounds of those whose thoughts put to paper were sung proudly for all to share.   I felt part of something, and not so much afraid.

We were one, all gathered in the same room.  Perhaps not sharing the same angst or the same heartache, or even sadness at all.  Other times I have sought the music to celebrate, to merely sit and listen, to let it confirm the good feelings I already had percolating inside me.

For me, music is another way of praying.  I think God would agree.

It seems that any life-changing event often accompanies my craving and need for the sound of singing.  It doesn’t matter what genre; folk, country, blues or rock & roll.   As long as there’s a story I seem to relate wholly and without reservation.

The music has called to me in different ways and in different times, but never as strongly as it is calling now.  Perhaps it is saying ‘brace yourself’ but I prefer to think its laying the groundwork for the final realization of who I am and what I am meant to do.


Fish Fry – It’s Whats For Dinner

fish_fryI don’t what it is like in your neck of the woods, but where I live it’s a sin to stay home on Friday night. I kid you not. EVERYONE goes out to eat on a Friday night, specifically for a Fish Fry.

Especially during the Lenten season, you can’t find a soul home in the kitchen, no one in the t.v. room. The roadways and highways start to get congested around 4:00 p.m.

The seniors, taking advantage of the Early Bird Specials, start to clog the streets on their way to the nearby Dennys or Perkins. They clamor to get a bite of the batter fried haddock, with a side of baked potato and a vegetable of your choice.

But mainstream restaurants aren’t the only supporter of this phenomenon. The local gin mills have a Fish Fry, church fund raisers have them, the clubhouse at the local golf course. It is amazing. Even McDonald’s has specials on Fish Sandwiches on Fridays.

The question isn’t WHAT you’re going to have for dinner, it’s how much you will PAY for that dinner. Since everyone in town in a 30 mile radius has the same menu, it’s the presentation and the price that becomes the draw for the clientele.

Do you want wine with your fish? Do you want soda or pop? All depends on where you park your car.white-wine

I have half a mind to open up my kitchen and start selling Fish Fry out the back door, like my neighbors who sell fried chicken on the grill in the summer.

Wait a minute. That means I would have to cook.

Never mind. Kids, get the car. Let’s do Chinese.

Happy Lent.