A place where I can share interesting ideas and maybe get a few things off my chest

Archive for October, 2007

$5 Fair Admission

Mother and I went to the grocery store on Thursday evening, since I had been out of town all weekend and into the middle of the week. We say the sign for the Kerr County Fair, and Mother said, “The Fair is this weekend, but I won’t be going.”

I asked if she would like to go. She asked if I would like to go. I said I would. She asked the cost of admission – $5. She said she’d go if I wanted to go. And so it goes.

The Kerr County Fair ran this weekend from Friday through Sunday, but the best time for us seemed to be Saturday afternoon, after I got home from my weekend job at the local youth shelter. It was at the Kerr Co. Ag Barn, on Hwy. 27, and though I wasn’t sure just where it was, I figured we would know it when we saw it. And so we did. We pulled into the entry gate, drove past the mini-ferris wheel and tilt-a-whirl, into a large field partitioned off for parking. We found a place not too far from the entrance booth (after we realized all the most readily available parking spots were designated for handicapped drivers), and Mom paid the $10 for both of us to get in.

There were a few vendors outside the main tent area, but we saw the sign that said “Petting Zoo” and proceeded inside. We found the requisite baby sheep and baby goats milling around with their dams, trying to avoid the cups of farm animal kibble being forced upon them by small children, and decided not to actually venture into the fray. After a minute or two of standing near the 5-ft fence, I notice there was a smaller enclosure within the main one, containing a lop-eared rabbit, a pot-bellied pig, and what appeared to be a miniature kangaroo. Something in the back of my mind whispered wallaby, and I told Mother that’s what I thought it was, but that voice is not always reliable, so I asked the woman selling kibble cups. She confirmed that it was, indeed, a wallaby! (I felt so smart!)

We also noticed that there was a camel! How could we have missed a camel, you ask? He was sitting down! At that point, the back of my mind whispered dromedary?, but I didn’t feel like encouraging it anymore, so we’re not sure on that one. We walked to the other end of the pen to get a better view, and also noticed a fawn, still with it’s spots, although it seemed a little large to still have spots, and I suspect that there may have been a little milkpaint involved, although I have absolutely no proof. There was also some kind of game animal, but the little voice could only give me some kind of antelope, I think. It was becoming less and less reliable, so I decided to dismiss it for the rest of the afternoon.

We wandered into the main tent where the vendors and the performance stage were set up. There might have been 30 vendors altogether, but perhaps not quite that many. I picked up a packet from the local Democratic party that included a few pieces of candy. I asked if they had any voter’s registration forms, but they said I would have to go to the second story of the county courthouse, fill one out there, and allow the county to mail it to Austin. I thought that was a little strange, but then everything here seems to be a little strange.

We passed by most of the booths, but near the stage happened upon one that was selling bright-and-shiny objects of sterling silver. I stopped to peruse them, and Mother sat in a folding chair to the side of the bleachers facing the stage. I picked out a garnet ring, an ear cuff, and a pair of dangly earrings for my daughter’s belated birthday present (shhhh – don’t tell her). As I was looking at the garnet rings, I realized someone was standing VERY close to me, well inside the limits of my personal-space bubble, and looked down to find my co-worker, Helen. She liked the rings I was looking at, and when I pointed out that Mother was sitting nearby, Helen joined her for a short chat while I finished my transaction. Helen told us about her daughter’s prize-winning quilt in the crafts tent, and as I had been looking for something more than the vendor area, I was quite happy for us to follow her next door.

The craft area was meager, but perhaps I am jaded by all those years of having had the opportunity to attend the great State Fair of Texas. In any case, we looked over all the submissions in painting, photography, woodworking, mixed media, baking, canning, and some other items whose categories were difficult to discern. This took approximately 10 minutes. We did find Helen’s daughter’s quilt, which was sporting a Best of Show ribbon for the youth category. It was very nicely done, and I will have to be sure to tell her on Monday that we saw it.

I headed back to the first large tent and Mother asked if we were leaving. I told her that I wanted to be sure that we got our $5 worth. She commented drily that we could walk around the entire evening and still not get our $5 worth. I could only laugh, because it was oh, so true, and yet I had enjoyed myself so far. As we entered the main tent, my ears were rudely assaulted and I realized the stage was once again being used for karaoke. We wended our way to the front of the tent, past the food vendors and headed for the parking lot. Mother declined my suggestions for caramel apples, cotton candy, and kettle corn.

Much to my amazement and delight, we passed a vendor selling chocolate-dipped frozen bananas on a stick! I love these! At one point in time, you could walk into almost any Dairy Queen in North Texas and acquire one for as little as 50 cents. Alas, no longer. As best I understand it, almost every DQ in North Texas (perhaps in the entire state) has been purchased by an evil consortium that sanctions the sale of only those frozen treat items trademarked by the Dairy Queen franchise. Since they cannot really trademark a frozen chocolate-dipped banana on a stick, it is no longer allowed. *sigh* BUT – there he was! The frozen chocolate-dipped banana vendor! The photo on the side of the booth showed the banana dipped in chocolate and rolled in chopped nuts, but I am a minimalist when it comes to my frozen chocolate-dipped bananas. As the bananas were only dipped in chocolate once requested, I was able to acquire mine as desired. I chatted up the vendor in the hopes he might be able to direct me to a more reliable source, but he said he didn’t know of one, although I could find him at other local county fairs. *SIGH*

My future prospects of acquiring frozen chocolate-dipped bananas did not look good, but at least I did have the one in hand. Mother did not care for one(!!??), so after I got mine, we continued towards the parking field and the car. My frozen chocolate-dipped banana was gone before we got home, but it was very nice while it lasted. And so was the Kerr County Fair.


I returned last night from spending six days away from home. I flew to Detroit, Michigan for the 75th anniversary celebration of Lawrence Technical University (www.ltu.edu/ – originally Lawrence Institute of Technology), in conjunction with the 75th anniversary of the LTU chapter of Phi Kappa Upsilon fraternity (www.phikapp.com/). No, I didn’t go to school there, nor was I ever in a fraternity. I was just along for the ride. During my time there, we visited many tourist spots in addition to the college and frat activities.

Thursday night, Steve and I arrived at the Detroit Airport separately (his plane arrived first, so he was there to greet me), rented a car, and made our way to the Westin in Southfield. It was a nice room, but the wetbar was locked so we couldn’t put anything in it (they just want you to take stuff out of it, I guess, and they want to know when you are doing so), and the bottled water on the dresser had tags to let you know that they were $4 if you drank them. The coffee maker and coffee were gratis, but I can’t drink coffee without cream and I couldn’t buy cream because the fridge was locked. Oh, well. There was a Starbucks in the lobby of the hotel, so that all worked out.

On Friday, we tried to go to the Motown Museum (www.motownmuseum.com/), but it was closed for a private event. It seems the city was unveiling the street signs for having named the small part of Grand Ave. in front of the museum “Berry Gordy Ave.” I didn’t really recognize anyone, but I’m pretty sure a couple of famous people were there.

The Polish Art Center in Hamtramck (polartcenter.com/) was another stop, made at my request. I dabble with pysanky every spring, and when I moved last year, I had to pour out all my jars of egg dye. I am once again collecting quart Ball jars in anticipation of my Lenten psyanky-fest, and the Polish Art Center is where I usually purchase my pysanky supplies via mail order. It was a wonderful treat to be able to go there in person to choose the individual dye packets, look over the colorful instruction books and see all the other craft tools available. To my great delight, I found that the Polish Art Center also carries an impressive amount of baltic amber set in sterling silver. My self-control was intact, barely, and I did manage to retain enough money in my checking account to make the car payment. Barely.

Then we went to a fraternity brother’s house for an informal get-together that evening. They had a beautiful house and all the people were quite nice, and they played a film of a Little Caeser’s commercial that was made in the frat house in 1984. Someone else had filmed the making of the commercial and they were all surprised and excited to realize that one of the unknown actors who was brought in for the commercial (and didn’t make the final cut of either of the two ads) was Tim Allen!

Saturday we went downstairs for Starbucks. It was not open on Saturday or Sunday. Hmph. We found an alternate coffee fix, returned to the Motown Museum and had a WONDERFUL tour. The docent was lively and entertaining and knew and loved his subject matter to the extent that he really made the visit worthwhile. What was normally a 45-minute tour, he stretched into over two hours, and we only left then because we had to be back over at the frat house for a tour of the new alumni lounge.

The rest of Saturday was filled with fraternity and college activities. We toured the frat house where Steve lived all the time he was in college. The alumni group has just redone the garage into a VERY nice alum lounge with a sauna, shower, wet bar, leather couches, wooden lockers, and a big screen TV. They had a formal ribbon cutting, christening the outside wall with a bottle of champagne. Then, everyone caravanned to the college for several large group photos, and then on to the Skyline Club for the formal dinner and dance. Godiva chocolates as table favors and bottles of champagne as parting gifts for each couple. Indeed, a good time was had by all.

Sunday found us at the Franklin Cider Mill (www.franklincidermill.com/), where we saw chopped apples being smashed in stacked layers under a VERY large press to extract fresh cider. It smelled wonderful. And the cider and fresh cake doughnuts tasted wonderful. The mill is powered by a water wheel in a stream that runs underneath/beside the mill. The ducks that live in the stream outside are very fat and very spoiled. I witnessed many doughnut bites thrown into the water at the ducks. Unless the bits were within easy reach, the ducks did not even bother to scramble. They just looked at the tossers with a mixed air of disdain for poor aim and jaded expectation of the next offering.

The Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village (http://www.hfmgv.org/) took all of Monday. Actually, Greenfield Village took most of the day, and then we rushed through the Henry Ford Museum before it closed. We visited the weaving shop, the glassblowers, the print shop, the pottery studio, saw Edison’s Menlo Park workshops, walked into the inside of a Georgia plantation’s slave cabin, saw the 15,000,000th Model T to come off the Ford assembly line, strolled through the Wright Brothers bicycle shop, and visited the homes of Noah Webster and Robert Frost. We walked a lot.

We talked to the weaver about the loom he was working on and the other looms in the shop, one of which was a Jacquard loom. Two stories high, it was designed to use punchcards as programs for the weaving design. Turns out Jacquard licensed International Business Machines to utilize this punch card technology in their calculating machines, but he required them to alter the cards so they were not identical to his. So, they had to cut off one corner of each punch card. For those of you who remember punch cards, now you know why the corner was cut off….

In the Henry Ford Museum, we got to sit in the actual seat, in the actual bus, that Rosa Parks was too tired to get up from, that started the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955. It was actually quite moving and awe-inspiring. We saw a bunch of cars and a bunch of planes and a bunch of trains, but it was about 4:30 by then, and I was worried about whether or not we would get to the gift shop in time to adequately look around, so I think Steve got more out of the museum part of the visit than I did.

We left the museum and drove across town to Grosse Point (yes, just like the movie) to Bob and Joni’s house, and proceeded from there to dinner at an Italian bistro that I can’t quite remember the name of. It was quite yummy, and the creme brulee was served in a soup bowl, and topped with many strawberry slices and much whipped cream. We were a little concerned when our waiter dropped the torch as he was assembling it before caramelizing the top, but he didn’t catch any of us on fire, and it was quite impressive overall. Joni pointed out to Steve more than once during the evening how nice Kerrville, Texas is, and how he should really consider moving there. I could only smile, as I have said that a few times, myself.

Tuesday morning was spent packing, and after we checked out of the hotel, we made one last scheduled stop, at the Lawrence Tech bookstore for the final round of souvenir purchases. Then lunch at T.G.I. Fridays (don’t try their mini-desserts – nasty), and off the the airport. We hadn’t realized until the night before that the first leg of our outbound journies coincided, and so we were quite delighted to find that we did not have to actually say goodbye until we both changed planes at the Nashville airport, and then we were so rushed to get me to my connecting flight that there wasn’t much time for anything more than a quick kiss and hug. *sigh*

I finally got in to the San Antonio airport around 9 p.m., got out of the the terminal and to my car by 9:30, and then made it back to Kerrville just before 11 p.m. I had called Mother from the airport to let her know my plan had arrived safely and to give her an ETA, and she waited up for me. She said she missed me and I couldn’t be away that long again.

It’s nice to be missed, and it’s nice to be home, but it was a very nice time away.

New (Additional) Job and Pending Trip

When I was job hunting back in April, I saw an ad running for night/weekend workers at the local youth shelter. I knew this wouldn’t pay enough, plus I didn’t really have the emotional reserves for something like that, so I never even applied. That ad has been running, off and on, ever since, and a couple of weeks ago, I dropped off my resume and filled out an application. I interviewed with the director, they called my references (when asked about my temperament and ability to handle difficult situations Ellen told them “Kay doesn’t do drama” – I love that! Thanks, Ellen!), and called me late week-before-last to set up training.

I now have a certificate for TACT-2 – Thereapeutic Aggression Control Techniques – 2, in both verbal and physical intervention. Of course, the hope is that one can use the verbal intervention techniques to as to never have to progress to the physical interventions. One of the trainers said she has worked at the shelter for 6 years and has only ever had to physically restrain three residents, so I’m hoping I won’t ever have to use the physical stuff at all.

I am still working doing the books for the dry cleaners during the week, and when I applied for the shelter job, it was originally with the idea of it being PRN, but they have put me on a regular weekend shift, 8a – 4p, Saturday and Sunday. Since I can use the extra bucks right now, I’m going to go with it, but I have a feeling I will be getting that cut back no later than after Christmas. My boss at the dry cleaners was very understanding about my needing to attend that TACT training a couple of days last week, but it was kind of irritating to have to trade 2 days of work for hours that paid me little more than half as much. I made part of that up before and after the training, but still.

I am preparing to fly to Michigan on Thursday. I am accompanying my friend (what DO you call the person you’re dating when you’re both over 40?) to his college’s and fraternity’s 75th anniversary joint celebrations. My boss is amused that I am traveling halfway across the country, into cold weather, in order to attend a frat party. I’ll be flying out Thursday morning, and returning Tuesday evening. Mother and I went shopping at La Cantera last weekend for shoes for me, as there is a semi-formal dinner/dance, and I get a chance to wear a girly dress and needed girly shoes to go with it. We will probably have a chance to cross over into Canada for a day, so I had to find my passport, which has a HORRIBLE picture – 10x worse than my driver’s license ever thought of being. Yuck. I know it will be lots of fun, and with only 3 days left until I leave (3 DAYS!), I’m becoming increasingly excited and increasingly nervous.

Mother initially didn’t like the idea of me being gone that long, but she’s settled in here pretty well, and seems more comfortable. She will be able to call Vickie if she needs anything, and I’m hoping Vickie will be able to come by and visit some while I’m gone. Mom and I went grocery shopping yesterday and got everything she’ll need for while I’m out of town.

So, except for this northern interlude, it looks like I will be working, at one job or the other, 7 days a week. I realized this weekend that I’ve never worked two jobs like this before. I’ve had two part-time jobs, but I’ve never worked jobs back-to-back. We’ll see how I do, and how long I’ll keep it up.

Lunch at the Dietert Center

The Dietert Center ( http://www.dietertseniorcenter.org/ ) is the local senior center, where there are activities and hot lunches provided for local seniors Monday through Friday. When Mother had only been here a couple of weeks, my niece, Vickie, took Mother to lunch there. Mother was underwhelmed and didn’t think she would be interested in going back. The lunches are free for seniors, but those under 65 are asked to contribute at least $5 for lunch, and Mother thought this was burdensome to whomever would be taking her there.

Now that Mom has been here long enough for the shock of the move to wear off, and the accumulated boredom of sitting home all day, every day, with the only break being when I come home for 1/2 hour or so to have a sandwich with her, she seemed more amenable to trying it again. Especially after I pointed out that $5 is not really that much for lunch, as we would pay that much apiece were we to go to Jack In The Box.

So, we decided that Friday would be the day. My friend, Dawn, who works at the Dietert Center, said baked chicken day was always popular, so we should plan on arriving around 11:30 so as to secure a table. Plus, soup, bread, and salad is put out at 11:30, so we could start with that while waiting for the main meal to be served at noon.

As it was my payday, and I needed to go by the bank before we went to lunch, I left work at 11 a.m. to pick Mother up. We parked at the bank, went in, and I suggested Mother have a seat in one of the comfy chairs in the middle of the lobby while I waited at the counter.

“Where are the tables?”

“Do you need a table, Mom?”

“Well, where are we going to eat?”

“This is the bank, Mom.”

“Oh, that’s right. I’ll just sit right here, then.”

I go to the counter, request that my check be cashed so that I might have some cash in my pocket, with the balance to be entered into the account as a cash deposit so the funds will be immediately available, which I do every pay period. The woman who waits on me half the time, and who was the one to initially suggest this strategy, seems puzzled by my request, but goes ahead. I like having my money immediately available to me, not at some later time the bank determines it proper. Anyway.

I lament to the teller the lack of the place to purchase dress shoes in town and mention that we’re going to the nearest REAL mall, which is just inside the San Antonio city limits. The helpful teller points out to me how a woman who works at the bank with her was robbed at gunpoint in the parking lot of that particular mall a few weeks ago. Thanks for the info.

I finish my transactions and conversation and Mother and I head back out to the car. We drive on across town to the Dietert Center, arriving just before 11:30. I pull in beside an older luxury car with really big doors. I notice all the dings all along the really long door on my side. I realize why most of the cards are parked a space apart. I pull out of the parking space and park one space over, leaving an empty space on one side and a grassy break in the parking lot on the other.

Mother and I walk into the center, which is a brand new facility, opened this past April, nice red brick and overlooking the Guadalupe River. We walk up to the counter, and I tell the woman we are here for lunch, and to meet with Dawn. She asks if Dawn is expecting us and asks for my name. I’m glad she didn’t also ask for the secret code word. She directs us to the elevator, and tells us the administrative offices are to the right once we exit onto the 2nd floor.

“Did you pay for our lunches?”

“No, Mom, we’re going to Dawn’s office first.”

“Why are we doing that?”

“Dawn is eating lunch with us. We’re going to get her and then the three of us will go to the dining room.”

“Oh. Okay.”

We find the administrative offices, and yes, Dawn is there, along with her boss, who is a good friend of my boss. We exchange introductions all around as they finish up what they are doing and Dawn, Mother, and I go out into the hallway to make our way back downstairs and to the dining room. Directly across the hall from Dawn’s office is the very nice conference room with a glass window wall overlooking the river. Dawn asks if we would like to see the view.

“Are they going to bring our food to us in here?”

“No, Mom. This is the conference room. We’re just enjoying the view for a moment.”

We head down the hall, down the elevator, past the doors where we first came in, and finally make our way to the dining hall. There are quite a few people already there, and three or four ahead of us in line. The couple in front of us smells faintly medicinal, and I try to keep a little distance between us, but Mother is crowding me from behind. I step aside to let her go ahead. Dawn chats with the people behind us, who are pleasantly surprised that she is joining the group for lunch. When we get to the sign-in registry, Mother signs in, and the greeter asks about her paperwork. Dawn assures the volunteer that Mother’s paperwork has already been done, as she had lunch there several weeks ago. Dawn and I put our money into the donations box, and we are directed to Table #23.

We put our purses down, and make our way to the soup table for “Autumn Soup”. Dawn tells us there is soup every day, and it is generally quite good. There are also packages of saltines and slices of white and wheat bread. Mother takes saltines. I take wheat bread. Dawn gets our drinks for us. We wend our way back to #23, balancing soup, bread/crackers, and glasses of water. Mother asks if I will get salad for her when I get mine. I am happy to bring her a bowl which is, like my own, filled on one side with a cucumber/yogurt salad, and on the other with a black-eyed-pea/tomato salad.

On the way to the salad bar, I see Forrest, a man I know from the Unity church, there with his father. I greet him, telling him that I’m there with my mother, and he tells me that he had noticed us earlier, but we were across the room. I guess “halloooooing” across the dining room , a la Tigger, is not good form at the Dietert Center. I will remember this for future reference. In any case, it is nice that I am beginning to see people I know – it is nice that I’m beginning to know people! – and getting a hug on the way to a salad bar is always a welcome addition to one’s day.

Back at Table #23, we enjoy our soup and salads, waiting for the main serving line to open. I wonder about the advisability of a number of elderly people rushing to the serving line, but Dawn assures me that this is not the case, as we are called to the line by table number. We then start to pay more attention to the woman droning into the microphone so that we may be sure and hear our table number called.

Finally, we hear “Table #23”, and make our way around the tables to the serving line on the opposite side of the room. A portable steam table is there, with three or four people serving up a nice lunch of two pieces of chicken, a scoop of dressing, and peas-and-carrots. Gravy is ladled over each piece of chicken, but not the dressing. As we leave the serving line, I notice this, and since it seems to me that gravy should be on dressing, not necessarily on baked chicken, I go back and request gravy on my dressing as well. I am the last one back to table #23.

“You got two pieces of chicken!”

“So did you, Mom.”

“Oh. I guess I did.”

“I just asked for gravy to be put on my dressing, too.”

It is a tasty lunch, although I wonder about serving seniors bone-in chicken thighs with gravy on them, which almost necessitates using knife and fork. I have full mobility and it is a bit of a challenge for me. As we are finishing up, Dawn tells us that while table numbers are called for the serving line, dessert is first-come, first-served, once it is available. Shortly thereafter, we see that dessert has already been put on the serving line, and we are a little nervous about missing out, but there is plenty. Dawn accompanies me to the line, where she gets her dessert bowl with pound cake, custard and multi-colored sprinkles. I get two, one for myself and one for Mother. Dawn teases me about looking greedy, but we figure it will be alright once I get back to the table and hand one of them off to Mom.

One of the volunteers stops by our table and greets Mother, welcoming her and encouraging her to come again. Mother seems pleased with the attention, as am I. We finish our dessert and then it is time to go, as I have to return to work after I take Mother back home. We get to the hallway, and Mother asks Dawn where the ladies room is. Dawn points her down the hall.

“I’m going to the restroom. Don’t run off and leave me.”

I am beginning to wonder if this is merely a quirk of speech due to childhood abandonment issues or if Mother truly believes I’m going to take her somewhere and leave her. I make an impatient gesture as she walks away, and Dawn make soothing noises reminding me that this is a new situation for Mother and patience is a virtue. (Dawn – if you’re reading this, I bet you didn’t realize you conveyed all that with “now, now”.)

When Mother returns, Dawn walks us to the lobby, we thank Dawn for having lunch with us, and she very graciously thanks us for inviting her. Mother and I make our way out to the car, and then back to the house to drop her off before I head back to work.

We have plans to go for lunch again on Tuesday, when the main entree will be sausage and red cabbage, and Ellen has promised to join us. Perhaps Dawn can join us again. And Ellen has suggested that she might take Mother for lunch there week after next, when I will be out of town for several days. The plan is for Mother to have lunch there at least once a week, to get to know some of the other seniors, and eventually become interested in some of the activities that are offered during the week. That’s the plan.

Thank you, Dawn and Ellen.

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