Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Fat Tuesday

Happy Mardi Gras Day!

According to Wipedia, Mardi gras is French for Fat Tuesday,  referring to the practice of the last night of eating richer, fatty foods before the ritual fasting of Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday.

We had our own carnivale right here at The Resort in Mesa, Arizona.

Who knew?

Residents staked out their spots early to watch the festive Mardi Gras parade, and lawn chairs could be seen lining the streets of Clubhouse Boulevard. 

The parade was set to snake up the north side of the boulevard and then around and down the south side. We sat on the south side and we could hear the parade approach around the corner, heading our way.

The excitement grew.

And then, there they came. Led, naturally, by the American flag. All stood up, removed their caps and saluted, as protocol for any decent, upstanding parade. The Canadian flag was also proudly carried as there are many snowbirds here from Canada.

The flag procession down South Clubhouse Boulevard.

The flag procession was followed by not one, not two, not three but five golf carts. All bedecked with mask cutouts, beads, crepe paper and balloons. 

The decorations weren't what made this cart special, 
but the women's faces were painted and their costumes were wonderful.  

And, of course, what would any parade be without candy being thrown out onto the street? We collected at least five Starburst candies, a few Tootsie Rolls and a necklace or two. Such a haul we made.

In costume, throwing candy and honking, were our favorite clowns,
Betty (left) and Thelma (right).

Thelma is our neighbor across the street and is the most fun-loving person around. Always game for a parade or a party. There are usually several golf carts gathered around her home, sometimes late into the evening, and we know there are laughs and good times going on inside.

One of these days, we'll crash the party and see for ourselves....

In the meantime, a good time was had today right here at The Resort, with our very own Carnivale.

And as Mardi Gras tradition dictates, we'll be having pancakes for supper.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The first waffle

Many years ago, when my children were small, we attended a weekend family retreat. The children went off to work on craft projects with their leaders while the adults gathered for a presentation on parenting.

The guest speaker took us through the roles each child assumes in the family, according to their birth order. "Ordinal positioning," he called it.

He described the oldest child by comparing them to the first waffle.

When you make waffles, the first one is often "experimental" as you determine that the waffle iron is exactly the right temperature and you've poured exactly the right amount of batter into it; that you have opened the cover in exactly the right time for the waffle to be completely done without over or under-cooking.

Then your confidence builds with each waffle that follows, the speaker continued. He suggested, tongue-in-cheek, that perhaps we should just discard that first waffle.

I am the oldest of six children. That first waffle.

The first waffle.
Far from perfect.
The responsibility is great and the challenge daunting for the parents of a first-born. It will continue to be daunting as they try to determine just what this child needs, just how to respond, just how far they can go, just how much freedom to allow. And you worry that they won't be just perfect.

Because that is what you expect with your first child:  perfection.

After all, they are a reflection on you.

And then comes Child #2. You relax a bit. The first child seems to be doing okay. And with Child #3, you relax even more, as the first two have done nicely. You loosen your grip. Things just come naturally. All is well.

Besides, you don't have time to focus all of your energy on one child, as you did before.

But much continues to be expected from that first child.

The waffles that follow come so much easier, but that first waffle is still a bit too crisp around the edges, a bit undone in the center. You keep pushing to make it better and better, more and more perfect.

That is the plight of the first child. I should know. I lived it. Much was expected. I was the example for my four sisters and brother. They were watching me. Comparing everything to me.

But oh, the joys the first child experiences!  I got those, too.

Me with Mom and Dad
The first high school graduation
Having your parents delight in all your firsts, because you go through them first. The first words, first steps, the first to board the school bus. The first to read, the first to graduate, the first wedding, the first grandchild.

It is a privilege to be the first-born, despite having to suffer through the anxieties and over-protectiveness of your doting parents. 

And yes, there is responsibility.

When my father died nine years ago, I was an emotional wreck. I helped my mother carry out funeral plans, but I was not the one looked to by others for strength, because Mom was there.

I cried through the entire service, and though I had written a eulogy, I could barely deliver it. My sister, Christine, had to come forward to help me read it.

I didn't understand how my mother could be so calmly singing "What A Friend We Have in Jesus," listening to the minister so intently, greeting people with sincere gratitude for coming, graciously accepting my father's flag at the cemetery.

But when my mother passed last month, I was a tower of strength. I was able to make decisions, carry out funeral arrangements, notify friends and relatives, sing robustly throughout the service, confidently deliver the eulogy without written notes, direct others through the burial and the luncheon that followed.

All without a tear. I felt like a cement block.

Why?  Because I am the oldest and it was expected. Training since the day I was born to take over, and I was prepared.

It was a privilege that I felt deep inside my heart. My sisters and brother looked to me, as the oldest. The first-born. A place of honor. I was ready.

When we knew we were losing our mother at the hospital, and were gathered together as a family, my sister, Edie, turned to me and said softly, "Carol, will you be our Mom, now?"

No request has ever been made of me that has touched me so deeply.

The only feeling that tops it is the overwhelming awe I felt with the birth of my own first-born. I hope I have prepared her well without expecting perfection, knowing I probably did just that.

The retreat speaker all those years ago may have been thought-provoking.

But I will never discard a first waffle.

Friday, February 3, 2012

A day in Scottsdale

Early this week, our friends, the Minars, awaited a phone call from their daughter in Minnesota, telling them of an impending date for surgery which would necessitate a trip back home for them, either for a week or so, or possibly the entire season.

On pins and needles, not knowing what the doctors had in mind and waiting for the news, we all decided it was a good day for a distraction and headed to Scottsdale, about a 30-minute drive from Mesa.

We had never been there, and since they had, they acted as tour guides. Downtown Scottsdale is beautiful with upscale shops, art studios, pottery, silversmiths, clothing, restaurants, and more, more, more.

Only one of the beautiful fountains in Scottsdale
Much of the artwork and pottery pieces we saw were typical Southwestern art that I love. Small boutique-type shops featured local art and unique one-of-a-kind handmade things not found elsewhere.

After a morning of browsing, we had worked up an appetite.
The Minars recommended an authentic Mexican restaurant where they had dined before. So we feasted on enchiladas, tacos, Coronas and Margaritas on the outdoor patio.

It was a perfect-weather day, I might add. Bright sun, and mid-70s with a light breeze.

Perfect day, all around.

We took a trolley to Old Town where we were met by...guess what? More shops...and even more shops!

Just when we thought we needed to rest our legs a bit, we spotted a bench with one of those bronze statues that you can have photos taken with. So I suggested taking a picture of Mary Kay snuggling up against the bronze guy; and while she got settled for a good pose, I busied myself getting the camera all ready to snap the perfect picture.

Mary Kay and her "bronze" buddy
Well, this wasn't exactly the pose...

She was about to place her hand on the "bronze" guy's knee when suddenly he moved! It wasn't a statue at all, but a real man. I wish I hadn't been monkeying with the camera because I'd have loved to see the expression on her face to match the scream I heard. I looked up just in time to see him wink and she was laughing hysterically.

After that, we all felt like we had reached our saturation points with all the shops, and headed back for some yogurt and sorbet sundaes.

But I came home with a prize. A Mexican pot and stand, signed by the artist, found at a second-hand store (the only one we saw) for $30.

At the end of the day, however, the real prize for all of us was spending the day together, laughing, shopping, dining, enjoying each other. Forgetting the worry for a short time.

Then the phone call came.

And so this weekend, our friends will head back to Minnesota for their daughter's surgery and will remain there for the season. Chemotherapy will follow the surgery and their daughter will need their help.

We would do the same thing as we share with our friends the same family values, and we understand. We will miss them.

But we will be right here praying for a successful outcome for both the surgery and the rounds of chemo treatments, and we will pray for complete healing for this precious young woman.

We share each others' burdens because that is what friends do.

Thank you for the wonderful day spent with you, Mary Kay and Bob. And God go with you on your travels home.