#170 Roast Marshmallows

Some people like their marshmallows lightly roasted – the color of toasted bread and soft, almost completely melted on the inside.

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#170

Roast Marshmallows

Yesterday, I wrote about Camping (or Glamping) and anyone who’s had that experience knows the pleasure of sitting around a ‘camp’ fire. Tradition, for our family at least, has been to include marshmallows so that we can roast or toast them as an evening treat. There have been many a conversation about how to do just that.

Perfection

Some people like their marshmallows lightly roasted – the color of toasted bread (perhaps where the term “toasted” originates) – and soft, almost completely melted on the inside. It’s accomplished by finding a part of the fire that is mostly molten coals with a low blue flame,  if any. A slight roterisse action will assure coverage across the entire circumference. It will bubble just slightly and color slowly. If your marshmallow meets matches this description and you wait just a few minutes after pulling it back from the fire – it will be slightly crispy on the outside as the sugar begins to crystalize again – making it absolute perfection – IMHO.

Variations

Others seem to find enjoyment by placing their marshmallow directly into the flame until it, in itself, becomes a torch. Quickly, it turns black and will consume the sugar entirely if it is not blown out. The underbelly of these are still firm and can often be toasted again if only the blistered ‘skin’ was removed. It’s a great way to extend the life of your marshmallow if – you can tolerate the ‘burned’ flavor. There are a few who are fearful of burning and lack patience to thoroughly roast so they ‘warm’ their mallow to the point of being soft enough to quickly dissolve.

Alternatives

A campfire is perhaps, the most favorited location to pass a bag of fresh marshmallows but it’s absolutely not the only way to experience the joy of the sugary treat. In recent years we’ve seen an explosion of homeowners with backyard fire pits or chimineas on patios and decks – offering year round alternatives to traditional campfires. In the absence of those options, there’s always the convenience of a gas grill or the flame of your own gas stove. In a pinch, there’s the heat produced by the electric burner on your kitchen range. Pop a marshmallow on a large meat fork, turn the burner on high and rotate. (I may have resorted to that method a time or two during my apartment living years.) As a novelty, a few companies now manufacture ‘roasting kits’ using a small sterno can as flame fuel. Hey, whatever works!

Savor the memories

No matter how you do it, the simple act of popping a perfectly roasted marshmallow into your mouth or smashing it between graham crackers with a block of chocolate (s’more) will instantly remind you of one of the most fun aspects of childhood. Take yourself back and enjoy a few minutes of pleasant memories by savoring the flavor and all that it brings with the satisfactory act of…

Roasting marshmallows.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below

#210 Sit by a Waterfall

Adding the element of water is akin to icing the best cake. It improves stress reduction techniques that are proven to increase happiness.

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#210

Sit by a waterfall

Much of the USA is draped in sweltering heat this time of year and other than air conditioning, only a few options for relief exist. One of them is any location in close proximity to a waterfall. Often, there are shade trees to soften the intensity of the sun and as the water moves over rock and falls, it stirs the air and simultaneously cools.

Moving Air

Even if you live in a major metropolitan region, there are water features available in the form of fountains that serve much the same function as a natural waterfall; water – colder than air temperature – moving the air and cooling it. There may be less natural shade in that environment but it’s a close second. In the event that you live a more suburban life, there is a good chance that a waterfall exists within a drivable distance. A basic Google search for waterfalls near Philadelphia returned an article listing 11 that were an easy drive away. Pack a picnic, put the kids in the car, and escape the heat with a little hike leading up to a cool lunch location.

Liquid Music

The sound of falling water is a known soother. Rain, creeks, and waterfalls are options on a variety of white noise machines advertised to calm our nerves and induce relaxation. It acts as a buffer to city noise or the chatter in our brain. It connects us to nature in the most elementary way.

De-Stress

Eliminating the stress and misery that comes with bracing the summer heat will certainly improve one’s disposition and overall sense of well-being. Getting outdoors and into air that moves – a little at least – compounds the benefit. Adding the element of water is akin to icing the best cake. It improves stress reduction techniques that are proven to increase happiness.

Escape the heat – reduce the stress – and make your way to the nearest location that allows you to…

Sit by a Waterfall

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#223 Ban Electronics from one Room

In order to experience one of the primary benefits of being a family – we have to actually talk to one another, engage in eye contact, and offer our exclusive attention to one another.

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#223

Ban electronics from one room in your home.

This suggestion will improve your family and interpersonal life… guaranteed! Easily for the last ten years, electronics of all types have infiltrated the most elementary moments in our lives and disrupted our ability to feel connected even in our own living rooms.

Disconnected

As a psychotherapist, I am frequently hearing how disconnected people feel from others in their home because someone they love – and desire attention from – is consumed with activity on their phone. It doesn’t matter if it is gaming, social media, or news… the fact that it is accessible from the palm of our hand seems to create a temptation for constant access no matter where we are or what is happening. How many of us try to watch television AND play on or watch something else simultaneously on our phone?  

Belonging

In order to experience one of the primary benefits of being a family – we have to actually talk to one another, engage in eye contact, and offer our exclusive attention to one another. It’s the oldest method of establishing belonging that is known. Any distraction can negatively impact this process; leaving people floundering for a sense of communion.

The Solution

There’s a quick and easy fix for this problem! Ban electronics (phones, ipads, laptops, etc…) from just ONE room in your home – ideally, the room you most often ‘gather’ in. It’s a simple rule that isn’t really any different than taking your shoes off at the front door… something implemented and enforced will eventually become habit and second nature. Before you know it, everyone in the room will be engaged in a shared conversation, focused on the movie, or concentrating on the game and experiencing a strong sense of belonging once you…

Ban electronics from one room in your home.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

 

Beautiful Death

We developed a strong, robust connection – a form of ‘super glue’ – that we thought was impervious.

“Love your family. Spend time, be kind & serve one another. Make no room for regrets. Tomorrow is not promised & today is short.” – Unknown

I loved having my mother live near me. Coinciding with Mom’s move was hiring one of the twins – Abee – to work with our company; and so, she too… moved (in with mom). She was the perfect addition to our staff as we expanded and implemented a customer service position. I was elated to have family close by and my sister and I soon became great friends, expanding our relationship beyond sisterhood. We shared an office at work and enjoyed family time off the clock. She was a wonderful mentor to our daughters. She and I shared some of the medical advocacy responsibility for mom as they (Mom and step-dad) made frequent trips to Walter Reed. On one of those trips, mom asked Frank (her husband, my step-dad, sister’s dad – not to be confused with my son Francis also known as Frank in High School…) to have a mole checked out that had grown sufficiently to interfere with the arm of his eyeglasses.

It wasn’t ‘just’ a mole. Within a week, it – the mole – along with a large margin of surrounding tissue and a series of lymph nodes had been removed. He had (literally) a monstrous line of staples running from his temple down the side of his face and across his neck to the base of his shoulder. Within another week, he was receiving aggressive radiation for what had been determined to be Stage Four Malignant Melanoma. It was just less than a year since we had moved them nearby to help with Mom’s illness and Step-dad (SD) Frank was receiving a cancer death sentence. After a couple of months, it was clear that radiation was not working and he was advised to call Hospice and go home; that’s what they did. It was early June.

Abee’s twin had been married a few years back and had a baby the prior fall. They came often to visit that summer. We all spent a lot of time at Mom’s house as a family. When we weren’t working, we were together in some capacity. We took turns nursing a garden for SD Frank, who loved gardening and sitting on the porch chain smoking. We would sit with him, smoking far too many cigs ourselves, speaking quite philosophically about life, love, and hope. One thing was sure. He loved our mother. He was more protective of her than any other man I’ve known in any relationship with the exception perhaps of my maternal grandmother and grandfather. It was a beautiful example of the chivalry that one thinks of when considering the definition of a champion – at least in my mind. Her well-being was foremost in his mind at any given time. It was endearing and I loved him more because of the way he loved my mother – the way he made her life better and easier. I wanted to be loved and taken care of like that.

I wanted to ask him to say hello to Rocky for me – to give him my love – when he finally made it to heaven, but it felt somewhat callous so I never actually spoke those words but I thought them each time we would sit together. He found a wonderful way of being present and in-the-moment with every person who was with him that summer. He was peaceful and gentle and loving and kind until cancer went to his brain. Then, he wasn’t himself. By then it was August and he was running out of time. I spoke to him pragmatically and told him how fortunate I was to have had him in my life as a father figure. I was so deeply grateful for his support of me over the years he was a part of my life. Much of any success I experienced was in part – because of his support. I expressed appreciation for all the patience he had with me through the years as I grew from a snotty little brat into a cohort of sorts. I told him how much I loved him and how we would all band together to make sure that mom was ok. I was sitting there as Hubby let him know that he would look after us, make sure our needs were met – all the gals.

If ever there was a beautiful death, it was his. We were prepared, we thought. He had been ‘out of it’ for several days and heavily medicated for two or three. He was peaceful and still. Mom was anything but… she was so immensely emotional that none of us could comfort her. The nurse was telling us that he should have passed hours earlier, she didn’t know why he was holding on. We, the twins, our brother, myself, Hubby, and my children, along with a few Hospice people, were in and out of the room – mostly in – as we sat and waited for him to take his last breath. We would all hold ours when we noticed any irregularity in his and then with the sound of an inhale, we would exhale and the wait would resume. In the meantime, Mom continued her outpouring of grief without control of her tears. Eventually, she crawled up, in bed with SD Frank and laid with him –  her head on his shoulder, sobbing gently, until she fell asleep. Then, without apparent hesitation – with his beloved resting and momentarily calm – he left. In a matter of micro moments, there was peace in the room – not in the quiet sense – but in the way of the spirit. He quickly and quietly slipped out of this existence, away from the living energy in that room and it was palpable that his essence had moved away.

He was the 3rd person ever and indeed, the 3rd most important man in my life – to leave. I found it very difficult to process that men I loved – died. Hubby was the only man of any importance left in my life and frankly, I was still having trouble trusting him.

SD Frank didn’t just leave me of course. He left mom (his wife) and his daughters. Abee was particularly close to her dad and his death hit her hard. She and mom hunkered down in their grief in a way that was almost impenetrable; mom especially. Within a month or two she was diagnosed with a Lung neoplasm that required resection and via wet slide was determined benign only to discover – two weeks later – that a fully developed sample indicated malignancy. They went back in – through scars not yet hardened, to remove a larger section of her right lobe. We – all her children – stayed close by, taking turns, caring for our grieving mother. Abee became her primary physical and emotional caregiver – they became extensions of my immediate family. In our mourning of SD Frank, we bonded with one another in a way that many families fail. Abee and Mom moved into a new house in an effort to begin a new life; still close enough to be a part of our everyday experience. I loved dropping in and having a morning cup of coffee with mom or coming home only to find her finishing my laundry as a surprise (for some quacky reason, she found laundry to be relaxing and offering her a sense of accomplishment). Of course, Abee, Hubby and I continued to work together and build a business that had somehow become a ‘family’ vision.

We developed a strong, robust connection – a form of ‘super glue’ – that we thought was impervious.

Only Darkness

Everyone went back to their own lives and I was left to face each sunrise and each sunset in a way that was unfamiliar to me; unwanted.

“Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.”
― Mary Oliver

I was a widow.  Prior to this moment I was mostly untouched by death; the very old grandmother of a childhood friend and my own grandfather that I had barely known.  One day we were talking about more babies, going to school, buying a house, and our next vacation – two weeks later I was picking out a coffin and planning funeral music. It was the most surreal experience of my life. Please people…. Pick out your own coffin!! Make your own funeral arrangements!! Do NOT let your loved ones have to do it…

How does one coffin shop?? A funeral director ushers you into a room full of them and explains the benefits of one from another. This one is particle board covered in velvet – it’s the least expensive. This one is Brazilian Cherry and lined with satin. This one has 7 layers of steel with a lead core to survive a nuclear explosion. This one has a time capsule for DNA so the body will never have to be exhumed. Are you f***ing kidding me? I want my husband back!

I left my body. I was aware of sounds and people. I was aware of where I was but I became someone else. It was as if I was back in high school, on stage, playing a part. Rocky wasn’t the velvet type… maybe Cherry… it was warm looking. I wanted him to be warm.  I saw something with a flannel interior and chose that one.

Do you have a favorite reading? Do you want someone to sing? What kind of music? When? Where? How? Who? Holy shit… shut up people. Leave me alone! My soul was screaming but my voice was deciding. He loved Journey and Little River Band – play those songs. Yes, On Eagles Wings – that’s nice… Sure, she can sing it. I floated above it all remembering our wedding night when some fool packed the car air vents with flour so that we were blasted as soon as the car was started and looked like two old people checking into the hotel. It was apparently, not… a vision of our future. I was remembering our first kiss… it was some kiss! I was remembering the sight of him holding our son for the first time… such love. So many dreams, not enough memories.

My sister-in-laws took me shopping for something to wear. I wasn’t so concerned about being stylish or fashionably chic, nor did I care about how well my purchase would fit. My primary concern was finding something that I ‘felt’ beautiful in, not for me – for Rocky. I wanted to be beautiful. I was searching for something that felt calm and comfortable yet highlighted my best features, perhaps the color of my hair. It couldn’t say happy but I was adamant that it did not shout sad. It could not be black, navy, or brown. It shouldn’t be too short or too long; the fabric not too thick or too thin. I was not sure if it should be one piece or two, and I was undecided about the sleeve. We were in hunting mode, searching for just the right thing. Eventually, I settled on a light peach linen suit and an ivory blouse with satin buttons and a round collar. It was feminine, soft, and quite respectful. It worked with my strawberry blonde hair and most importantly, it didn’t scream funeral.

I dressed up and showed up at the funeral home on the night of the private viewing. It was for family only. I did not go into the room where he was on display. I was unwilling to see my husband as a dead man (ultimately a mistake). I was told that the funeral director did a fantastic job with makeup, etc…

That’s nice ~ with a southern slur**

I was still detached. Existing on another plane where I was safe and not alone and loved.  In reality, I was surrounded by so. many. people. Rocky’s large family had all flown in. My dad and step-mom drove in along with a few other relatives. His co-workers, mom’s friends and neighbors whom we had started to know. I don’t know where Francis was… I seem to remember making a decision to keep him away from the ceremonial affairs because I didn’t want him to be negatively impacted by all the emotions, but I can’t remember who had him. I logically know many of these people loved – and still love – me. It’s just that, well – they weren’t HIM.

I got through it. We all did. Indeed – there were lots of funny stories and laughter that goes with them. There were tears – lots.

I couldn’t go back to the house where we had been a family; it was too much for my spirit. His brothers went through things so that I didn’t have to. Someone moved our stuff into storage. I kept a pair of 501 Jeans (because his butt…well, it was so HOT in them!) and I kept his Navy whites. I don’t really remember making all of those decisions and I’m sure some of them were made on my behalf, out of compassion and concern. I’m not sure any were made out of understanding; even my own. How does one understand the death of a 23 year old whose whole life was yet to be lived – or the wishes of his widow – or the lonely cries from his child? How?

I know I was not the only one struggling with these impossible questions but I was so deeply immersed in my personal loss that I was unable to really consider the experience from the perspective of his parents or siblings. It took me years if not decades to be willing to look in that direction. At some point, everyone left. Everyone went back to their own lives and I was left to face each sunrise and each sunset in a way that was unfamiliar to me; unwanted.

A friend took me to her parent’s beach house for a week. We took the kids too.  Then a week later, I went back to work because there was nothing else to do. I didn’t know how to be a widow. I was so very pissed at the world. This was NOT supposed to be my life. I thought God and I had agreed that me – as a single parent – was off the table. Rocky and I had mapped out our lives…. there was going to be three children, a house, and a career by 30. It was planned. It was imagined. If that wasn’t going to happen – what was? What was in store for me?  For our son? What did the universe want from us?

Each morning when I opened my mind – there was only darkness.

**That’s nice ~ with a southern slur** – My mother told a story about a proper southern woman who believed it completely unladylike and immoral to curse. And so, from time to time you could hear her say “That’s nice” with a gentle smile and a slight nod of her head. When asked if she ‘really’ thought it was nice?? she replied “Why no darlin’ – that’s how us Southern women say “FUCK YOU”.

Photo credit: Infomastern via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

No Coming Back

It was my deepest, darkest, most shameful secret and I just couldn’t hold back – I had nothing left to protect myself with.

This is a continuation of the the post A Yellow Kite

In those first minutes, the blur people speak of became my reality. Life was happening all at once and had completely stopped simultaneously. I could hear the Life Flight helicopter approaching as I saw Rocky attempt to stand and Jack yelling at him to calm down. Someone had enough where-with-all to think that he was probably in shock and they were attempting to wrap him in blankets. They wouldn’t let me get close.

Where did all those people come from? We lived in the country – out in the middle of nowhere but the dirt road was lined with trucks and cars and people. The only real sound came from inside my head where screams overlapped with how? What? Shit! Oh my God! – his name on repeat between the sobs. Where was my baby? Someone had taken the children someplace and part of me didn’t care. I couldn’t think. I wanted my mother. I remember she was on the phone trying to tell me to get in the car and she would meet me at the hospital. I have no idea how I got there. I have no memory of the hour long drive. I’m pretty sure someone else drove.

As soon as I gave my name in the ER I was ushered into a private room where my mom and stepdad were waiting. They were with a doctor and I was convinced he was telling them that Rocky was dead. I buried my face in my mom’s chest as she wrapped her arms around me. I intentionally cried loud enough not to hear.  I wanted to fold into the floor, to go back to that morning, to say yes and steel five minutes of sexy time, to go even further and walk past the kite instead of buying it. I wanted to go back to anywhere but there.

He’s alive they were all saying. It’s bad but he’s alive. After minutes of deep breathing I could hear again. The doctors were trying to tell me that he’d been taken to surgery; that after electrocution, time was of the essence. He had been microwaved. They explained that the electricity entered through his hands (which were thrust up to his chest) and then exited through his feet and buttocks as he fell to the ground. The entrance wounds where the worst. They were going to have to cut away the badly burned parts if they were going to have any hope at preventing infection. I gave my permission. My parents had seen him as he came in off the chopper and told me he was conscious. One of the medics had even shared that while in flight – he had discussed his low blood pressure as being impossible since he was awake and alert (Rocky had been a Corpsman – medic – in the Navy and was headed to nursing school that fall). We all waited.

Eventually we were told that amputations had been completed on his left hand and most of his right arm. Over 80% of his body had been badly burned. He had a 90% chance of dying. Due to the massive amounts of fluid they needed to give him, we would notice swelling – extreme swelling. When I finally got to see him, sometime in the middle of the night, his head was the size of a basketball and his eyes were completely encased. He was bandaged from head to toe practically. He was on a ventilator but could hear me they said. I was simply numb. I was completely cried out. All I could do was sit there and go inside my head to that place where it was just us, where we were looking into one another’s eyes with passion and intensity and we knew that we would always be.

….

Rocky’s parents and siblings began to arrive as quickly as flights could get them there from the Mid and North West. Together we were a force that pretty much took over the Burn Unit waiting room. Everyone took shifts except me. I stayed. They tried to get me to go home but I can be pretty stubborn and I wasn’t leaving my man. Mom brought me clothes and the nurses allowed me to shower in the unit when no one was paying attention. People brought food, coffee, books, magazines, and sat with me. We laughed a lot and we cried a lot. Some people prayed. I wasn’t exactly ‘praying’. I was demanding. I was telling God what to do and when to make it happen. I was mad at God. Time continued to tick by. By Wednesday (the accident was on Sunday) it seemed that he was stable. I knew that our friends were keeping Francis and that he was safe and happy. I just really needed a night’s rest in a bed so I agreed to go home for the night – I went to moms. At 2 a.m., someone woke me because the hospital was on the line. Rocky was in respiratory distress. They had been doing blood gases every 15 minutes and they were not stable. I’d better come back. I knew it. I knew that I wasn’t supposed to leave. I knew he would know if I wasn’t there. I was pissed at everyone who tried to tell me otherwise. I didn’t care that they were trying to take care of me. I needed to take care of him and I did that by being there. To hell if I would leave again.

On Friday the swelling had gone down enough that he could open his eyes. We taped a photograph on the ceiling over his bed so that it was the first thing he saw – his wife and son. As soon as I knew he was alert they allowed me in to see him. He had the most beautiful blue eyes… they were open and looking at me.

They were not hopeful eyes. They were sad eyes. They cried soft tears that slid down each cheek and my heart slowly broke into a gazillion pieces. He was trying to talk but was still intubated. I attempted to guess his most pressing concern and started to play 20 questions but he was quickly frustrated because I would NOT go where he was going. I begged him to settle down and heal; to be strong for us; not to leave us. I begged him.

We were interrupted by nurses taking him in for debriding (removing dead tissue), which had to happen every couple of days. He was given anesthesia but I was told it was excruciatingly painful. As usual, we collected in the waiting room and allowed time to pass. It was an intensive care unit and we had become used to Code Blue announcements but your heart always skipped a beat or two when they were announced over the PA system. This time, a Unit nurse walked into the doorway of the waiting room and looked at me with silent, big, sad eyes. I lost it. I began screaming No!! No!! God No!! with my hands over my ears and my eyes closed. I put my head in my mother’s lap and refused to sit up.

Someone peeled my hands away long enough to tell me he was still alive. They had resuscitated him. He was still alive. Oh. My. God. It felt as though everything that was solid under my feet had been turned to mush. I had been hysterical, Rocky had died and then come back, it felt as though my life was completely upside down. Nothing felt real.

More hours and days passed. Doctors decided to skip the next scheduled debriding in an effort to give Rock’s body more strength. He had not regained consciousness since he coded in the OR. Actually, the neurologist suggested that he probably had sustained brain damage during the cardiac arrest and may not come back. I was in denial. It was now Monday – the 9th day. It was absolutely necessary to debride again so he was taken back into the OR. I just couldn’t stay there I couldn’t wait there again and wonder if every code called would be his. I left the floor and found myself in the chapel in another part of the hospital entirely.

I sat there in fear. I needed to beg God to save Rocky but I didn’t deserve anything from God and I knew it. I cried. “Please God, I need you, please.” I was crying harder and much louder than was appropriate for a chapel but I was alone; or so I thought. A Chaplain came and slowly sat down beside me and put a hand on my shoulder. I leaned into him until we were engaged in a full on embrace.  He was holding me and I felt as though I could have absorbed as much – if not everything – he had to give. I settled down and caught my breath. We began to talk. I shared the events of that past week and the current circumstances. I was – there – the most vulnerable I had ever – ever been. I was broken and humble and stripped of defenses. I told him about an abortion I had at the age of 19. It was my deepest, darkest, most shameful secret and I just couldn’t hold back – I had nothing left to protect myself with.

The Chaplain was compassionate and loving. He was accepting and consoling. I felt stronger when I left and headed toward the Burn Unit. As soon as I walked into the new part of the hospital I could hear my name being paged over the PA system.  I knew it. I had taken a life from God and now God had taken a life from me. I ran.

Rocky had coded again – he had let go – and there was no coming back.  My first thought…

“Who’s going to love me now?”

Notes:

I will discuss abortion in more detail in another post – THIS post is not about Pro Rights or Women’s rights – it is about my shame and my loss. Please be respectful of that if you wish to comment.

There is no rational element that I can point to today for the thoughts I had then. I am simply sharing the experience of where I was and I will ultimately share how I got to a new place.

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A Yellow Kite

NO! NO No no no no….

I could spend an entire post or two just sharing shenanigans about the U-Haul and a cross country trip with a 9 month old. Francis and I almost died; Rock would have been oblivious for hours. We packed and unpacked the truck three times and drove across country – San Diego to Va. Beach with a few stops along the way for sightseeing and visiting family. We were so happy to be together and free of the US Navy’s demands that we celebrated all the small things there were to experience. We knew that real life awaited us but we also knew that for those few weeks, we had everything we would ever need because we were three.

Within a couple of weeks of arriving in Virginia we had jobs and a place to live. It was a time of true creativity. We only owned one car and we were both employed. As luck would have it, the little house we rented was just down the road from Rocky’s boss so he was able to carpool each morning. I dropped Francis off at daycare around noon and then Rocky picked him up and went to my mom’s house until I could get there in the early evenings. It was a routine that worked for us well. Rocky and Francis got some good time together, my family bonded with them both, and we were settling in to family life. Our little house in the country was just across the North Carolina, literally a stone’s throw from the Virginia Beach border. It was country though. Miles of cornfields and swamps surrounded us.  It was a dirt road and it was quiet.

Our little house had been hand built by its owner. It had a wall of windows that overlooked a field across the street. In the center of this house was a wood stove, the only source of heat. There were three bedrooms; one for us, one for the baby, and another for the waterbed that we sometimes chose to sleep in. We had a washer but no drier. The clothes rack was set by the woodstove in the winter and on nice days, it went outside. It was a simple life.

One day we drove home together and Rocky seemed nervous. He wouldn’t admit to there being ‘anything wrong’ so I was silent for most of the drive. We got home and entered into our evening routine of dinner, bath, and bedtime but he was outside for most of that time – doing something at the rear of the property where there was a shed type work shop (void of most everything that would be necessary to properly use the word ‘workshop’). After dinner he asked me to bring the baby out back – he had something to show us. I cleaned smashed peas off the cute baby cheeks of our rolly polly baby boy and heaved him up to my hip as I walked out the back door and across the lawn to where Rocky stood with a sly half smile attempting to burst from his face.

Behind him was a five foot fence that enclosed a rather large space, the remnants of a ‘dog run’ from the previous owner. I saw something move inside the fence and stepped backward quickly. “We have a pet” he said, and the smile finally emerged, full and furious, across his face. I looked behind him and saw a PIG, a small, pink, and naked, pig was in that dog run – running in circles and loving life.

We (or rather I) named that pig Christmas in hopes that it would become our Christmas ham. I was unimpressed. We were pretty much broke and Rocky explained that we would need to buy feed for him at the expense of approximately $20 per month – money we didn’t have in the budget.  But… it was really an investment in meat he would argue.  We would raise him, butcher him, and eat him for much less overall than the cost of the same meat we could purchase at the grocery store.  That was what he explained to me each time I attempted to rediscover the rationalization he provided. I finally figured out that he hadn’t taken into consideration the $200 chest freezer we would have to buy to accommodate all that protein.

Can I just say that neither one of us knew anything at all about animal husbandry. This poor pig. As it turns out, that dog run was just too dag gone big.  Pigs need to get FAT and it they have too much running space – well…. They don’t get fat. We eventually figured it out and closed that baby in until the pig – Christmas – was sitting most of the day – confined to approximately 12 square feet. (I hope that isn’t considered cruelty.) Christmas day passed……

It was February before that Pig was ready to be slaughtered and it was a chore to find a way to transport him to the bacon factory. Rocky was on it…. And got it done! By March 1st we were picking out freezers and anxiously awaiting the message telling us we could pick up 200 lbs of organic, prime, homegrown pork. We were excited actually. We had followed through with something big. That pig had been a chore. It had gotten out of the pen on more than one occasion, routed through the yard like it was Easter candy, and taken a share of our budget that would never be recovered. I was ready to celebrate its bounty. We invited friends over for the weekend.

Our friends had three children, two older and a baby the same age as our Francis. It was supposed to be a great weekend weather wise so I bought a kite for their kids to fly in the field across the street from our little house. Since it was March, the corn hadn’t yet been planted and it was just a great place to play (at least that is how I envisioned it). The kids were 8, 6, and 2 if I remember correctly and used to playing outside so a kite was just the ticket on Sunday, March 10th, 1985. It was yellow. We were contemplating going into Norfolk – to the zoo. In the meantime, keeping the kids busy was a priority. We gave them the kite and told them to go across the street. I vaguely heard Jack Sr. issue a warning but paid no mind as I set out to cook up the first of that prime bacon we were sharing with our friends. A big hearty breakfast was in order. Annette and I moved in unison as two mothers preparing a meal often do – synchronizing our kitchen movements in perfect harmony as we prepared a morning meal for eight.

That was the BEST bacon I’ve ever had. I unapologetically had no remorse about Christmas the pig but instead savored the organic goodness; we all did. Rock and I cleaned up while the Mills family took all the kids outside to enjoy the day and the kite. It was quiet in the house and my frisky man who found sexy in everything we did together was more about finding five minutes of privacy than he was about cleaning up – I quickly understood his sudden eagerness to wash dishes. The only thing between us and six other people was an unlocked door so I was compelled to reject this advance and asked for a postponement of his proposed rapture. (I may have said “go away you crazy man” but my ‘postponement of proposed rapture’ sounds so much nicer and way more romantic).

It wasn’t but a few minutes later (I thankfully made the right decision) that we heard commotion outside and went out to discover that someone had let go of the kite and it was now flying – fully engaged with the wind – from the high tension power line that crossed through the adjacent field. Oh well…. It was only a $5 kite. We began discussing how we would spend the rest of the day – the zoo or the waterfront? For some reason, Jack and Rocky were hyper-concerned about leaving that kite where it was. They were convinced that if the wind died down, the kite could become a hazard if it was still attached to the power line and started to devise a plan to dislodge it.  The plan was to throw bricks up in an effort to jar the stick (that was holding the kite string) off the wires. They grabbed a couple of bricks and threw – over and over and over. There were a couple of close calls but ultimately they were exhausting themselves chasing the brick after each throw. It apparently seemed like a good idea to get rope – tie it around the brick – so that after throwing it, they could simply pull it back. There was no arguing with either of them. They were explicit in their goal. Throw after throw and then – the brick did exactly what that kite stick had done – wrapped right around the power line and was dangling … taunting those young, stubborn, invincible men.

We women were getting frustrated and impatient. The kids were restless and it felt as though the men were inviting trouble. They agreed they would stop after getting the rope down – that they would give up on the kite. Just pulling on the rope wasn’t working and so they used their limited knowledge of physics to consider that by tying a brick around the dangling end of the rope and throwing it up – the potential for it to actually make it up and over (i.e. unwrapping from) the line- was better. What no one knew is that the ‘rope’ they were using was actually the old style of clothesline…. Rubber coated copper wire.

As Rocky attempted to wrap the ‘rope’ around the brick, the exposed end made contact and there was suddenly a route for the 44,000 volts of electricity to ground.

There was a flash of light – screams – and I looked up in time to see my blonde god falling backwards.

NO! NO No no no no….