Do you have a coat hanger?

I left the house at 10:30 a.m. today, an extra hour early, for an appointment in Lexington. I wanted to have time to meet my friend first to pick up some makeup I’d ordered. I arrived at the Shell gas station a bit before she did and figured I may as well fill my car up while I awaited her arrival. I pulled up to the pump, locked my doors, leaving the driver side door open, as I do when I get gas. While the gas was pumping, I thought I may as well throw away the trash that had accumulated in my car. I gathered all the trash from the cubby inside the car door into my hands, walked to the trash receptacle, and dumped it. The gas had finished pumping so I removed the pump and hung it back up. I turned to get back inside my car, but the door was shut. What? Evidently, I had accidentally and unknowingly bumped my car door with my butt when I was throwing garbage in the trash bin. Not enough to close it all the way, but enough that I could not open the door. I wondered if I closed the door completely if the key fob in my purse (on the floorboard of my car) would work to unlock it. I didn’t try it, and I’m glad.

There I stood — locked out of my car. It was at that moment that my friend, Whitney, pulled up next to me. We exchanged greetings, then I told her I was locked out of my car.  She asked me where my phone was, and I said, “It’s in my car.”  “So you need to call someone,” she responded.  “Yup”.  I had no idea who I’d call though. Probably a locksmith.

Luckily, Whitney’s aunt, who just happens to be a mechanic, emerged from Whitney’s car. She asked if I had a coat hanger which I did not. Even if I did, if it was in my car I couldn’t have gotten to it. I offered to go inside the gas station and ask for a coat hanger and said, “I ain’t skeerd.” But the clerks didn’t have one. So I proceeded to ask every customer coming into and leaving the store, which was about seven of them. No luck.

In despair, I returned to my car and told Whitney I had no coat hanger. Whitney’s aunt was rummaging around the building to see if there was anything she could find to help this damsel in distress. She found a long stick and tried it, but it didn’t work. She needed something she could bend in order to hit the unlock button inside my car. I noticed a hotel across the road and said, “I’ll go to that hotel and ask them for a coat hanger.” I ain’t skeerd. I mean if anyone would have a coat hanger, it would be a hotel, right?

There was a construction worker in the parking lot near the hotel entrance and I asked him, “You wouldn’t have a coat hanger, would you?” Of course, he did not. However, he said, “The manager is inside and might have one.” He offered to go inside and ask for me as he unlocked the entrance door. He kindly allowed me to step inside the vestibule to get out of the brisk, chilly breeze, since my coat was where? You guessed it — in my locked car. As I stood there waiting for the nice construction worker to return, I watched the action taking place beside my locked car at the Shell station across the street, hoping they’d had some success getting into it.

After a brief time, the construction worker returned and said that someone would be bringing down a coat hanger shortly. We had a nice chat while we waited. He told me that while they had been working on the air-conditioning at the hotel, one of his coworkers knelt down on the ground and a dirty hypodermic needle went into his knee. I asked when that happened and he told me it was today. At the time of our conversation, his co-worker was on his way to the ER to get checked out. Good grief! Now, I’m skeerd!

A few minutes later, another gentleman came through the vestibule carrying a very long metal rod in his hands. It was at least 8 feet long. “That ought to work,” I exclaimed, elated that we may be able to make some progress!  I thanked them profusely and started my journey back to the Shell station. 

As I approached, I could see Whitney‘s aunt still trying to unlock my car and two other gentlemen were searching for objects that they could poke down the door crack and hit my unlock button. No luck. I carried that long metal rod over my head like a trophy as I ran across the street towards them. Whitney was in full laughter. Her aunt took the metal rod, and wiggled it down into the crack of the driver’s door — the unlock button her target. She was unsuccessful. Another gentleman who was nearby said, “Here, let me have that a minute.” He soon discovered that the rod was way too long to maneuver with any precision, so he bent it until it broke in half. Having a shorter stick to work with, he was able to get it down into the car and hit that unlock button. I immediately opened up my car door, grabbed my keys, and put them in the waistband of my pants.

Whitney asked that I “please get a picture with that rod sometime today,” so I got out my phone right then and let her take one.

This is just an average day in my life.

Vondonkey’s Keto Breakfast Casserole (6.4 carbs per slice)

Ingredients:

4 slices Lewis keto bread (Walmart), cut into crouton-sized cubes (I sprayed the cubes with olive oil and lightly sprinkled with garlic herb seasoning)

1 pound bacon, fried, drained, crumbled

1 pound breakfast sausage, fried, drained, crumbled

1 small sweet onion, sautéed in bacon grease (if desired)

2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

8 eggs

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1 cup whole milk (or coconut milk, etc., or omit milk and use 2 cups of heavy whipping cream for fewer carbs)

1 teaspoon ground mustard

1/2 teaspoon creole seasoning (I used Johnny Chachere’s)

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Instructions:

Place the cubed bread in the bottom of a greased 9×13-inch baking dish.

Sprinkle evenly over bread: sausage and bacon, then onion, and top with cheese

Thoroughly mix eggs, whipping cream, milk and spices, then pour over other ingredients

Bake at 325 degrees for 30-40 minutes

Carbs:

Eggs 4, Onion 24, Milk 11, Cheese 12, Heavy cream 0, Bacon 0, Sausage 0 = 51 for entire casserole (6.4 carbs per serving if cut into 8 pieces)

NOTES:

Of course, for stricter keto eating, you can omit the milk and onions, and use 2 full cups of whipping cream to reduce the carbs to 16 for the entire recipe (2 net carbs per 1/8 slice). You could also add spinach, or use 2 lbs of bacon or 2 lbs of sausage. There are LOTS of options for this recipe!

This casserole can be prepared ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator over night. If it is chilled, you may need to increase the baking time.

ENJOY! It’s very yummmmmmy!

A Long and Happy Marriage

Once upon a time, I had a patient who was a very charming elderly man. We chatted a bit while I performed my assessment and he mentioned that he’d been married for more than 50 years. Intrigued, I asked him what the secret was to having such a long and happy marriage.

This is what he said:

Every morning, I go up to my wife and hold her beautiful face in my hands. Then, I look deeply into her eyes and say, “I’m sorry.” And, that covers me for the rest of the day.

Vondonkey’s Sugar-free/Keto-friendly Peanut Butter Cookies

February 11, 2021 will mark three years since my husband I started keto. I’m pretty sure anyone who has ever tried this lifestyle/way of eating will tell you the foods you will miss most, and right away, are bread, pasta, and sweets.

Through the trial and error of the many keto recipes I found online, along with the creation of Aldi’s Zero Net Carb bread, we’ve been able to take care of those cravings, mostly, and still enjoy eating all the foods we’ve always loved. They’re simply prepared differently. Well, other than the pasta. Still working on that one. There’s one funky, keto-friendly pasta that comes in a pouch, submersed in water. Uh, no. Gross! I’ll stick with zucchini noodles, thank you.

Anyway, that brings us to sweets! Back when I ate real sugar, one of my favorite treats was peanut butter cookies. Now, I did not set out to find the perfect sugar-free/keto-friendly peanut butter cookie recipe (in my opinion), but it eventually became my goal and I found it. Well, I created it!! Several months ago, I took a keto Danish butter cookie recipe and have since altered it, added, changed it, and added more, again and again, about 30 times, until this week when I discovered what I feel is the perfect peanut butter cookie for us sugar-free/keto folks. By the way, my cookies no longer share any resemblance with that Danish butter cookie.

If you are thinking about “going keto,” if you are a diabetic, or simply want to decrease your intake of carbohydrates while still enjoying a sweet treat, give these cookies a try!

Vondonkey’s Sugar-free/Keto-friendly Peanut Butter Cookies

Dry Ingredients:

1 cup coconut flour (32g net carbs)

2 cups almond flour (24g net carbs)

1/2 cup (heaping) Swerve brown sugar (zero carbs)

2 teaspoons baking powder (zero carbs)

3/4 teaspoon pink Himalayan salt (zero carbs)

Place in food processor and run on high until well-mixed and powdery.

Wet Ingredients:

2 sticks cold butter, sliced (zero carbs)

1 jar Aldi’s Simply Nature creamy peanut butter (56g net carbs)

1 teaspoon vanilla (zero carbs)

Add to dry ingredients in food processor and mix thoroughly.

Use a one-tablespoon cookie scooper, scraping excess cookie dough across the top, and drop dough on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350 degrees for 9-10 minutes, until the edges are only beginning to brown. I take them out of the oven and immediately place the entire sheet in the freezer or refrigerator to cool before storing them in the freezer. These cookies, at room temperature, will crumble easily. In my many attempts to cure that, and finding that the alterations diminished the yummy peanut butter flavor of the cookie, we just keep ours frozen, and eat them that way. It gives them a nice firm texture. We both love them! This recipe will make 5 dozen cookies.

NOTE: Keep in mind, the products that you use may have different carb counts. Based on what I use, it works out to be 2g net carbs per cookie!! That’s pretty darn good for keto people. A tablespoon-sized cookie may sound very small, but when that cookie packs a rich, very satisfying peanut buttery flavor, you may not be inclined to eat more than a few. I can only eat two myself.

Now…what about pasta?! Hmm.

Is your loved one telling you goodbye?

When a loved one starts saying things like, “I don’t think I’m going to be around much longer,” listen. Especially the elderly, for they tend to know when their hourglass is close to empty.  My mother said that 88 was her “last birthday.”  It was her last birthday.  My father said he had “no aspirations to see ninety.”  He died at 89. Even though the world was in the turmoil of a pandemic, my mother-in-law insisted on cooking Thanksgiving dinner for her family because she “might not be here next Thanksgiving.” She won’t be. She contracted COVID-19, and her little body simply couldn’t stop it from destroying what was left of her kidney function. Although losing her was, and is, devastating for her family, many friends and her church community, I am grateful that my mother-in-law had the gumption and tenacity to cook that Thanksgiving dinner for us, her last one.

While it is human nature to think there is more time, or “always tomorrow,” please do not dismiss the cues from the people you love!!  Their words are not trivial statements in search of attention, or sympathy. And, even if they are, the time you give to them is never wasted. You must do what you can live with for the rest of your life, regardless of your fatigue from a grueling work week, or the favoite TV show that you might miss. That’s what a DVR is for, use it!

I cannot stress this enough: LISTEN, when loved ones are telling you that they are running out of time, precious time!! Don’t say, “I’ll go over and see them this weekend, I’m just too tired.” Go. Now! There isn’t always tomorrow, or later, and that’s the biggest regret of those surviving the loss of a loved one — the I should’ves that will consume your conscience when they’ve died and you realize all the time you could have/should have spent with them, but didn’t.

You’ll never regret spending that precious time with your loved one, even if it’s only 30 minutes, for it will serve as a warm, comforting hug to your broken heart when they leave you with only your memories.

LISTEN!!

Live your truth.

This past weekend, I watched two Dolly Parton Christmas specials. The first one was her movie, Coat of Many Colors, and the second was her singing Christmas songs for an hour. I’m generally not a crier, and do not cry easily, but each of these specials brought forth an unstoppable stream of tears that flooded my cheeks and soaked my t-shirt. Conversely, those tears seemed to have opened a new door in my journey toward self-discovery and spiritual growth.

Tuesday, afer my therapy session, wherein I shared about my weekend sob-fest, I became very curious about this iconic woman named Dolly Parton. I wanted to learn more, so I listened to a podcast wherein Brené Brown interviewed Dolly Parton, her lifetime hero.  During the interview, Dolly mentioned that women should “live their truth.”  That got me thinking, What is my truth?  Am I living it? How do I know if I’m living it?” I assumed that if I were living it, I wouldn’t have to ask that question. Right?

While composing this blog post, I googled, “what does it mean to live your truth.” The top hit read, “To live in your truth simply means to live as your most authentic self, doing things daily that bring you happiness and joy, living as true to yourself as possible.” (https://www.thejournallife.co.uk/blog/live-in-your-truth-and-be-your-most-authentic-self)

Okay, then. How do you know that you’re living true to yourself?

Am I living my truth?

I asked Google, “how do you know you’re living your truth,” and this was the top hit:  https://www.lifehack.org/articles/communication/10-signs-that-youre-leading-life-that-true-yourself.html which is a straight-forward list of signs that you are living your own truth. While I do identify with some of the things on this list, reading through the items has shown me the areas which could use some real improvement in living my truth, full out.

I keep thinking, “I’m almost sixty.  Shouldn’t I be further along in my awakening journey.”  My therapist taught me that this “s” word is a no-no and only serves to make us feel unworthy and undeserving, as well as like a defeated failure because it focuses on our mistakes or shortcomings. Yet, that word still pops into my thoughts from time to time.

You ever feel that everything in your life is NOT what you thought it was?  Like, those around you see something in you, know something, but no one ever tells you and that if they did, it could be the golden nugget of information that opens up a whole new world for you?  Then, at times, you realize some of these things and wonder if everyone else knew all along and just never told you?  I know that’s a lot of run-on nonsensical words, but it’s hard to put this thought/feeling into words.  Okay, say you’re in the process of self-discovery, have an epiphany or revelation and are completely blown away by it.  However, those who know you best already knew that about you, all your life, and were waiting for you to see it for yourself? Like when Dorothy awakened from her dream and realized that her “over the rainbow” had existed all along, in her own backyard.  <—It still doesn’t sound the way it feels in my brain.  However, surely a few of you know precisely what I’m talking about, having experienced it yourself. 

Earlier this year, I had a free 15-minute personal critique via Zoom with Cristian Mihas, a blogging expert whom I discovered on Medium.com. All I wanted from this session was to hear his opinion about my blog, along with his suggestions for its improvement. He told me I was the only participant who didn’t ask how to make money from blogging. Then, he paid me the most profound and touching compliment. He told me, “You are unapologetically yourself.” Maybe, just maybe, I’m living my truth a little more than I think/feel I am?

Anyway, that’s what I’ve had on my mind. Note: I had a restful sleep last night, which I hadn’t done in a couple (maybe a few) weeks, and that enables me to think more deeply and philosophically. Evidently.

Thanks for listening (reading)!

I’d love some feedback on this personal journey/quest to living your truth.

How do you know you found your perfect mate, in his kiss?

Of course!! But, it’s probably not the kiss that you’re thinking about right now.

As time passes in a committed relationship, things may start to change as you become more and more comfortable around your mate. Intimate, private things, like using the toilet (peeing) while your mate is in the shower may become commonplace. But, it can go beyond that. I’m not talking about pooping while your mate is in the shower. Although, I did do that once, in an emergent situation. It was the only toilet available. I’m talking about something that happens many times each and every day, for humans with normal digestive systems anyway. Farting!

I was 41 and dating my fart machine, now husband of almost 18 years, before I ever intentionally fired off a full-throttle air biscuit in front of a man, any man, on purpose, and it was him. There have been a few little blips that escaped my backside here and there, but none that I intended to launch. Let me take this opportunity to publicly apologize to J. Smith, who, in junior high school, was sitting behind me in class when I tried to let a teeny tiny silent one escape from my buns. It was not silent. I can still see the look on his face as vividly as if it were happening right now. He was mortified, and I just wanted to sink into the floor and disappear.

Not being able to remember exactly when I first farted in front of my fart machine husband, I asked him if he remembered. He said, “It was probably a couple months after we’d gotten together.” “Wow! That early on?” “You just felt that comfortable around me, I reckon,” he replied. Isn’t he a lucky, lucky man?!

Lately, my husband seems to be reveling in a very odorous game of firing off air biscuits near me as often as possible. I swear he’ll sit down close to me only to blow me a kiss from his ass and waits until I notice the aroma. Sometimes I hear them, but he really loves it when I don’t! The whole silent-but-deadly sneak attack fart thing! He just grins during our conversation and I assume he’s intently listening to the words I’m speaking. Aw, so sweet. But, no. BAM!! The deadly green fog reaches my olfactory system and I yell, “You garbage ass!!” which he thoroughly enjoys!

About a week ago, I was turning in for the night and walking to our bedroom. Hubby had gone to bed several minutes before me and I tried not to wake him. As I quietly opened the bedroom door, I immediately smelled his butt-kiss which hit me like a wrecking ball (Thank you, Miley, for your descriptive lyrics). The small fan we have blowing every night was not helping this situation, at all. Not willing to endure the horrid smell while trying to sleep (it was extraordinarily heavy and persistent), I went to our bathroom, grabbed the air-freshener from the vanity and blasted it directly into the fan several times to combat the stench! It took a minute or two, but the air was eventually breathable again. The next day, hubby told me that he’d been awake during this event and was silently cracking up. Laugh it up, butt-kiss. Laugh it up!!!

Note: You may wonder why the butt-kisses don’t bother my husband. Well, when you use a cpap machine at night, that face mask thoroughly protects you from such odorous emissions. How convenient! There have been many times that I’ve threatened to retaliate by farting directly into his air hose.

Friday night, we turned in at the same time. While hubby got all tucked in under the covers, I brushed my teeth and completed my nightly routine. Just as I was turning out the bathroom light and nearing the bed, his ass blew me a big, loud, raunchy-smelling kiss! That was IT!! I’d had enough of breathing his butt exhaust (air pollution) and was going to do something about it! I went back into the bathroom, grabbed the non-aerosol air-freshener, walked over to his side of the bed and raised the covers to expose his butt. Then, I shot two full squirts of the freshener into the ass-crack of his underwear! Feeling accomplished and satisfactorily redeemed, I placed the freshener on the bathroom sink, climbed into bed and found my comfy spot. I was closing my eyes in anticipation of sweet slumber, while enjoying the fresh and lovely honeysuckle-scented air, when hubby said, “My ass is wet.” I answered, “Well, FART and DRY it out!!” I kept him awake for quite a while, shaking the bed with my recurring giggles, but I eventually laughed/cried myself to sleep.

The next morning, I asked fart machine hubby, “Is your ass still wet?” He replied, “Yup, but it smells good,” and while turning his butt toward me asked, “Wanna smell?” Feeling super proud of myself, I retorted, “You liked that, didn’t you?” Hubby, as he was caressing his beard, pondering my question, said, “I wasn’t expecting that!!”

When you’re this comfortable around your mate, it really is a beautiful thing and very entertaining, albeit smelly at times. Yes, I found my perfect mate and he reminds me every day. Sometimes several times a day. Ha ha, with his butt-kiss!!

Dear Toilet Paper Hoarders…

CALM DOWN!!

The commercial toilet paper that you are hoarding for yourself — while leaving other humans high and dry (dirty/wet), fending for themselves to find alternative methods to wipe their butts after taking a dump — originated in the year 1857. That means that for 1,857 years A.D., humans just like you survived without toilet paper. And, you will, too, I assure you. We all will, for where there is a will, there is a way.

We shall prevail and continue to wipe our butts! I know it! Do you want to know how I could possibly know that? I’ll tell you! Because people have survived without toilet paper in the past.

According to http://www.toiletpaperhistory.net, in the 1800’s humans used leaves, grass, ferns, corn cobs, maize, fruit skins, seashells, stone, sand, moss, snow and water to clean their backside. The simplest way was physical use of one’s hand [Yuck! I think I’d rather scoot around on the grass…like a dog]. Wealthy people usually used wool, lace or hemp. Romans were the cleanest. Seashells? Really?! Ouch!! Hemorrhoids, be gone!

Now, I’m not suggesting we go way back to those very crude, and likely painful methods used more than 200 years ago. There is absolutely no need for that. We have suitable, kinder, less skin-gouging alternatives that are very likely in all of our homes at this very moment. I’ll explain.

What items can we use as alternative (temporary) toilet paper, if need be, when there is no more left on the supermarket shelves and you’re waiting for it to be restocked? I have given this a lot of thought lately and here are my suggestions:

Washcloths. Yes, washcloths. You can wipe your bum, throw the cloth in a bucket, NOT down the toilet (that would cause a major plumbing problem), and cover the bucket with a lid if your poo is stinky. Then, when you have amassed a bucket-full of poo cloths, run them through the laundry. Re-use. This is no different than using cloth diapers, for goodness sake! Plus, it’s a lot more humane than using an outhouse — your butt won’t freeze to the seat this winter! Just wanted to throw that out there.

Rags. Those old towels, sweatpants, raggedy t-shirts, can be cut into pieces and used to wipe up after having a healthy bowel movement. I would suggest you throw those away when you’re done with them, unless you truly want to run them through the laundry because they have some life left in them. By the way, did you know that the phrase, “on the rag” originated sometime in the 19th century, way before Always maxi-pads or Tampax tampons were invented. Those pioneering women would layer pieces of absorbent cloth or other material together until they created a pad of rags that was sufficiently thick enough to absorb their menstrual flow. They also would use pins to attach it to their undergarments. After each use, women would wash the cloth or “rags” so they could be used again (verywellhealth.com). My mother lived through that era and told me about having to wash the “rags.” Women endured that mess for over 1,900 years. I think you can make it through a temporary, ridiculous, panic-induced toilet paper shortage.

Old sheets. That’s a no brainer. Read the first two sentences of the Rags method. Voila! More butt-cleaning swatches! Don’t have any old sheets? Go to the Goodwill store and buy some!

Clothes you do not/will not wear any more but haven’t gotten around to throwing out. Yep! Cut those suckers into squares, strips, or whatever size you desire, use them, launder and re-use, or throw them out. They’re doing you no good now anyway and are taking up precious space in your closets and dresser drawers. Re-purpose them!

Socks. You know you’ve got a drawer full of unmatched socks, socks with holes, socks that you have no idea where they came from in the first place, and socks that you don’t even like. But, you’ve kept them for “some reason.” Guess what! Some reason is NOW! Use them to wipe your butt! Wash them, or throw them away. And, you can wear them like hand puppets while you wipe. May as well have some fun with it! Yeah, I know. Crazy.

Like I said, we shall persevere and continue to wipe our butts! High-fives, everybody! No, wait. Go wash your hands first!

NOTE: Please do not flush anything down your toilet that didn’t come out of your body unless it is commercial toilet paper that you have the luxury and privilege of owning because you hoarded it all for yourself!!

That is all.

Farewell, my friend…

I had to bid farewell to a very good friend today. A devoted friend who has been there for me every day, for many years. A faithful friend who offered me warmth and courage when I needed it the most. A friend who perked me up and made me happy when I was tired or feeling blue.

It was apparently a massive aneurysm that caused my friend’s demise. It wasn’t sudden, however. I noticed that my friend had been perking my coffee a little bit more slowly each day. I tried resuscitation by giving my friend a vinegar colonic, hoping it was merely clogged with hard water deposits. Alas, it didn’t help. I had to face facts and accept that the end was imminent.

This morning, my friend was spitting and sputtering loudly and very little water made it through the coffee grounds. I poured two cups of water into the reservoir, but only one cup became coffee, which took several minutes. My dear friend, while fighting hard to be there for me, and make that one last cup of coffee with great heroism, spewed so much water and steam that the bottom of the cabinet was dripping. Yes. My Mr. coffee 5-cup coffee maker has crossed the caffeinated coffee filter bridge. I will always remember you, my dear friend. Tomorrow morning, when I use my new 5-cup Mr. Coffee mini for the first time, I will raise that mug toward heaven and say, “This cup’s for you, my friend. This cup’s for you.”

My Most Memorable Memorial Day

I wrote this story in 1993, and it got lost in my many floppy disks. At the probing of my daughter, I searched through the disks and found it this morning. Here is my story, in its original format, errors and all. Preserved for all eternity. I hope you enjoy it!

I have two daughters, Amber age 11 and Cassandra age 7.  Since Cassandra’s birth, I had always suspected she had a hearing problem.  Doctors would check her and find nothing then tell me she was too young for a hearing test.  She wouldn’t hear me when I talked to her unless she was facing me and it was impossible to get her to understand danger.  When any door was opened, Cassandra would dart out of it and run right toward the street.  I couldn’t begin to count the near-misses this child has encountered. 

Finally, during her kindergarten physical in the summer of 1991, her pediatrician found that she had a moderate hearing loss in both ears. Now, with hearing aids, she has marvelous hearing. My most memorable Memorial Day was nearly four years ago when Cassandra was three and a half, and more than two years before she obtained her hearing aids.

It was Memorial Day weekend of 1989. My daughters and I were spending the holiday with my parents at their cabin in rural Indiana. The cabin sits at the end of a one-half mile winding gravel driveway off of the main gravel lane and is surrounded by acres of dense woods. There is a serene pond which sits in a cove about one quarter mile down a gravel trail from the cabin. Normally, on warm sunny days we would swim or fish in the pond. On this particular weekend, it had been raining quite often, but we seemed to be having a good time in spite of it.

Late in the afternoon on Sunday, I happened to notice that my car had a flat tire.  Knowing that there would be no garage open on Memorial Day, my mother and I took the tire to town in their van so that it could be fixed.  My girls stayed at the cabin with my father. We must have been in town for about two hours and it was now pitch black outside.  As we were driving back on the gravel lane that leads to the cabin’s driveway, we found ourselves behind a slow moving jeep.  It was my father.  I wondered what he could possibly be doing out so late.  I was looking for my girls in the beam of the van’s headlights through the jeep.  I remember casually saying to my mother, “Well, I see one head.” I only saw Amber.  We followed my dad just through the entrance of the driveway and he stopped.  He got out of his jeep, came back to the van and said, “Cassandra has completely disappeared.”  I could feel my heart falling to my feet as a rush of panic consumed my body like a jolt of electricity.  My father said that one minute she was playing with her Big Wheel tricycle and the next minute she was gone.  Amber told me that Cassandra had said she wanted her mommy and was going to find her.  I guess they didn’t realize that she meant what she said, and knowing Cassandra as I did, I knew she could disappear before my father knew what had happened.  

We then drove the one-half mile driveway to the cabin that couldn’t have seemed any longer if it were a thousand miles.  I felt as though we were traveling in slow motion and I could feel the bump of every piece of gravel under the van’s tires.  After what seemed an endless journey, we arrived at the cabin and we began our search for Cassandra.  As my mother called the police, I grabbed the nearest flashlight and fled to the woods calling Cassandra’s name with my every step.  I had the worst possible images going through my mind.  Was she hopelessly lost in the woods?  Was the brush scratching her delicate little legs?  Is she close enough that she could see me if it were daylight; can she just not hear me calling to her now?  I pictured her lost and crying for her mommy, or the worst, that someone had picked her up and was abusing her.  I tried to maintain control of my emotions and told myself that we would find her.

The creek near the cabin was flowing steadily due to all the rain we had received and I feared that she had been swept away by the water.  I pictured her little body laying somewhere downstream on the creek’s edge, entwined in branches and rocks.  I could feel my heart beating harder with every step I took and I kept repeating to myself “You’ll find her.  You’ll find her.”  As I walked closer to the creek, the sound of the rushing water became louder and louder.  An eery chill rushed through me and it was almost as though the creek was whispering to me.  Perhaps trying to tell me where Cassandra could be found.  I shined the flashlight up and down stream while trying not to fall into the water myself. 

Through the rustling of the water I thought I heard Cassandra crying, but she was nowhere to be found.  My next thought was, “Oh my God.  The pond!”  How could I have forgotten the pond?  I climbed up the creek bank as quickly as I could in the muddy earth below me and after reaching the top, made a bolt for my car.  I drove frantically to the pond hoping to find her and being terrified that I would.  Had she drowned?  If I would have thought about the pond one minute sooner, could I have saved her?  It seemed as though everything was constraining me and I couldn’t move at the speed I so desperately needed.  I kept repeating, “Lord, please just let me find Cassandra safe and sound.”  It was dark and a heavy fog was resting above the pond.  A feeling of dread and despair weighed heavy on my chest.  Even with the flashlight, I couldn’t see a thing.  I felt utterly helpless and as though I might collapse.  I knew I had to find my little girl.  “I just have to find her,” I thought.  With a deep breath and quick prayer, I continued searching near the pond and then worked my way back toward the cabin.  On my way, I met my dad who was on his tractor moving toward the pond.  My heart pounded harder as we neared each other and I imagined him telling me that Cassandra had been found lifeless in the woods; in the creek; on the road.  I was terrified to hear what he might have to say but still I kept walking faster and faster.  As I approached him, anticipation filling every fiber of my being, my father leaned over toward me and said the words I will never forget.  “They have her at the sheriff’s station.”  The relief I felt was so intense it was as though someone had just drained all the blood out of my body.  I was nervously laughing and crying at the same time.  We then drove back to the cabin so that we could call the Sheriff’s station.

Mrs. Curzy, who lives one-half mile from the entrance to the cabin, had heard a continuous string of squealing brakes outside her house that afternoon. Curious as to what the problem could be, she looked out her front door only to see a little girl walking down the lane carrying a Big Wheel tricycle. Of course, this little bundle was Cassandra. Concerned for her safety, Mrs. Curzy brought Cassandra into her home. She tried to get information from Cassandra that would help to locate her parents. Unable to do so, she took Cassandra to the Sheriff’s office. When we called, she and Cassandra were still there. Mrs. Curzy said that she would take Cassandra back to her house and that we could pick her up there instead of having to drive the eight miles to town. I felt another surge of relief and my knees nearly gave out. The drive to Mrs. Curzy’s house is now a blur. I just wanted my little girl.

It seemed as though they had just pulled into the driveway when I arrived.  Cassandra was asleep in the front seat of the car and her Big Wheel resting safely in the back seat.  I was so numbed by the whole ordeal I could only stand there and look at the sweet sleeping child.  I was amazed that she didn’t have a scratch on her anywhere.  I thought how lucky this child was that someone hadn’t run her over in the street.  This beautiful slumbering angel had no idea what she put her mother through.  I then scooped her up in my arms and squeezed her as tight as she could stand it and she only slightly awakened.  She was, understandably, quite exhausted from her mile long hike in search of her mommy.  Feeling so relieved that my baby was now safe, I laid her in the seat beside me, and we started back to the cabin.

During the drive, I battled with the feelings of wanting to either hold her and cry or spank her bottom for running off like that.  When we arrived at the cabin I took her inside and laid her on the bed.  Within seconds she was again sound asleep. All my parents and I could do for hours was talk about the ordeal we had all survived.  I believe my father may have been more shaken up than any of us as I am sure he felt a great deal of responsibility.  If I remember correctly, it was about a fifth of Jim Beam that finally calmed his nerves.

Nearly four years have passed now and we still talk about the day Cassandra ran away and she herself remembers it.  She simply says, “I just wanted to find you, Mommy.”  Looking back, I realize that this experience taught me of the boundless strength which radiates from a mother’s love for her children.  It’s that strength that allowed me to remain relatively calm throughout the crisis.  It may not be until Cassandra has children of her own, however, that she realizes the effect of this most memorable Memorial Day.  For only a mother could truly understand the utter horror that this mother has survived.