Friday, July 27, 2012

July 27th....1982, A Love Story Begins

It was spring, 1982, and I had just gotten the best job! I worked at Marriot's Great America in Gurnee, IL (Marriott's - as the locals called it - later became Six Flags Great America.)  I was a "dolphin trainer."  No lie!  Through an amazingly weird set of circumstances, I found myself, at age 18 and having just graduated high school, working as a dolphin trainer, emceeing dolphin shows at a theme park. 
See! That's me! And Nemo and Neptune!

I found this photo, below, on the Internet and that is not me on the ladder feeding dead fish to two dolphins as they jump towards my outstretched hands, but it could have been!  I did that!  This is the exact same theater I worked in.

This one IS me with a dead fish in my mouth practicing a new trick that didn't go so well.  I got a nice black eye from a fast moving rostrum to the face.

We put on five shows a day.  I had a dressing room.  It was fun.

Ted also worked at "Marriot's" that year.  He'd worked there for several years by that time, ever since before the park opened.  His house was just down the road.  He was 20 years old, and working his way through college.  His job wasn't as fun as mine.  He was in maintenance, and among other things, one of his responsibilities was to get Wilderness Theater cleaned up and ready for show time each morning. He did that by hosing down the theater seats with a giant fire hose.  These are the very seats he had to clean.  This is where I first saw him.  Right there, in those seats! With a giant fire hose in his hands.  I called him "the hoser."  He was tall and tan, and had jet black hair.  I thought he was beautiful.

So by about 8:00 A.M. every morning, Ted would be working his way through this theater with his giant water hose making sure all the leaves, debris, garbage and sticky cotton candy residue from the day before was thoroughly washed away and I made sure I was sitting out on stage, across the pool from him, playing my guitar or petting a dolphin or reading a book.  I could have just hung out in my dressing room till show time, but I had other plans.  I told all the other girls who worked in Wilderness Theater to stay away from the tall, black haired "hoser guy."  "He's mine," I said.  I told everybody else I knew to tell him the dolphin trainer liked him.  I told Kathy Parent, my fellow dolphin trainer, that someday I was going to marry that handsome, black haired hoser.  I had yet to stand within 50 feet of him.

I had imagined for weeks what the hoser would say to me should we actually come face to face, but it never happened.  I waved to him, smiled at him, flirted with him as best I could from across the dolphin pool, but for almost three, agonizing months, we never met. 

Then one day, July 27th, 1982, my life was changed forever.

Another responsibility that Ted had was to empty the large garbage can that was positioned outside the gated back-stage of Wilderness Theater.  He normally never came into that area, it was dolphin people only.  But one day, a co-worker of mine sneakily dragged the garbage can Ted was supposed to empty into the back-stage and up to my dressing room trailer door.  I swear.  I didn't do it
It was hot that day, over 100 degrees.  I had just finished a show and gone back stage.  I needed to cool off and nobody else was around, so I took off the shoes, shirt and shorts that were my show costume and lied down in my swimming suit on the cement platform of the back part of the stage.   I then proceeded to close my eyes and, with a garden hose, douse myself with cool water.  After a few minutes, I opened my eyes.....and low and behold....the hoser was standing over me.  He had come back stage looking for the garbage can.  I hadn't even heard the gate open or his footsteps as he walked up.  But there he was! Right above me! And there I was, dripping wet and barely able to speak!  But I knew I couldn't mess this up so I sat up, turned off the hose and with water still dripping from my hair into my face, I spoke first.....

"I know your name. It's Ted."  

(His Marriott's name tag said "Rocky" because the girl in the office who made the tags thought he looked like Sylvester Stalone.)

"How do you know?" He asked.

"I've been asking around about you."

"What are you doing Friday night?" He asked.


"Do you want to go out?"


And he turned and walked away. 

July 27, 1982.  The most perfect day of my life so far. 

Later that day, he came back around to my theater and we took a break together, chatted and got to know each other a little bit.  Eventually, I told him that my car was in the shop and my dad was going to be picking me up from work, a 30 mile drive, each way.  Then he said, "Call your dad and tell him not to come.  I'll take you home."  It didn't really matter to me what we talked about after that. 
I was gone.  It was over.

This is Ted before I met him.
 Look at that beautiful black hair. (Oh my...)

This is me, the week before we met.  

 On our first date, I had asked Ted if he'd consider growing a beard.  He asked me if I'd consider growing my hair long.  This is us on Thanksgiving of that year, exactly four months after we met.  He's had a beard and I've had long hair ever since.  

We never spent a day apart after that.  We saw each other every day from July 27, 1982 to July 27, 1983.  We spent that whole day back at Marriott's - the day we celebrated our 1 year anniversary and officially announced our already long agreed upon engagement.

And then we saw each other every single day from July 27th, 1983 to August 17th, 1984, the day we were married before our friends and family.  Look at that beautiful black hair. (Swoon.)

It's been exactly 30 years since that day....that perfect, wondrous day that all the future happiness of the last 30 years hinged upon.  It's been 30 years since I found the other half of me.  It's been exactly 30 years today since God favored me with a blessing I would never deserve.  I'm older now....but I'm not.  It's been a long, long time since then.....but it was yesterday.

Your name is Ted. 

I still can't believe you are really mine. 

 I'll love you till the day I die. 

Happy Anniversary, you beautiful, wonderful man.   

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Another Giant Lost

One of the saddest things for me on the farm is to lose a large tree.  We have lost so many over the last several years, from wind or lightning, that I couldn't even count them, giant oaks, sycamores, sweet gums, hickories, maples,walnuts, many.  At first, it was always a shock.  What?! That giant tree?  Down?  I don't believe it! One year, in one storm, we lost over 30 large trees. It was more then a shock.  It was a tragedy.  By now, I've come to expect it.  It's just the way it is.  Giant trees fall.  But gosh, I sure hate it.  I especially hate it when it happens to an especially favorite tree. 

This was one of mine. 
Click to enlarge and see the full beauty of this sycamore tree.

It's not a huge tree, but quite a bit larger then it looks in this picture.  It was a sycamore that stood a bit off by itself just as you enter the bottoms along our farm road.  In the summer, (still looking for a summer picture), it was full and shady and gorgeous.  In the winter, as it is in the photo above, it was even more beautiful, white and tall and reaching against the bright blue sky.  I loved this tree.

Here is my favorite sycamore today. 

Sad.  A mild windstorm was all.  We didn't have any other damage.  Just this one tree.  So sad.  The view is so different now, as we come around that much smaller then it was.  The big ones grow so slowly, and there are less of them than the cedars and other scrub trees.  As they fall, these smaller scrub trees take their place and the landscape becomes completely different.  Each of the old ones is so special to me.  What will our farm look like in 10 years?  20?  I can't imagine it with another 50 or 100 old-growth trees down.  But fall they will, as they do every year.  There is nothing we can do to stop it. I think I'm going to have to start protecting some of the oak, hickory and sycamore saplings we have.  I'll put some wire around them, transplant some to better locations, cut the cedars from around them to provide more light and water.  It may not make a difference for many, many years.  But it's all I can do to try and preserve the beauty that I used to take for granted.  I am so grateful that I knew this lovely tree for the time that I did.  I will miss it for years to come, every time I turn that corner and see nothing but sky straight ahead instead of that pretty white bark. 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Southwest Stuffed Peppers

This recipe is very similar to our Mexican Stuffed Shells, but is low carb.

Olive oil
1 lb lean ground beef, goat, turkey or pork
1 large chopped onion
1 large grated carrot (optional)
1 Tb taco seasoning
3 bell peppers, halved and seeds removed (red, yellow or orange are best in this dish but green are fine too.)
1 can black beans
1 cup or can of corn
16 Pace Picante sauce
Shredded cheese, (your favorite kind)
Sour Cream

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Lightly coat the peppers with olive oil and roast in a 9 X 13 baking dish about 25 minutes till just cooked through.  Remove the peppers from the oven and allow to cool until you can handle them.  Brown meat in saute pan and drain.  Saute onion and grated carrot in oil till onions are translucent.  In a large bowl combine meat, onions & carrots, seasoning, beans, corn, and salsa.  Stuff mixture into the peppers.  Sprinkle with shredded cheese.  Bake in the 9 X 13 pan for another 15 - 20 minutes.  Serve with sour cream.

You can add rice to this stuffing if you like or any other vegetables.