The gas company

Two gas company servicemen, a senior training supervisor and a young trainee, were out checking meters in a suburban neighborhood. They parked their truck the end of the alley and worked their way to the other end. At the last house a woman looking out her kitchen window watched the two men as they checked her gas meter. Finishing the meter check, the senior supervisor challenged his younger coworker to a foot race down the alley back to the truck to prove that an older guy could outrun a younger one. As they came running up to the truck, they realized the lady from that last house was huffing and puffing right behind them. They stopped and asked her what was wrong. Gasping for breath, she replied, “When I see two gas men running as hard as you two were, I figured I’d better run too!”

Strawberry and chicken salad

Ingredients

Lemon Poppy Seed Dressing:• 1/2 cup light mayonnaise • 1 tablespoon lemon zest • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice • 3 tablespoons honey • 2 1/2 teaspoon poppy seeds • 1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste Salad:• 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, grilled then cooled 10 minutes and diced • 8 ounces baby spinach • 2 1/2 cups sliced strawberries • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts, lightly toasted • 1 large avocado, peeled and diced • 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled • 1/3 cup chopped red onion 

Directions

Create the lemon poppy seed dressing by whisking all ingredients together in a mixing bowl until well combined. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

In a large salad bowl, layer spinach and chicken then continue layering all remaining ingredients. Once you are ready to serve, pour dressing over the salad contents, toss well, and serve.

HOW I BECAME A CAT LOVER ByRamona Ruhr

I hated cats. They stink, they shed, and they are just plainUseless. I wouldn’t eat at someone’s house if they had cats. IWouldn’t sit on their furniture. In fact, for 37 years, I avoidedCats and their owners.November 26, 1996, a few months after my father died, my sisterCalled and asked me to go the mall with her and her daughter. StillMourning the loss of my father, I said no. I was already in myPajamas and didn’t want to get dressed. She kept pestering me to go,And I finally relented.We got to the mall and walked past the pet store. I saw a tall cageWith several kittens. Yes, the kittens were cute, but so what? TheyStill stink! Yawn.We continued our shopping and when we were done, we wandered backTo the kittens. There was only one tiny baby left, and she was theStinkiest of them all. So greasy and sickly looking, and she didn’tEven respond to our voices or touches. We asked the store manager whyThis kitten was the only one left. He told us that no one wanted her.Well, it turns out that this tiny one-pound kitten was really 6Months old and very sickly. The pet store owner had taken careOf her and tried to nurse her back to health. He said she wouldProbably die anyway. Who wants a dying cat?All the other kittens were taken already, and only JulietteRemained. Juliette lay there, unmoving, doing nothing. Well, no oneDeserves to die alone, in a dark cage, in a mall. Not even a stinky,Smelly, sick cat.I thought back to my father’s hospital bed and how I wished weHadn’t had to “pull the plug”. Gratefully, his entire family was byHis side, so he didn’t have to die alone. And neither should thisCat. “Ok,” I thought, ” Juliette can come home with me to die. AtLeast she won’t be alone.” The manager gave me all the suppliesI needed, and the workers at the pet store cried, as I walked outThe door with the kitten.After we got home, I let Juliette out of her crate and sat down inMy chair. She came up to me, put her paws on my knees, and yelledThe loudest meow I’ d ever heard. Don’t know what that was allAbout but I sure hoped she didn’t keep up with such a racket.Ok, I could afford a vet visit the next day. The vet said, “NoShots for her; she is too sick. Don’t waste your money. She isDying. Just take her home and wait.”I waited and waited and waited some more. Funny thing is, thisCat didn’t die. And something strange happened along the way. IStarted to enjoy tending to and taking care of her. I started toLike her. I had a purpose for getting up in the morning. And then,All of a sudden, it hit me: I had fallen in love.It didn’t take long after that, before Juliette improved by leaps andBounds. Together, we both learned all about cats. We spent 16 yearsTogether teaching each other love, devotion, and loyalty. Our bondGrew so strong that we rarely needed voices to communicate. I wouldThink something, and she would do it. She would think something,And I knew what she wanted.I truly believe Juliette was my father’s last present sent to meFrom up above to teach me the life lessons he didn’t have time toFinish. Juliette pulled me out of my depression over his death.Not only did she teach me to be a cat-lover but also she taught meThat all living creatures are deserving of compassion, respect,And the right to be happy, no matter what their health is or theBackground they come from. She taught me to rescue and adopt 12More special needs kitties. But the best gift was to show me thatLove really can conquer all.Juliette and I learned how to conquer illness and diseaseTogether. She taught me that even cats can have devastating strokesWith paralysis and still overcome them with hard work and love.She taught me how to begin letting go. She bravely gave me one moreYear to learn how to go on without her. The day I set her free wasHeartbreaking. But I knew her lessons for me were over and I hadPassed with flying colors. She was the best teacher I ever had!Juliette taught me that ALL creatures deserve love. It’s so strange,How much I detested animals before she came along and taught me theRight way to live. I am so the opposite now. Because of her I live,Eat, sleep, and breathe animal welfare. It is all I do 24/7!And I know, as much as I wanted Juliette to reincarnate back to meAgain, she had more important duties with some other animal-haterThat she needs to reform. But our souls are entwined for eternity,And I WILL see her again. She is off on another mission rightNow. More former cat haters out there that need to be enlightened.But she did send me a little bit of herself in a new cat I callMary Anastasia. She looks and acts so much like Juliette that IKnow Juliette touched Mary Anastasia before she came to me.

First Day Fishing By Tanya Breed

All summer, our six-year-old son Chris had been begging his dad to take him On his first fishing trip. Tomorrow was the big day, but now Ron had to work And the day was ruined. I could see the disappointment in our son’s eyes. Choking back the tears, he turned to walk away. “Wait a minute, Chris,” I heard myself say. “Can I take you fishing?” “Well, uh, okay, Mom,” he answered as if he wasn’t sure he’d heard me Correctly. “We’ll get up at five o’clock in the morning. Is that all right?” “Sure,” he said with a smile quickly replacing his tears. I should have thought it through more clearly before I had spoken; I hadn’t Been fishing before either. The alarm buzzed at 5 a.m. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d been up That early. After eating a quick bowl of cereal, we hoisted the ice chest into The car. It was loaded with sandwiches, lots of drinks and plenty of ice to Pack all the fish we were going to catch. With a list of things we needed, we Headed for the nearest bait and tackle shop to buy a pole, line, hooks and some Worms. Then we were off to the lake. It was a typical August morning with the sun already scorching. We trudged Along the rocky shore carrying our gear and finally settled under a “wannabe” Tree. I explained to Chris that a wannabe tree is a want-to-be tree, because The trees here in Arizona don’t grow very big due to the extreme heat and lack Of rain. He agreed that the small amount of shade was better than none at all. I attached the line to the pole and secured the hook with a knot that would Have held Moby Dick. I was dreading the next step. “Mom, can you put a worm on my hook for me?” “Okay, but you’d better learn quick. This is my first and last time.” All right, I can do this, I thought as I scrunched my eyes shut and quickly Grabbed the first worm that unwittingly wriggled between my thumb and Forefinger. The next chore was putting the worm on the hook. I didn’t know Worms came in different sizes; this one was really skinny. Chris stood back, Partly because of the look on my face and partly because it amazed him that I’d Even dare touch a worm. Chris must have been reading my mind as I wondered how This worm was going to stay on the hook. “It doesn’t want to stay on the hook,” he murmured as the worm kept falling Off. Suddenly, quite by accident, I stabbed the worm. There it hung mortally Wounded and writhing in pain. “Quick, throw the line into the water!” I Screamed. There was no way that Chris was going to be able to skewer these Skinny worms onto a hook without hooking himself. The realization that I was Going to have to put the rest of these wriggling, slimy little crawlers on the Hook for Chris didn’t thrill me, but I soon became quite the expert at “accidentally” attaching worms to the hook. Three hours later and with three small bluegill neatly lined up in the Corner of our ice chest, we decided to head for home. The fish had given up Trying to make a meal from our “slim” offerings, and the glaring sun had sent Them for deeper, cooler water. Ron was still at work when we arrived home. I was relieved because I was Sweaty, smelled of fish, and our meager catch didn’t qualify for bragging Rights. “Mom, are we gonna cook ’em?” “I suppose we could,” I grimaced. The thought hadn’t even entered my mind. The fish were so puny that we’d be lucky to get more than two small bites out of Each one. Nevertheless, I popped them into the pan, and within minutes they Were ready to eat. I put all three fish on Chris’ plate. “No, you get one too, Mom,” he insisted. My plan hadn’t worked; I was going to have to eat one. Chris took the First bite and didn’t spit it out, so I tried a bite too. It tasted just like The fishy lake water, but I forced it down. Ron walked in just as I was taking My last bite. “Well, how was your trip?” he asked. Chris began talking before I could swallow my last mouthful. “It was great, Dad! The water was so clear and smooth, and the sky was Really blue. There were no boats when we first got there so it was real quiet. We could hear the birds singing. Mom and I sat on a rock and watched a duck Swim and make a trail in the water. It was really fun and Mom was the best!” He then told Ron all about wannabe trees. When he had finished talking, Chris turned and hugged me. Was the sky that blue? What singing birds? And I hadn’t even seen the duck. I had been too engrossed putting the worms on the hook to appreciate the beauty, but Chris had taken it all in. “Thanks, Mom. Let’s go back to our wannabe spot again real soon,” he said, his eyes sparkling. How could I refuse his irresistible offer? “Yes, we’ll go again soon.”

MY MOTHER’S KITCHEN

James Colasanti, Jr.

I can still remember my 80-year old mother working at the Kitchen table the day after my father passed away. That fragile, diminutive lady sat in her chair crocheting a Scarf. Time and devotion had made this her domain. She had lived in This very same house for most of her adult life. Because she was Hearing-impaired, she didn’t look up from her work when I entered the Room. However, I could tell that it was here that she had found Peace with the world. In retrospect, it wasn’t our old rooster that woke me early Sunday mornings, even though he contributed loudly to the harmonics Of the dawn. It was the pungent aroma of the garlic and oregano from The smorgasbord unfolding in my aging mother’s kitchen. The smells wafted up the steep staircase to my bedroom. Their Essences then crawled under the door space and permeated the room. I immediately threw off the bedclothes, the cold tempered with The warmth of the culinary sensations. Next, I heard my mother yelling (sometimes in Italian, sometimes In English), “James, get up and get ready.” Neither needed Translation. Being Italian and Catholic, 8 o’clock Sunday Mass was a Weekly necessity — attendance required. Down the stairs I flew. On the kitchen table — a red and white Formica topped 1950’s piece — my cup and spoon would be waiting. I Had been allowed to drink coffee from a very young age. Although Meticulously clean, the white-painted plaster kitchen walls had a Shiny, almost greasy, patina from the years of perpetual cooking. Jars of spices and home-grown herbs circled the kitchen counter tops. On the wall facing the table was a 5-foot ceramic rosary with “beads” an inch in diameter — a Mother’s Day gift from me. It was Her prize possession. In her kitchen she could cook, and if she felt the urge, she Could pray. She knew her thoughts had to be heard by any available Saint on a rosary that big. My mother, already 39 at my birth, had Her graying black hair pulled back severely into a bun. She always Dressed in her housecoat while working in the kitchen and a flowered Red apron covered the housecoat for added protection. At dinnertime, my father, my mother, my Aunt Tina (my mother’s Sister), and I gathered together, but my mother always made enough Sunday dinner for an army. The dining room table was set with the Good China and the good silverware, and the extra place settings were Always stacked on the sideboard — just in case. Amazingly, friends and relatives knew to drop in (uninvited) at This particular time of the week. Flavoring the extra sauce was a Conglomeration of meats — big beef bones (one for the dog), hot pork Sausages, and a variety of chicken parts bubbled slowly in the big Dutch oven on top of the gas stove. Below, several loaves of bread and the main course, the lasagna, Baked happily away. Each layer of the lasagna was infused with a Variety of Italian spices (garlic, basil, and oregano), ground meat (both veal and pork), ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, home-made Tomato sauce, and a top layer of parmesan cheese. Although my mother was not the animal lover in the family Because she had been scared as a young child in Sicily by a pack of Stray dogs, she was in charge of making sure everyone was fed, Including the animals. On the day I was born, my parents received a small black and tan Puppy from a perceptive family friend who knew every boy needed a dog. Mother always spoiled Butchy and there were many days when I Thought Butchy was actually the favored child. As a baby, I would Lay in my cradle and Butchy, still a puppy, would curl up next to me. If I cried, she would lick away the tears, and if there was a Problem, she would “yap” for my parents. Because she knew the dog was my guardian and my protector, Mother treated her accordingly. And on Sundays, mother always fixed A plate of lasagna and an extra large beef bone especially for Butchy. Butchy was my first dog, and she was also my first best friend. Butchy was the very first in a long line of canines to teach me what I have experienced so many times. We don’t get over losing the dogs Who have been a part of our lives. We just get used to living Without them. In everyone’s life there are moments when a family shares a joy And everything seems to have a purpose. Those memories of Sunday dinners forged from love remain with me — lots of great food, good times with my family, and the animals With whom I grew up. And most of all, my mother.

James Colasanti, Jr.