Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A New (used) Car door!

Finally after having the car at the body shop for 8 days I'm back in the saddle again. Or at least the driver's seat. Things just kept coming up with the previously owned door. First the molding along the bottom was too wide requiring them to remove the molding off the old door and put it on the new door. Then there was more dents to smooth out than they originally thought. Again requiring more labor. Then it was realized the molding around the windows was black instead of chrome like my old door so they had to take that off the old door as well. All these delays combined with the Christmas holiday and weekend prevented my car from being done until today.

But I'm very happy to say the wait was worth it. The door really looks amazing. They matched the paint about as perfect as it could be. They washed and vacuumed the whole thing. I felt a little guilty about this because my car was absolutely filthy inside and out. I would have washed it prior to taking it in but my window was covered with cardboard and it was just too cold to do it by hand. I imagine it had to be washed to get a good color match on the paint but to open the door and find every spec of gravel vacuumed and the sweet smell of some air freshener quite overwhelmed me.

I also remember the door I got at the wrecking yard had a light grey interior and my interior is black. A fact I was perfectly willing to overlook, but somehow they managed to take the interior off the old door as well. The only things that are different on the inside are the handle which is black instead of chrome and the window switch which is oval instead of rectangular.

I've said before my wife has been in more than her fair share of accidents and I really am impressed at the magic these body shops can do. At least the ones I've been to seem to take an extreme amount of care and pride in their work. They just seem to go above and beyond the basic repairs that are needed.

I'm so happy with how it turned out I really must give credit where it is due. If you are ever in the need of a body shop I strongly recommend Brendel's Collision & Paint. They are very reasonably priced, pleasant to work with and as I've said, seem to take a certain amount of pride in their finished product. Incidentally, they also install lawn sprinkling systems. (Brendel's Lawn Sprinkling) if you're in the market for that as well. I am very much a satisfied customer.

I must thank my good friend, Steve who, I might add, has a very entertaining blog at http://steveatrandom.blogspot.com/, for the recommendation of Brendel's in the first place. Thank you Steve!

Deepest gratitude must also be extended to my Mom and stepdad for letting us use their Blazer so we wouldn't be inconvenienced by only having 1 vehicle in our 2 vehicle family. Thank you Mom and Jake! Last week would have been a lot more miserable without the use of that car. Even though I am now officially spoiled with the 4-wheel-drive experience. We definitely will be at least looking at some SUV's when it comes time to replace my jalopy. Especially with the December North Dakota has had.

As I've said in my other blogs. This really was a miserable expensive thing to happen, but it could have been so much worse. I was not harmed, my kids weren't in the back seat, my car is almost as good as new and I have a family and friends that are more precious than words can describe. As my Dad says in his blog, "Life is good if you let it." I quite agree.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

DEER me! Conclusion - "The Cat From Outer Space"

Wow, I had no idea when I started this story it would take on a life of its own. I must applaud you readers for sticking with me this long. And now for the thrilling conclusion of my tale.

Johnson's wrecking yard has been around a long time, much longer than I've lived in Mandan. I've had occasion to visit there every now and then for some part or another. The place has not changed. There has always been a few very large dogs laying around every time I've been there. I'm sure these aren't the same dogs they had back when I was in high school but the dogs could've been related as they all had the same disposition. They were big but very gentle, they never barked, never jumped or tried to lick anybody. They were always very mild mannered and friendly. So the morning I drove up to get my car door I wasn't surprised to see a couple dogs on the porch. They stood up and wagged their tails in greeting.

Johnson's was a little busy so I waited for someone to help me when all of a sudden the hairs on the back of my neck started to prickle. Not very many people know this. Ok, absolutely nobody knows this. Dear readers for the first time ever I am about to reveal that I have a sixth sense. It is kind of a cat radar that warns me whenever I am in close proximity to a member of the feline species. I turned my head to the source of the disturbance and sure enough, slinking along the counter, acting for all the world like royalty has just entered the room and why isn't everyone bowing, was a medium sized gray cat.

I hate cats. All right, I don't hate them, I try very hard never to use the word hate, but I strongly dislike them. Not all cats mind you. Mountain lions, jaguars, Siberian tigers, any of the big vicious variety that can take your head off with one playful swipe are just fine. I adore these magnificent animals. It is just the members of the housecat variety that I really have a hard time getting along with, and I have every reason to believe they feel the same way about me.

But I perfectly understand there are people in this world that do like them. Johnson's Wrecking for instance, must have had some reason for keeping it around. So I do my best to give these animals the benefit of the doubt and am perfectly capable of minding my own business as long as the cats mind theirs. Never the less, I kept a close eye on this one as it walked along the counter and jumped gracefully onto the stool directly in front of where I was standing and gazed at me. One of the reasons I dislike cats is they have this way of looking at you that appears they can see right into your very soul. They look haughty, smart, knowing, and teasing all at the same time. This cat was looking at me as if to say, "I know something you don't know, nyah, nyah, nyah." It was unnerving to say the least.

But like I said, I was willing to give this cat the benefit of the doubt that it meant no harm and extended my hand in friendship. The cat, as if it knew exactly what was coming, stretched out it's neck and allowed me to pet it. You would have thought I just sent the animal into cat-heaven. It closed it's eyes and fired up the purring motor on all cylinders. It started moving its head around in my palm as if to present the parts of it's head and neck it most wanted scratched or petted. Then as if that weren't enough it started circling my arm winding itself around my hand and wrist. I put up with this for just a few seconds and I was just thinking to myself this is really getting weird. I no sooner thought this when the cat immediately stopped, sat up straight on the stool and stared at me again. It didn't move, it didn't blink.

My cat rader started going off again. I stared back into this spooky feline's eyes and tried to discern what was going on behind them. My radar started to signal even louder and I found myself thinking, this moronic cat is going to jump. Sure enough, these brain waves had just barely formed into thought patterns in my head when catzilla made a magnificent leap onto my shoulder like some nightmarish version of a pirate's parrot. Now I wouldn't call myself scrawny but I'm no NFL defensive lineman either. The cat was having a hard time finding a foothold. Go figure. So while it's back legs started scrambling to find purchase the front legs made do with digging into my hair and neck.

Now I must pause for a few moments. I know I do this way too much, but I can't stop being me. That would be like asking the Earth to stop orbiting the sun. I feel it's important to understand a few things so as to truly appreciate the bitter struggle that is about to ensue. Brianna is taking Life Science at Mandan Middle School, and as homework-helper-in-chief, I also am taking Life Science courtesy of Mandan Middle School. Chapter 5 - heredity. There exists two chromosomes. Females are given two of the X chromosome variety, while males, bless us, are given one X and one Y chromosome. I'm sorry this is very twisted logic but it seems to me we've got girl genes and boy genes running amok inside us. Sorry fellas but I find it's better to face the truth than try to deny it.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, or I should say, back at the wrecking yard, a vicious battle has just begun. That's right, boys against the girls, and the battlefield is me. My X chromosomes were pulling my hair out, (or maybe that was the cat) to scream like a girl and prance around like a chicken with it's head cut off. But my Y chromosomes, ever the voice of reason, were saying, "Do you really want to do this in front of these Johnson's employees and customers, not to mention about 20 square feet of dog lying on the floor who are gentle now but probably wouldn't appreciate having their tails trampled?"

Thankfully, most certainly through divine intervention, the Y chromosomes won out and I was able not to lose my head completely, sort of. I attempted to channel the desire to scream into grabbing this beast of a cat who was obviously from a planet far far away. Maybe a planet of the apes where the inhabitants have huge platform-like shoulders that cats can stroll around on surveying their kingdoms. The cat seemed to be one, or maybe 4 steps ahead of me, though. Every time I grabbed it scampered out of the way. The one time I did manage to grab hold it sunk its claws into my coat and refused to let go.

As you can imagine, I was putting on quite a show for the employees and customers who by now were laughing hysterically. One helpful man was finally able to talk between fits of laughter. "If you walk over to that candy machine, the cat will jump right on top of them." At this point I was willing to take the advice of anybody. In the middle of my mad gyrations I spotted two puny little gumball machines and I thought why would the cat want to jump on these little things when there was a great big counter and several stools to choose from? But I wasn't in any position to ask questions. Very carefully avoiding the dogs I made it to these pitiful excuses for vending machines and tipped my head over like I was about to do a handstand. The cat monster was having none of it and dug it's claws in further.

The guy said, "No, the big machine in the corner over there." Oh, well, excuse me for missing that, it's not like I was distracted or anything. I stumbled over to the corner, again, trying very hard to avoid slumbering dogs, and launched myself as if I was trying to throw a shot-put with my shoulder. The cat, thankfully, let go, landed on the top of the machine and looked at me like I was the one causing all the ruckus.

So you can see why I just cannot abide cats. This was just one example. I could write several more entries on vicious altercations I've had with these freaks of nature, through no fault of my own of course. Somehow I managed to get my door loaded and headed back home.

Deanna was absolutely radiant. It was nice to come home to something that wasn't trying to rip my head off. I could tell Deanna enjoyed her relaxing morning. She has to get the kids to school every day and deals with getting them dressed and presentable. I was happy one of us got to enjoy their morning.

So let us head to the debriefing room and review what we have learned from this little sequence of events. 1.) Life is very much a comedy production God has given all of us to enjoy, both as spectators and participants. This is meant to be a gift, not a punishment, so enjoy it. If you can laugh at yourself, you are a fortunate person indeed. 2.) Actual, true-life events are always much funnier and more enjoyable, (unfortunately, they can also be sadder and more difficult) than anything made up or contrived. As my good friend Steveatrandom says in one of his comments, "You just can't make up stories like this." 3.) I know I say this all the time, but I feel it's so important, that the key to happiness does not depend on the events in which we find ourselves, but our reactions to those events. The most wonderful occasion can be ruined by a bad attitude, and the most sorrowful situation, can perhaps, be a little less so by having a happy and thankful heart.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

DEER me! part 3 - "The Kentucky Derby or a parachute drop, take your pick"

After disembarking the female member of our crew, the Meissner men proceeded to drop zone bravo otherwise known as the North side of the playground at Lewis & Clark Elementary School. I maneuvered expertly into the choicest location in front of the basketball courts. This really isn't saying much as there wasn't another car in sight. Today is a jazz band day for Brianna so she gets dropped off about 45 minutes early. This poses a bit of a problem with Brian since there isn't enough time to go back home and crash for a few minutes, and there is too much time to go to the elementary school and wait.

Brian's life revolves around recess. In his opinion, it's the only reason to go to school. Elementary scholars get 4, that's right, count them, 4 opportunities to wreak havoc on the school yard. They get the morning and afternoon versions, the after lunch version, and those precious minutes before school starts. It is these precious minutes that Brian is most concerned with. He insists on being one of the first kids on the playground every single day. An hour before the van leaves in the morning he's yelling at Deanna and Brianna to get a move on.

Getting any information from Brian is about as easy as pulling teeth. During our lengthy interrogation sessions, I've been able to narrow his haste to get to school down to two reasons. Number one, the first people in line at the door get first pick of the prime selection of basketballs, footballs, soccer balls, or whatever other implements of destruction they choose to equip themselves. The kids line up at the door and then someone opens it and distributes the coveted athletic equipment. The second, and I think most important, reason is that the first group of young alpha-males get to participate in the planning and strategizing sessions where teams are picked, battle plans are laid, and the various contests of skill are organized that will take place throughout the remainder of the day. Brian really enjoys these planning sessions. The worst thing that could happen to him is that he winds up on a team he doesn't like, or has to play some kind of game he doesn't want to.

We have timed Brian to see how long he can sit still before fidgeting or getting up. He has never exceeded 5 seconds. This morning was no exception. We were parked for all of about 2.3 seconds before the seat belt is off and he's moving around adjusting things (no idea what those things are) checking his backpack and any other manner of items to make sure he's ready when the van door slides open. I have to hand it to him. He has become a master of time management. Perhaps too much so.

I know for a fact my beautiful wife leaves the car running to keep things warm in the cold season. For that matter, I think she keeps it running during the hot months also to keep the A/C going. Normally, I would too if it's only a few minutes wait. But today we need to sit there about a half an hour so I shut it off. We're men, we're tough, we can handle the cold. Don't talk to me about how cheap gas is now. That is beside the point. I am determined not to waste a drop more than I have to. This poses another problem for Brian. (I'm starting to get the idea he likes it better when Mom drives.) He doesn't mind the cold so much. The windows weren't even fogging up. What he minds is that by turning off the vehicle, I've also turned off the dashboard clock. He knows he does not get to leave one second before 8:16AM.

I lean my head back thinking I could catch just a little bit more sleep but I should have known better. 1.5 seconds after I've closed my eyes, Brian asks, "Dad, what time is it?" I said, "It's NOT time to go." Another 3.1 seconds goes by. "Dad, what time is it now?" Now I get grumpy, "Brian, if you ask me one more time, you're not getting out until the bell rings." That did the trick. He stopped talking, but he didn't stop moving. This whole time he's shuffling and moving and arranging who knows what. My weary brain finally managed to tune his noise out and I think I actually drifted off until I heard a very loud CLUNK somewhere in the back. I didn't even ask what that was because I didn't particularly want to know. It got him to stop moving for about half a second though.

"Dad?" says Brian again. OK, I thought, let's check the clock. 8:16, right on the button. Brian gives a muffled, "YES!" and places himself in the door just like a thoroughbred pressing the gate at the Kentucky Derby, or you could also say it was like someone about to free-fall out of an airplane at a couple thousand feet. We have an electric door so you can push a button to slide it open. As soon as there was enough room for his body he was out of the gate and hit the ground running. Unlike Brianna, who at least looked at me when she said goodbye, Brian yelled his goodbye and sent his air-kiss when he was about halfway across the playground. I'm looking at him closely wondering to myself if he's thought about how slippery it is. Even on the grass the snow is packed down and frozen. I needn't have worried, however, somehow he made it across the grounds, skidded neatly around the corner and took his place at the ball-bestowing door.

"Atta boy!" I said out loud, turning the car on and pointing South towards Johnson's Wrecking and my used new car door.

I really thought I'd be able to finish this discourse but alas, it just got to be too long again. So I'm afraid I'll have to keep you in suspense a little while longer. Rest assured, the most exciting part of this adventure is yet to come.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

DEER me! part 2 - "A day at Johnson's Wrecking yard"

And the deer collision saga continues.

After talking to a body shop I found out the left-rear door that needs to be replaced is no longer being made. What are they thinking? My car is ONLY 15 years old! A new one would have been $2,100 anyway so that was way outside the budget zone. I was advised to check out salvage yards to see if a "used" one might be had. Johnson's Wrecking was recommended since many salvage yards dispose of most vehicles more than 5 years old. Just goes to show you are never too old to learn something new. Little did I know the learning was just barely getting started.

So last Tuesday I spent a lovely lunch hour(s) walking and climbing around junked cars looking for the coveted door. After being warned this was much like a "needle in a haystack" search I was impressed that there were actually several choices available. The very first vehicle was the exact model and color I was looking for. Alas, the left-rear door on this vehicle was badly dented as well.

But we Meissner's are persistent. (some would say stubborn, but I like persistent better). I was not going to be swayed from my mission. I wasn't kidding when I said climbing as some vehicles were stacked on top of each other so I did some climbing as I was looking not only on the outside but the inside of these relics as well.

EUREKA! (A word which here means, "I have found (it)". supposedly uttered by Archimedes when he discovered a way to determine the purity of gold by applying the principle of specific gravity) I located a door! It was white, but it can be painted. The interior is gray where mine is black and the arm rest is a little different but who cares? The outside looked to be in fine condition and after being painted and mounted should get my "ole junker" safely back on the road again for a few more months while we look for a replacement. And if anyone asks about the weird interior I have a fascinating story to tell.

I profusely thanked the nice young Johnson's employee who led the expedition and said if they would be so kind as to remove the door and have it ready the next day I would be by to pick it up. And now..... the rest of the story.

Chapter 3 - "another day at Johnson's Wrecking yard"

I happily find myself at this time of year with a surplus of vacation hours to be used so it was no problem to let Deanna for once have a leisurely morning while I took the van and dropped the kids off at school. I was all excited about going to get my door. (It's the little things that make life worth living) I was going to be a gentleman and help Brianna get her big Tenor sax case, her flute case, her over large music folder, and her way over large trapper keeper monstrosity that they expect middle scholars to cram everything they need for the whole day in, out of the car so she can pack that load into school. Thinking I was unlocking all the doors I punched the button, heard the satisfying click of the automatic locks, and got out and shut the driver's side door. Only to find out when I walked around the van that I had locked, not unlocked the doors and now I've got both kids inside, the car is running and I'm on the outside with the doors locked. Do you see my dilemma?

Brianna starts to panic. (I think she gets that from her mother) She knows where the lock button is, but like me, didn't seem to know the difference between locked and unlocked. She is madly clicking the button back and forth and I'm madly working the door handle and nothing is opening. I hold up my hands in the "stop everything" position. I calmly try the door, locked, I gently motion my finger to have her try her button again. I listened to the satisfying clunk of what I prayed were the doors unlocking. I took a deep breath. I don't know why, I just did. I tried the door. EUREKA! the door opened.

Brianna was beside herself. Kind of unfairly, I thought. My thanks, for trying to be a gentleman, I suppose. She jumps out and yells, "I CAN GET MY STUFF MYSELF!" Yes ma'am. In spite of her anger she still managed to say, "Bye Dad, I love you." Although maybe a tad bit chillier than she usually says it. Must have been the weather. Then she blows me one of our traditional family "air kisses." There is no possible way for me to explain what these are so you will have to ask Brianna and me to demonstrate if you see us sometime.

I watch her hike her gear up to the school along with some more students making the trip into the building. All of them loaded down like some Sherpas going up Mount Everest. I shake my head and climb into the van for the next leg. This whole time, by the way, Brian is just sitting back there, his eyes as big as saucers, not saying a thing. Sometimes, silence is golden.

Stay tuned for more, I still have to drop Brian off at school and go get that car door.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

DEER me! Part 1 - "A funny thing happened to me on the way to church this morning"

I've gone back and forth way too many times asking myself if this is BLOG worthy or not. Since this pertains to events that happened last Sunday and I still can't get it out of my head I must post something more for my therapeutic benefit than anyone else taking the time to read these words. I do appreciate your attention.

Yet another side job I have; I try very hard not to consider it a job though as it is most definitely a ministry, is that I am a certified Lay Speaker for the United Methodist Church. One of the things I do is go out to Hebron, ND once a month to lead worship services as they do not have a regular preacher assigned to them. So the parishioners are responsible for lining up a speaker every Sunday.

December 6, 2008 was my December Sunday. I was headed there traveling West on Interstate 94 when somewhere between New Salem and Almont I noticed some Whitetail does running across the highway. As a Game & Fish employee I have listened to numerous talks about what to do in these situations. One point of information is that if you see some deer there are more than likely others. So I slowed down and was scanning the ditches to see if any more animals were going to be foolhardy enough to attempt a crossing.

Everything happens so fast yet seems in slow motion as it is occurring. I'm not sure if it was just the lay of the land or if the ditches were deep enough that there was a blind pocket big enough for a young buck deer to hide so that I was not aware of him until he popped up right in front of me. I was still continuing to slow down and even then drove passed him a little bit so that he ran into the rear driver's side door. A sound like a muffled gunshot occurred and then sounds like hail as tiny bits of shattered glass showered the entire back seat of my car. I felt more shrapnel dusting the back of my head and jacket. Then there was the initial jolt which seemed to kind of shift the back of the vehicle over and then a small secondary bump was heard more than felt as the deer glanced off the rear quarter panel. I looked in the rear-view mirror and saw the buck rolling end over end in the ditch. When he stopped moving, he did not get up. The "experts" that I work with have to over-analyze everything and said he probably busted his neck when he collided with my vehicle and was killed that way. Okay, thanks.

The car continued to slow to a stop just like nothing had happened. I pulled off onto the Almont exit to survey the damage. What a mess! The whole back seat and floor was covered in deer hair and bits of glass. The left rear window which consists of a bigger movable section and a small triangular section was no more, the pane connecting the 2 sections was dented considerably and there is a small dent in the left rear quarter panel. Typing this at work I almost wish now I took a picture before I taped and sealed everything up. I may post a picture anyway if I have time later.

Well, I promised a church in Hebron that I would be there, the car was still drivable, and the door shut reasonably well except for another bent portion at top of the door frame. I shook the glass out my hair and coat, brushed away some of the fallout to the front seat, and got on my merry way although somewhat chillier and noisier due to the missing window.

Hindsight is always 20-20. By the time I finally got to Hebron it dawned on me that I had this windshield shade that I use in the Summer so the inside doesn't get so hot when it is parked in the sun. If I unrolled that I could drape it across the window and shut the door to keep it in place. I had to play around with it to get it tight enough and covered enough but it was definitely a much quieter and warmer drive back home again.

I was really bummed. I've always driven the older of the 2 cars in our family and this one had 180,000 miles. It's a 1993 model that we got in 1995 so it's been in the family awhile. Of course we only carry liability on the junkers that I drive so we don't have insurance coverage on this type of accident. The vehicle is so old they more than likely would have totaled it out anyway. But we were probably going to replace it this Summer and I imagine would have gotten a better trade-in before the accident than we will now.

But, I do try to practice what I preach and that is always, always......ALWAYS look for a bright side when deplorable things happen. You can almost always say, "things could have been worse." My children were not in the back seat and did NOT receive faces full of busted glass which they most certainly would have if they'd been in the car. I was in the front seat and so also did not receive a face full of busted glass. Vehicles can be fixed or replaced, human lives cannot. I'm still thanking God for watching over me and my family as I'm writing this.

The car is still drivable, I've got cardboard and duct tape on it now so it's sealed pretty good and we have some time where I can still drive it while we look for a used car door or a used vehicle to purchase. And like the hymn says, I continue to "count my many blessings and name them one by one. Count your many blessings and see what God has done." Words: John­son Oat­man, Jr. Music:Edwin O. Excell.

I feel so much better for having written this. Thank you for putting up with my blog.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

A night at the Elks club

One of my little side jobs is that I play trumpet in a "Big Band". I don't necessarily mean big in terms of size although that is how the term got started. The Big Band era originated in the 1930's and 1940's and became a style of dance music as much as a description of the bands that played during this time. These were the days of Benny Goodman, Count Basie, and Duke Ellington, with songs like "String of Pearls" and "In the Mood."

Big Bands are a dying breed. For one, they are expensive. It costs a bit when you have to pay so many musicians. Many clubs choose DJ's or smaller groups to save on cost. For another, people tend to do other activities these days than go out dancing, probably because there aren't many clubs that pay for live music so they find other pursuits. But I do notice most of the people that we play for are, shall we say, of the more "senior" generation.

It's too bad, really. This music is way before my time, before my Dad's time in fact. But it is wonderful music to play and listen to. I understand it's also some of the best music for dancing. Statements like this always bring to mind one of Schroeder's comments from the Peanuts comics. "Musicians don't dance." A more apt phrase could not be applied to me. I truly have 2 left feet when it comes to perusing a dance floor.

It's a great job. We don't play as often as some of the more popular groups which is just fine with me. When you have a full time job, a part time job, involvement in church functions, and 2 children in a variety of activities your discretionary time is very limited. But it's just often enough that I get to play and keep up the trumpet skills I spent 7 years of my school life honing. I know I wouldn't play hardly at all if it were not for the bands I'm in. And like all talents, if you don't use them, you lose them.

But by far the most rewarding aspect of this is seeing the look on these older couple's faces as they pirouette around the dance floor. Their eyes are either closed or they are transfixed in the eyes of their partner. The joy truly glows as they're transported back 50 years or more to what had to have been, "the good 'ole days."

We've developed a respectable following at the Bismarck Elks club. The band manager gets along well with the club's manager, and we've had a few good reviews that have found their way back to the Elk's management. So that's where I was Saturday evening. We've got some more dances scheduled for January 16-17, February 13-14, and again on May 5. We play from 8-11PM. If you're not an Elks member, you can be really polite to the door man and say you'd really like to come and listen to the band. Most of the time they'll let you in. Please check us out if you're interested. For my male readers, your significant others would really appreciate an evening of dancing.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A tribute to hotdishes

Hopefully by reading this title it won't be too obvious I've ran into a shortage of Blog topics. I simply haven't been able to think of anything I feel other people would want to take the time to read. However, Wednesday evening I took part in sharing our church's weekly family meal. This week the menu was Potluck. If you don't know what that is it's when everyone brings whatever dish they want to share. So you don't know what you will be eating until you start moving through the buffet line. My absolute favorite of church dinners. Just imagine the adventure of sampling several dishes I've never had or don't get very often. I love to eat and it's even more exciting when I find out I enjoy something I've never tried before. You always run the risk you might not like it, but what's the fun without an element of risk? Especially for me when there are very very few foods I don't enjoy, the risk is very small.

But what I love the most is the fact that for so many participants the meal they bring is (queue drum roll) THE HOT DISH, or casserole, or meal-in-one or mystery meat or whatever you want to call it. Can you think of a more perfect food? First of all, ever the practical person, I can't help but admire the brilliance in throwing everything into one pot, and then serving it out of the same pot! Having to clean many dishes in my time I can appreciate having a few less. After all, the food all gets mixed together in the stomach anyway, right?

The transportation factor can also be thrown in. Not only are there fewer dishes to wash, but there is only one pot to carry to the function, rather than who knows how many. This is probably the number one reason why they are so popular at church potlucks is because it is much easier to carry only one pot to the event and of course, there's only one pot to bring home. Both the coming and going must be considered.

But what I enjoy the most is the variety, you truly never know what to expect. They say, (I'd like to find out who "they" are), that variety is the spice of life. I think this true especially when it comes to food. Hot dishes can be made with just about anything you can find in the fridge. Potatoes, noodles, those doughy things called knoephle. Hamburger, stew meat, sausage, ham can also be thrown in. Various vegetables like carrots, peas, green beans, and of course, SAUERKRAUT! (I believe that could be considered a vegetable) Usually something like a gravy to hold everything together, several condensed soups come to mind, or else making your own with flour and oodles of butter. Throw in some salt and pepper and again any other seasonings that tickle your fancy and you have a worthy feast.

Hopefully I've now made you so hungry you've forgotten about my lack of subject matter. Go out and enjoy a hot dish today!