Alex’ grandmother or Nagymamma (pronounced “nudge mummy”) was Hungarian. She spoke a little English and was one of the toughest old ladies on the planet. She was also blunt as a 2×4. My grandmother’s were not rough or tough or blunt.They were elegant, quirky and lovely…they were Southern.
If Alex, the kids and I arrived at her house for Sunday dinner fifteen minutes late, the doors would be locked, the lights turned off. If you were late you didn’t eat.
She lived through the Nazi and both Russian invasions of Hungary. And boy did she hate the Russians, even more than the Nazis. One time she told me, “A Nazi will steal your wedding ring, a Russian will cut off you finger to steal your wedding ring.”
In 1956 when the Soviets invaded Hungary, yet again, Nagymamma was prepared. Unfortunately, Hungary is right in the middle of a beautiful but troubled neighborhood and has been invaded by countless forces for thousands of years. So Nagymammy knew exactly what soldiers did when they occupied a foreign country, because she’d lived through it so many times. The soldiers march in, drink all the liquor and destroy what they don’t’ drink. As a result the locals don’t have any alcohol thus making the invasion and occupation even more miserable.
Nagymammy felt certain the Russians were getting ready to invade her home land months earlier so she came up with a plan. Alex’s grandmother was known for her homemade Schnapps. Well, she called it schnapps but it was hardcore moonshine with a little bit of fruit. The stuff was crystal clear and brutal. A single shot could clear your sinus cavity for a week or render you speechless for the day. A little bit could cure most diseases, three shots and you’d go blind.
Nagymammy cooked up over fifty hectoliters of schnapps (that’s over 1,000 gallons), bottled it then sent her husband into the field with a post hold digger. Together they buried all those bottles then waited for the Russian soldiers to do what they always did. Drink and destroy.
Several months latter her region of Hungary was bone dry and sick of sobriety. That’s when Nagymammy and her husband went back out into the field and started digging.
Over the course of a year that tough old woman was able to dig up and sell enough of her schnapps to get her family out of Hungary and to America. The Hampo family’s American Dream was fueled by some wicked schnapps and a remarkable woman who was tougher than the Russians.
Tags: American Dream, Hampo, Hungary, Irene Melik
Sandor and I talk about this all the time, especially after one of his friends makes up some absurd and ridiculous story.
Last week Sandor and Hunter got into a minor argument because Hunter was telling everybody in fifth grade, “when you get the flu shot a tiny piece of the needle breaks off in your arm. That’s how the medicine gets in you.”
His friend Cody has insisted for two years that his dad played for the NBA. I’ve seen Cody Dixon’s dad, he’s short, round and smokes generic cigarettes. Maybe he WENT to an NBA game but he did not play for the NBA.
Half of Sandor’s cheerful redneck friends claim they are related to Eminem or Labron James.
They just lie about stuff non-stop. We inadvertently set Sandor up a few years ago so he’s included in the category. We had a post card of Albert Einstein hanging on our fridge. Sandor noticed he had crazy caterpillar eyebrows like Alex . So we told 3rd grade Sandor , Albert Einstein was his great great uncle. He believe us.
This morning it happened again. I was telling Sandor and Lex about the Ukrainian president. After three months of violent protests he gave up and ran away to a Russian military base. Now the protesters are giving tours of the luxurious Ukrainian capital and estates.
Sandor stopped eating his pancakes and said, “So Obama ran off to Russia?”
“No, The Ukrainian president did that. Not our president!” I laughed.
“Oh,” Sandor sounded a little disappointed. “I was gonna tell everybody at school.”
So that’s how it happens and little boys tell the most extraordinary lies.
Comments OffTags: boys, kids, lies, little boys
According to a recent New York Times story the more house work a man does the less “lovin” he gets from his wife. “Shut the front door!” That was my first reaction. Common sense tells us a man who helps with house work, cooking and child rearing is a keeper. He’s a thoughtful, tidy guy. Snatch him up women…finally a keeper.
But that doesn’t make him sexy or hot.
This is a really confusing issue. I love it when I come home and Alex has mopped or made the bed or finished the laundry. But that doesn’t make him sexy…it makes him sweet and thoughtful.
The truth is, women are hard-wired by GOD to find and trap Ally Ooop the Cave Man. A guy who can protect us from Wooly Mammoths and purse snatchers. I need him to kill something and bring it home for dinner and protect me from invading hoards, not sweep the cave.
I might love, appreciate and want the guy who cleans the fridge and unloads the dish washer, especially if he doesn’t make gross noises while scratching. But what I NEED is a man who can provide for my children, change my tire in a hail storm and put complex toys together at 2am on Christmas Eve.
Think back to junior high school. Who got the girls? The dark and dangerous guy or the kid who won the geography bee?
So all is lost for the nice guy? Not really. While the guy who is an insensitive slob might get more carnal love, the guy who helps out around the house has a significantly happier marriage that lasts longer. (Alex I hope you read that last paragraph)
Here’s the solution. Husbands shouldn’t be dusting and and sorting socks if they want to be sexy. They need to pick more masculine jobs like raking, burning and shoveling snow. But if they want to have a long, happy and warm life …with a woman….they better get busy with that broom and dust pan.
We grew up in Hot Springs, Arkansas and my family had a lovely 1960s condo on Lake Hamilton.
At seven, Liz was our beautiful, blond brutal dictator, I was the goofy looking six year old and Mikey was a scrawny tough ass five year old who would bow up on a bus or throw down with a bear. He was too stupid or stubborn to realize he only weighed fifty pounds. Mike thought he was Tarzan and Cold Stone Steve Austin rolled up in a taco with hot sauce. At five he was a hard core bad ass.
We were young but together we were formidable and frightening, full of really bad ideas and virtually unsupervised for weeks at a time. At my house the only adult who ever attempted to keep an eye on us was Louella, our friend and maid for more than thirty years.
There was a lady who lived at the end of our boardwalk named Mrs. Williams. Every day at four she would lovingly feed all her “pet” fish in Lake Hamilton. She tossed out hand fulls of corn and bread then watched as schools of fish appeared. There was one massive, elephant sized catfish who showed up every afternoon, named Big Willie. He was nearly as long as a baseball bat and as fat as a foot ball. This guy was beautiful. And Mrs. Williams loved him.
Liz, Mike and I were not allowed to fish anywhere near her end of the boardwalk but one day…Mrs Williams went on vacation.
Brown and barefooted, wearing nothing but groovy swimsuits, we hauled our fishing gear to the end of the boardwalk ten minutes after Mrs. Williams backed out of her parking spot.
Mikey bounced up and down on his skinny little legs as we watched the fish circling under the dark water. We threw in a hand full of corn and the fish went crazy. Lake Hamilton boiled with fishy action.
Liz packed a piece of hot dog and a bread ball onto a hook and dropped the line in. Mikey and I were lying on our bellies, staring at the fish. Then it happened. The line went taunt and Liz sarted saying, “Holy crap, holy crap.” Reeling hard, Liz leaned back and Mike and I jumped to our feet. Instantly,we realized she had hooked Big Willie on the first try. It was unbelievable She cranked on the reel and we saw the massive gray fish rise to the surface then pull back on the line. The reel screamed. We were no match with out K-Mart Rod and Reel. Big Willie pulled line like a yo-yo. Liz screamed at Mike, “get the net, Michael Clark get the damn net!”
The net was taller than Mike, but he snatched it up then stared into the water, waiting for his chance to scoop up Big Willie. Liz made an executive decision, we couldn’t wait any longer. She shoved five year old Mikey into the lake and started screaming at him. “Scoop him up, Mike. Catch him.”
I helped her hold the rod as the fish tried to get away from Mike, his net and kicking legs. There was fishing line, splashing, screaming and then suddenly Mike yelled, “He’s in!”
Tiny Mike tried to hold the net up as he treaded water but the fish weighed too much. Liz dropped the pole and stretched out on the boardwalk to grab the net. She pulled the net and the gigantic fish onto the hot wooden planks while I helped 50 pound Mike out of the water.
Liz had Big Willie, flopping furiously in the net. His catfish mouth gaped open, he looked so angry and slimy. His whiskers were at least three inches long and we had no idea what to do with the monster. The hook poked though his cheek and the bread ball was still on the hook in his mouth. His eyes rolled in our direction and we all stepped back.
Liz pushed Mike. “Get the hook out.”
“Hell no. He’ll get me .”
“You get the hook out,” I said to Liz. She looked at me as thought I was made of cat poop and stupid. Then she picked up the net, we had to help her. And we walked toward my condo as Big Willie flopped.
Finally, we got Willie back to the condo. Liz looked at me. “We can put him in the bathtub right? He’ll be ok.”
I nodded stupidly.
Then we smuggled Big Willie into the condo, we made it upstairs to the bathroom. I filled the bathtub with cold water and Mike leaned against the door so Louella couldnt’ push it open Finally, it was full. Mikey held the net as Liz and I raised the fishing pole Big Willie was still attached to.
We got him out of the net into the gleaming white tub. And for a little while, we all held the pole and watched him swim slowly around the tub. The hook was poking out of his face and he was tethered to our pole but he didnt seem to mind
Ginally Mike stepped into the bathtub and started laughing as the big fish swam past his leg. Liz and I got in too and we giggled like maniacs as Big Willie swam between and past our legs. Liz had the reel, then let line out, we picked up our feet so the line wouldn’t get tangled. We laughed so hard Mike started peeing in the tub. The we laughed even harder…until Louella walked in.
It was terrible. She screamed until my Mom arrived. We had to take Willie to the lake, cut the line and let him go. Then I got a spanking and I’m pretty sure I could hear Liz and Mike laughing in the next room.
It was a great day
Recently my cousin had surgery and the tough ass woman is back! I love you cuz and Bubba too.
Comments OffTags: AR, Hot Springs, Lake Hamilton, Liz McCaniel, Louella Thomas
One of the most befuddling questions I hear every week….”so what’s your blog about?” or “what do you write about?” Yikes, that’s tough, I should know what I write about but I don’t. I should have an ‘elevator description’ for Hampoland, something short, to the point, accurate and endlessly witty. I got nothing.
If you look at the counter at the bottom of the page you’ll see there have almost been one million hits. I’m astonished and grateful but I still don’t know what it is I’m writing about.
My standard answer is “I’m almost brilliant….fifty percent of the time”. But that’s not really an answer, just a flip rebuttal.
For the last two weeks I’ve been talking a great deal about my dad, I. Granger McDaniel, a visionary, a war hero, a miracle man. And while I was talking and talking and writing and writing I think I discovered a couple of my themes. I learned them from him.
1. Happiness is a choice you have to make every morning. It’s not something that arrives or is given to you by somebody else. Look around you, see your world, see the magic and love it.
2. With faith and hard work anything is possible. Happiness is possible, love is possible, magic is possible. But you have to have faith and work hard.
3. Always put your family first. From the begining and in the end that’s what matters.
PS I’m putting my family first by posting this link. It’s my son, Jack, and his band. Send them twenty dollars please. if you send them 100 they will write you a song!
Check it out please.
Comments OffTags: elevator answer, faith, hampoland
My father, I. Granger McDaniel was a true hero and legend in WWII. I planned on writing about a letter he wrote to his mom, after being shot down over the North Sea.
But there’s another story I heard over and over again, and even as a little girl, I thought it was really funny.
Dad left high school and ran off, from Hot Springs, Arkansas, to join the war effort when he was just 17, before the United States was in the fight. Because he had some flying experience ended up in England as a piolit for the RAF (Royal Air Forcer) at the ridicuolsy young age of 17. Dad was captain of a Short Sterling, a massive bomber with a seven or eight man crew.
When Dad wasn’t flying, he was in London, and spent a great deal of time in the RAF Officers Club. Every night, when the bar closed all the officers would stand as the band played God Save the King.
One night, after hours of drinking, Dad stood up to address the gentlemen in the club. Imagine a brash teen aged pilot, surrounded by older British officers, drunk but determined and sincere. He told the band director they should play hisnational anthem as well as God Save The King. He was fighting for their country, America should be recognized. The band leader acquiesced and agreed to play the United State’s national anthem before God Save the King.
Then has asked Dad to sing the song, to refresh his memory. Dad was young and drunk, he thought for a moment then started humming Dixie. “I wish I were in Dixie, away away.”
Aaahhhh yes, the band leader recognized the tune.
The next night all the RAF officers stood in reverence as the band played Dixie, then God Save th King.
The following morning Dad walked out of his room and was immediately arrested. The charge was Treason against the King. Dad’s superiors thought he was mocking the British Monarchy when he asked the band to play Dixie and claimed it was the USA’s national anthem.
A barrister was assigned to represent Daddy in court. He was a smart, fat, sweaty man. And when he heard the details of the situation he came up with an idea for a defense almost immediately.
Just a few days latter they stood in front of a judge to plead Dad’s case. Remember, all of England was under attack as the Nazis stormed across Europe. The country was under siege and desperate. So the smart sweaty barrister explained, with elaborate detail, that Daddy’s family was not only from America, they were from”The South”. When the South tried to succeed from the Union, Dad’s family fought in the Civil War valiantly, with heart and soul. Cousins, brothers and fathers died in The War of The States. According to Dad, and the sweaty barrister, our family never surrendered to the North, never acknowledge the losse to the north and in Daddy’s heart, “The South” was still his nation, therefore Dixie was in fact, his national anthem.
Obviously my father, the arrogant and brilliant teen aged pilot was of more use the England bombing Nazis then he was behind bars. So the judge accepted his transparent explanation and he was cleared of treason charges.
Six months latter he was shot down over the North Sea and spent four years in POW camps. But that’s a story for another day. Have a wonderful Memorial Day and thank you to all our men and women in the armed forces.
Comments OffTags: I Granger McDaniel RAF, WWII
Recently, I realized once you hit 45 your entire mind set changes about working out, exercise and fitness. Because I am a woman in America, and I have been for quite a while, I started worrying about weight and shape and working out when I was probably four years old.
Actually, those “I must be hot” self improvement thoughts first exploded into my head when I slow danced with a boy named Steve Weatheral in 6th grade. In the words of Marsha Brady, “he was so dreamy.” Steve had the 1970′s swoopy dirty blond hair and he hummed while we danced to Love will Keep us Together by The Captain and Tennille. (There next big hit was Muskrat Love)
We were both invited to a swim party the next weekend and I really wanted to find a way to grow boobs before the weekend.
Once a girl starts thinking about improving her body…..it never stops. Bigger hips, smaller butt, better calves, flatter tummy, bigger boobs, sleeker arms, thinner thighs. We are an ongoing work in progress. We are just like the construction projects my husband starts at our house but never finishes. The needs, plans, wants and desires are constantly changing so the project is never finished.
Until that day between 45 and 55. You suddenly realize your “uber hot” days are probably gone. Sure the 70 year old man at the YMCA still hits on me when I’m doing leg presses but I’m no long subconsciously working out all the time in order to attract a mate. I’ve got a mate, he’s the guy who never finishes our kitchen modeling project. And he doesn’t care if I gain fifteen pounds. In fact he likes the extra weight because it makes my boobs get bigger.
The truth is I do want to be hot again, like I was at 26….but that’s probably not going to happen.
So, I now lift weights now because I like muscle definition. I’m competitive and want to do things other people can’t. I work out because I have the brain of a junky and I really like the endorphins. I train in Martial Arts because I love my Taekwondo family and don’t want to stop hanging out with them. Recently I started running again because I want to brag and tell people I run 5ks.
I’m still doing almost exactly what I did 20 years ago but my motivation has changed. I don’t work out to get a man, I’m way past that. And apparently I’m even more shallow and childish than I was at 13.
Tags: Age, fitness
Last Sunday was horribly cold and raining. Sandor and I went to Walmart, then sprinted back to the car, splashing in nearly freezing puddles. After putting the fifteen bags of groceries into the car we jumped in, soaked, shivering and laughing.
I was so cold my fingers shook as I turned the key. And there was that horrible silence. Sandor and I looked at each other as I tried again. I’d left the lights on and the battery was dead.
I took a deep breath before calling my husband, Alex. I knew he’d just gotten home from a miserable nightmare of a day at work. He’d gone in at 4:30 am, to face frozen boilers, employees who didn’t show up, and a flooded kitchen.
When I explained what had happened he sighed heavily and my heart broke just a little. Then he said, “I’ll be there in fifteen.”
Sandor and I managed to save the parking spot directly in front of my car so he could pull his truck right up to my bumper. He arrived, jumped out, raised the hood then I saw him shake his head and wince.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
He looked down and so did I. He’d left the house in his slippers, no socks, and was standing in a puddle of nearly frozen water. “Oh Lord, I’m so sorry,” I said.
And that’s when he laughed a little and made a joke. He and Sandor hooked up the cables as the rain turned to freezing rain. He kept shaking his hands, trying to get them warm. Briefly he explained the positive and negative terminals to Sandor who is eleven, before he signaled for me to crank the engine.
Here’s what Alex never did. He never griped or yelled at me. He didn’t try to make me feel any worse than I already did. He didn’t complain once though it was a horrid and painful situation.
Instead he saved his wife and set a good example for his son. I don’t want Sandor to grow up to be the kind of man who gets mad at his wife for being human. He can follow his dad’s example.
There are times Alex screws up big time. Last week I bought a new skirt for an event we had to attend. I got dressed and he casually said, “That outfit makes you look really boxy.”
I was mad and sad and crushed and he was standing on paper thin ice about to fall into the frigid waters of “Lake Pissed-Off Wife”.
But when I really needed him he was there. And he almost smiled.
Tags: alex hampo, husbands
Sandor and Sam are both eleven and on the 5th grade football team. They are both athletic and start most games. But they are not, apparently, the “jocks” who rule the fifth grade at Fountain Lake. According to the boys there are four or five boys who are on offense and they think they are really special. All the girls love them, they make fun of other kids and they “act like jerks with swag”, explained Sandor. Eleven year old with swag, I really want to see what that looks like.
My boys seemed a little depressed by the state of affairs in fifth grade until I said, “Hey, I’ve got some really good news for you.”
“What?” they both appeared in the kitchen.
“Unload the dishwasher and I’ll tell you.”
They got to work and waited for me to give them the good news.
“When you guys get into junior high and high school things are going to change. Right now football is the only game in town so the star football players are all big and bad and get the attention. But in a couple of years it all spreads out. There are gonna be super stars in band, in basket ball, in school plays, even in EAST lab doing crazy awesome stuff on computers. All the focus won’t be on just a hand full of jerky football players.”
They stopped unload the dishes. “Really?”
“Sure, think about it. Last night at the Mr. Fountain Lake contest all those guys on stage were really popular but only a couple of them played football. Do you remember who won?”
They both said “Eli!”
“That’s right and he’s not a jerk at all. Eli is awesome, he’s the president of student council, he started the robotic team, he’s super smart. But he’s not a jerk and he helps people, he’s not a bully.”
“Yeah, Eli is awesome,” one of them said. And they started unloading the dishes again, until somebody burped and the other one laughed and threw a a gross wet sponge. It missed it’s target but hit the cat. The boys then tried to catch the cat to apologize. They never actually caught it but did end up wrestling under a Sponge Bob blanket and I finished unloading the dishwasher.
Tags: 5th grade, football, jerks, jocks
California is currently suffering one of the worst droughts since the 1970s. Things were so bad back then folks had to keep a bucket with hem when they showered then use that water to flush toilets and water plants.
This year they are suffering catastrophic wild fires and crops are dying because of the rainfall shortage.
Here’s my question. WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?
Some of the biggest brains in the world live in California. Some of the most technologically advanced companies and scientists are right there, in California. You guys have created all sorts of remarkable, brilliant and stupid stuff…but you can’t figure out this water problem.
Because of Silicone Valley I can put a GPS tracking device in my dog, my kid and my car so I never lose them.
Doctors have figured out how to make sixty year old women look thirty in California.
You guys have given me the ability to keep a computer in my pocket that turns off all the lights at my house, starts my car , tells me I’m fat and need to work out and reminds me to pick up my child from school.
I’m pretty sure California was in on the development of laser systems that can blast asteroids out of space and correct my eye sight with Lasik surgery.
When all my cell phone contacts were lost and gone forever it was Google that found them and made them magically appear on my phone.
But you can’t figure out how to fix the water shortage in your own state? Listen you uber-tan dumb- ass Californians, there’s the Pacific ocean sitting right next to you. It’s the largest body of water on the planet, 63 million square miles. Use your big ass brains to start desalinating some water and take care of your crops. If the price of orange juice jumps up to ten dollars a gallon I’m gonna be mad.
How complicated can water desalination be, even on a massive scale? American scientists and computer geeks have managed to tap every phone in the country, they’ve created a car that parks itself and they put a rover on Mars…how hard can this be for you guys?
So stop playing around with your nano-technology, get your head out of Google’s cloud, quit arguing about dark matter and the NSA and make me a decent glass of drinking water.
Comments OffTags: california, drought, science