Tag Archives: Rachael O. Phillips

Pizza and Me: a 180-Degree Flip

Were you one of those weird kids who did not like pizza? I was.

Known during that era as pizza pie, even the concept sounded odd. “Pie” translated to my mother’s deep-dish peach masterpieces, topped with ice cream. Crust topped by tomato sauce and cheese? Too weird to imagine, as well as vaguely healthy, another strike against it.

Pizza rarely frequented the truck stops and drive-ins where our family ate. Instead, it was sold at pizza parlors. I associated parlors with scratchy “company” clothes and sitting still. Who wanted anything to do with a parlor?

My mother attempted to introduce pizza as a lunch alternative. She baked the cheap boxed kind, whose taste rivaled that of its container. Pepperoni cost too much, as did most other toppings, so she covered pizzas with nutritious, inexpensive onions. Onions! Yuck.

I clung to my dislike until my teens. Unaware that no sleepover achieves official status without pizza, I accepted an invitation to one. Since no onions desecrated the pizza’s surface, I tasted a slice. To my amazement, I liked it. Sort of. Enough that thereafter, when my group ordered pizza, I could participate with passable enthusiasm and, thus, be accepted within the caste.

When my then-boyfriend-now-husband and I discovered deep-dish pizza during college, however, my reticence disappeared forever. We later passed on our pizza passion to our children. Also blessed with our penchant for reading, they raked in hundreds of free-pizza coupons.

If such rewards had been offered when I was a child, I would have kept them (our family never tossed anything free), piling up pizza credits that would have financed my addiction throughout adulthood.

But enough of lifelong regrets. What toppings do you like on your pizza?

I lean toward veggies, mostly for their rationalization value. Meat provides no such benefit. Also, if a diner samples international pizza offerings, she may encounter more protein adventures than she thought possible.

For example, in Japan, she might find eel pizza. In international competition, Finnish chefs baked smoked reindeer pizza, defeating the Italians. Pizza topped by haggis — a blend of sheep’s heart, liver and lungs — is dear to the hearts and stomachs of Scottish diners. Russians are fond of mockba, a mixture of sardines, tuna, mackerel, salmon, and onion on their pizza. Consuming this digestive bomb, no wonder Russians cannot get along with their neighbors.

However, a Swiss chef tops all — or did, before authorities banned his creations from public consumption. He sprinkled spiders, scorpions and snakes on his pizzas, claiming small amounts of venom cause no harm and may even cure arachnophobia.

I’ll stick with veggies and keep my arachnophobia, thank you very much.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s your favorite pizza?

Piano Magic

My five-year-old fingers stretched across the keys of our church sanctuary’s piano.

My mom, who’d never taken lessons, played for services. The keys sang lovely songs she’d absorbed after one hearing. Soon, she played them in any key.

The piano would do musical magic for me, too.

Our family, preparing for a mission trip, lived in our church’s two back rooms. We children were forbidden to touch the church’s unlocked instruments.

Right.

My brother Ned explored the organ’s mysterious tubes and wires.

The baby grand’s rich tones drew me. Besides, fooling with the organ warranted worse punishment.

But keys rarely cooperated when I played. Sometimes, a strand of melody escaped the chaos. But the piano did not love me.

Later, I realized that before confronting us, Mom listened. Her belief in our budding talent later led to Old Camo’s appearance in our sparsely furnished living room.

I’ve never seen such a piano before or since. Gray-and-white camo vinyl covered it. Metal studs outlined its silhouette. No wonder we could afford it. Still, I fell in love.

My fumblings drove my family to the same sentiment as George Bernard Shaw, music critic as well as playwright. He said, “Nothing soothes me more after a long and maddening course of pianoforte recitals than to sit and have my teeth drilled.”

Our daughter passed the music magic on to her children.

But I recognized more and more melodies. My excitement grew … until lessons sapped the magic.

Mom encouraged practice, then bribed, then chained me to the bench, hoping I would make friends with written notes. After four years, I continued to balk. She gave up.

Still, I played for church youth meetings. My peers dove for cover, but melodies and harmonies eventually found my hands. I even played the sanctuary piano (though neither Ned nor I crawled inside the organ anymore.)

Ned, also a piano practice delinquent, nevertheless worked for a piano craftsman. After Old Camo collapsed, teenaged Ned rebuilt a baby grand for Mom.

I missed it after I married. No money for pianos. Given our fabulous $97.50-per-month studio apartment, we’d have had to sleep on the bench.

We were skinny, but not that skinny.

After graduation, a new spinet graced our living room. Despite toddler abuse, teeth-gritting kids’ practices, and my thumping, it remains a monument to the magic.

As is our daughter. Like her mother and grandmother, she often ignores little black notes and discovers her own songs.

Mom was, too. Battling dementia, she played what Dad called his “dinner music” while he cooked.

“Beautiful,” Dad told her.

Though Mom didn’t remember repeating the same song seven times, her fingers and her spirit found their way to lovely music.

The magic triumphed again.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Is piano music magic for you?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Scratching My Head

O Lord, thank You for a gifted 10-year-old grandson who loves to draw cartoons and also loves to bake. Only he would put the two together.

OMG, You know everything. Where does the kid gets his quirkiness? Could You please fill me in?

Indiana Spring: Prepare for Anything

“Would you write a note that says I can’t go teach today?”

My husband, a retired family physician, often heard similar requests about missing work. Today, though, he’s the speaker. Glaring at hail pelting our backyard, he dreads Indiana weather’s hormonal tantrums.

I don’t blame him. While I enjoy gentle raindrop melodies, I dislike hail’s percussion. Poor spring flowers probably don’t appreciate that music, either.

I settle deeper into my cozy robe and sofa seat, tapping on my laptop. One gloating glance from me, and Hubby might park beside me for a month. Maybe two.

Past Aprils have dumped snow on us. Today, thunder, lightning and hail prevail. Will tomorrow bring a biblical plague of frogs?

But spring peepers in nearby wetlands, the amphibian Mormon Tabernacle Choir, remain strangely silent. Perhaps they’re in a mucky mood too.

A born-and-raised Hoosier, I should accept this climatic insanity as normal.

Golfers like our neighbor consider it an unfortunate par for the course. They crave the 70-degree April in which my son was born, with lilacs and crab apple blossoms dizzying us with fragrance.

Or even the spring in which our daughter was born, when April blizzards morphed directly into 90-degree temperatures.

Even without that extreme temperature change, panicked weather personnel have trumpeted tornado doom for our state.

I appreciate their concern. Yet, how do we prepare for such climatic craziness?

Plus, Floridians don’t face the wardrobe problems we brave. Hoosiers cannot retire cold-weather clothing, yet must jam closets with spring-friendly outfits. Do we choose a parka or spring raincoat? Woolies or sleeveless? Wearing layers works, but how many? And not even the most flexible Midwesterner pairs flip-flops with electric socks.

Spring weather also scrambles food choices. If we bravely plan a barbecue, we may squint through a whiteout to see if the chicken’s done. Mother Nature, off her meds, may blow our grill to Cleveland.

Surely, she’ll get over her snit soon. Sunshiny weather will last through a five-minute walk. My miserable diet, kept with swimsuit weather in mind, will prove worth it. Hubby, who persists in making desperate camping reservations, will set up our pop-up without joining our grill in Cleveland.

For now, though, he must face Indiana weather as it is.

“Take an umbrella,” I say.

Hubby rolls his eyes. “It’s in my backpack.”

“Do you have a snow shovel in the car? Boots? Food and water? This might turn into a blizzard.”

“Check. Glad we had the air conditioning fixed last fall. Could be 90 by evening.”

He dons his suit of armor.

I open his helmet visor and kiss him goodbye. Now he’s prepared for anything — even an Indiana spring.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s spring weather like in your state?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Always Behind

O Lord, thank You for giving me three generations of special guys. Not sure why You granted them legs twice as long as mine or 100 times my energy. Nevertheless, OMG, thank You that we can hike and love Your creation together!

Classic Post: Loony the Lamb

This post first appeared on April 12, 2017.

For years, I celebrated holidays by directing church musicals. One fateful Easter, I chose Watch the Lamb, which focused on Jesus as the Lamb of God. A live lamb would make the ancient story come alive.

During rehearsals, the cast greeted our lamb with enthusiasm.

Church janitors did not. “Do something before that animal pees all over — or worse.”

Why hadn’t I considered this minor complication? Especially as the lamb made entrances down different aisles.

Most Passover lambs in 30 A.D. did not wear Pampers®.

What other option existed?

God provided the perfect solution: we would cover the stage and church aisles with the burlap-like backside of my recently discarded carpet.

However, God didn’t send angels to cut, arrange and duct tape the carpet throughout the sanctuary. After two unspiritual, aching-knee days, all my bases were covered. No worries now, right?

Wrong.

Loony the Lamb had his own ideas about entrances and exits. A hay bale helped keep him quiet, but for obvious reasons, we avoided feeding him too much.

The 60-member cast’s noise made Loony more nervous than your Aunt Nellie. Kids petted him without mercy. Bright lights and heat caused him to hyperventilate. During dress rehearsal, Loony the Lamb collapsed onstage in a wooly, quivering heap.

Watch the Lamb? No audience would want to watch this.

Two animal lovers carried the prostrate lamb outside while we prayed — and Loony recovered. One guy built a pen outside the stage door where our prima donna cropped grass between scenes. Visiting hours were restricted, with no autographs. We did everything but paint a star on Loony’s gate.

Thankfully, he showed no new signs of cardiac arrest. His brassy baaaaa erupted only once during performances — during solemn prayer after the crucifixion.

Our ingenious actors shifted and blocked escape routes, all the while looking very holy.

One child earned my special appreciation: “Loony was peein’ on my foot the whole time Jesus was on the cross, but I didn’t say nothin’.”

Even after Loony returned home, I couldn’t shake off sheep. Scriptures about lambs leaped from the Bible’s pages. Jesus frequently called his followers His sheep. After Watch the Lamb, I figured He didn’t mean it as a compliment.

Nevertheless, the King of Heaven volunteered to take on the title “Lamb of God.” It meant daily life with stupid sheep and deadly encounters with wolves in sheep’s clothing. What God in His right mind would do that?

Only a King who loves confused, clueless sheep more than His own life.

Even one dithery pageant director named Rachael — which, BTW, means “lamb.”

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Have you ever participated in a pageant/play that taught you more than you expected?