Sunday, March 20, 2016

You’ve Got A Friend In Me – By C.P. Stringham

My dad's pride and joy 1946 Willy's Jeep and Mom's brand new
1979 Buick Regal in the background. I just remember the Jeep
didn't have any seatbelts. Have times changed! 
I’ve had a lot of time to be retrospective lately. I’m helping plan a 25th wedding anniversary party for a high school friend who I had lost touch with until recently. The sad part of this admission is that, for the past twenty years, we have lived within seven to fifteen miles of each other at any given time and have only been “reunited” since I joined Facebook seven years ago. Alas, while we complain about the time we “waste” on social media, it has been a great tool for catching up with long lost friends. While Penny graduated a year behind me, we attended a very small school in rural Northeastern Pennsylvania where everyone knew everybody. Since we were from the same “neighborhood,” we rode the same school bus and her younger brother was best friends with my younger brother.
Fred's 1979 Camero - This car ate Ford Mustangs for breakfast! 
My kid brother's high school sidekick and Penny's kid brother, Brent.
In fact, while I was in college or home visiting from the Philly area, I felt like Brent was a part of the family. He and Fred were always working on some car project. Brent had a classic Chevy Nova with a 383 engine that he was able to miraculously keep dirt road dust off of like it was made out of Teflon or something. Fred’s first car was a ’79 Buick Regal. The car was ordered new by my parents, driven by our mom for years before being given to me until I bought my yuppie Honda Accord, and then was passed down to Fred. The stock 231 V-6 engine wasn’t enough for my brother—the vo-tech student who took after our motorhead father. He
 dropped a performance 350 in with a racing cam, installed a racing torque converter, and replaced the highway-friendly, gas-saving 308 rear for a lower 373 rear for weekday driving, and had a 411 rear for “weekend driving”—which meant faster take off for drag racing. You know, something EVERY high school boy needs in a car. Zero to sixty in what-the-hell seconds! I grew up in a house where knowing the higher the number of a rear, the lower it was geared for faster take off and the lower the number of a rear, the higher it was geared for higher top end long distance speed was all second nature. And then came his 1979 Chevy Camero. Again, its stock 305 V-8 wasn’t fast enough, so he upgraded to a small block Chevy 350. He bored out the cylinders and added a performance cam. It was fast. Really fast. I recall a test drive with him at the wheel, Eric Cressman in the copilot’s seat, and me in the rear seat, flying along the back stretch of County Route 427, heading back towards Wellsburg, at an easy 140mph. The engine had more to give, but we were running out of unpopulated roadway. I remember saying, “What’s that smell?” and Eric answering with a grin, “Brake shoes. It takes a lot of brake to slow down at this speed.” I made the sign of the cross and wondered if my brother had the foresight to install a parachute—just in case. Whatever car my brother had taken from tame and transformed into “Frankenwheels,” you could bet Penny’s little brother had spent some time under the hood as well. I guess that makes him Igor, the mad mechanic’s assistant!
Our founding Liberal Ladies members!! L-to-R: Jan, Michelle,
Penny, Me, and my oldest. We are now 23 members strong!

Penny is one of the founding members of our Liberal Ladies’ Luncheon League. Living in a predominately conservative area makes for lonely political conversations to those who are like-minded. We have to stick together. And we do. While I tend to keep my social media posts tame, she isn’t afraid to ruffle feathers. As an author, who counts on social media to help sell books, I have to exercise restraint. That doesn’t mean I won’t like the hell out of someone’s progressive post!
Penny and I are also 
Meeting up at ArtsFest! Me with Penny and her boys!
moms of children on the Autism Spectrum. Both of her boys have the higher functioning Asperger’s Syndrome, while my youngest was classified with Pervasive Development Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified. We’ve learned to lean on each other over the past few years because, even though our families and other friends mean well, they truly don’t understand what moms of special needs children go through. If it isn’t a medical or a behavioral issue we are trying to work through, it’s a school-related issue. Our kids have Individual Education 
Me with Robin Janney- Author and Penny. Unplanned purple wardrobe.
Plans or IEP’s. We have to continually advocate for our kids to make sure they are receiving the necessary educational services to make them successful students. For my daughter, things have gone smoothly at our local school. For Penny’s boys, not so much. They are almost finished with their first year of homeschooling and it has been highly satisfying for momma and sons.
Penny and her family; L-to-R: Dillon, Helene, Ashton, and Kevin.

This year is Penny’s 25th wedding anniversary; a huge accomplishment in this day and age of high rate divorce. She and Kevin have made it through years of infertility issues, employment setbacks, Penny’s autoimmune disease, and, currently, they are both dealing with spine-related injuries. Penny is in need of a second cervical spine fusion and Kevin just had his first cervical disc surgery—because, when it rains, it pours. With all the stress of keeping up with their financial responsibilities, they need to take time to celebrate the milestone their marriage has hit. With everyone’s hectic schedules, it is too hard to attempt a surprise party, so family and friends alike are helping to organize the event. Penny asked if I would help out and I jumped in and our fellow Liberal Lady, Jan, and her husband, Doug, have offered their services as well. Since my family is dealing with its own set of medical issues with both of my daughters, I needed the distraction party planning would bring about. I’ve been crafting for two weeks. Guest table centerpieces, dessert table decorations, bridal table decorations, etc. I’ve been doing what I can to make it special for my friend. My mom even lent a hand last weekend. She loves any crafting task that allows her to whip out her hot glue gun! She’s also making the cupcakes and ceremonial cake for the cupcake tower. My neighbor, Betty, is even donating her incredible bar cookies, my mom’s making pecan tassies, and Penny’s aunt is making snickerdoodles with more varieties to come. What’s better at a party than a fully equipped dessert table?!?
At any rate, that’s what I’ve been up to, so no writing is really going on. A little here. A little there. It’s all good. I’ll be sure to post party pics in an upcoming blog post.  
The invitations!