Monday, March 27, 2017

I Write Because I'm Happy

This recipe has been used a bazillion times
My last post about books I've recently read was so much fun that I turned around and wrote another post immediately.

Ha! Ha! Ha!

No, of course I didn't. But I thought about writing another post immediately, which should count. The fun of my books post was that you lovely readers responded with titles of books you've been reading and suggestions for more books, and wheeeee! Now all I want to do is read.

But I didn't want to leave you hanging without letting you know some of the things that are making me happy at the start of this week.

1. Boy#1 emailed last night with a request for a bread recipe I used often while the Boys were growing up. (Check out the recipe card--that puppy has been dripped on, spattered, tattered, and burned.) It was my mom's recipe and I felt as if I was giving Boy and Lovely Girl a bequest straight from her when I sent it off this morning. Of course, I had to give auxiliary instructions, which included updating for KitchenAid kneading and "Keep the rye flour in the freezer--you'll only use it for this, and it's too expensive to let it get buggy."  Gah. I'm surprised I didn't remind him make sure all his buttons were in the right buttonholes before he left for work.

2. And speaking of grown-up Boys, numbers Two and Three (and Four, for just the weekend) were in and out of the House on the Corner last week, which is another of my happy things. Two was doing research that involved camping in my brother's pasture for three days because it's far enough from power lines to not interfere with the sensors he was using, and Three was on spring break so he went along so that he could lord it over his friends who were spending their breaks in Cancun that HE had spent break in a KANSAS PASTURE, and nanny-nanny-pooh-pooh.

3. Spring is making me happy, especially since it rained last night and now I can worry a little less about our trees and shrubs being thirsty. My women's group is selling bedding plants with proceeds to support educational projects for women, and I am afraid I am going to buy All The Plants by accident because they just look so yummy in the flyer. (Also, if you want to support educational projects for women, need some dandy hanging baskets or bedding plants at good prices, and can pick them up in Small Town on April 15, hit me up. But do it quickly, because I have to turn in my orders this week. It's a good cause. Really.)

4. And finally, I'm happy because this sit-com is hilarious and is restoring my faith in NBC sit-coms. Oh, people. I thought when Parks and Rec turned out the lights in Pawnee that I would never laugh at a half hour show again, but Trial and Error is restoring my faith in funny. And sure, I would have preferred that the show description that my link sends you to not say "Something's afoot when the team finds a 'sex-print' left in Larry's room," but take my word that most of this show is not that but is watchable with a grown-up son, as I did with Boy#3 this week.

What's making you happy today?

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Also, I've Been Reading

The picture that opens this post has nothing to do with what I'm actually going to write about, but since the other images today are "borrowed" from Amazon (and I'm pretty sure that if you click through to buy a book they wouldn't mind, even though I have no financial stake in that decision) I thought I'd participate in the Pi Day frenzy.

When I visited a couple of weeks ago this was the daily specials board at the cafe in the small town near where I grew up. Pie! Pie! Pie! Also, carbs over carbs with a side of carbs. It was delicious, she said defiantly.

But back to what I'm really aiming toward talking about today, which is, what I've been reading. Yes, in addition to ACTING in the opera (maybe the most fun I've had since, oh, I can't remember when), my jam-packed schedule has included more reading than any time in the last decade or so. I'm always looking for recommendations of good books (and I assume you are as well) so here's a sampling of what I've read. I recommend them all.

A Man Called Ove. I know! I was the final person in the world to read this book, largely because I am perhaps the cheapest person in the world and my spot on the waiting list at the Kansas state library's e-book collection did not come up for months. The timing was perfect, though, because the day before January's Iceamageddon was to occur I was notified that it was in my queue. Since Iceamageddon did not actually happen at all but everything was cancelled I spent the entire day cuddled into an afghan getting to know Ove. He seems to be a type I am predisposed to love, since I also love Doc Martin, and I highly recommend this to anyone who believes there is redemption for the cranky.

The Underground RailroadAnother one for which I waited until all the buzz had died down and no one wanted to talk about any more. It has been out long enough that I don't think I'm spoiling anything by revealing that this underground railroad is actually a  railroad that is underground which, hmmmm. It's an intriguing premise, and I was rooting hard for Cora, but I was not as bowled over as the critics and Oprah were.

Rules of Civility. This one I had never heard of, but someone recommended it to me and I pass along that recommendation with no reservations. I loved the narrator and her aspirations to be more than a typist, I loved the descriptions of the Depression-era music, I loved the matter-of-fact way Kate lived her life in spite of her unpredictable friends. But even this book wasn't as much of a delight to me as...

I Capture the Castle. I paid 50 whole cents for this when I saw it on the Friends of the Library sale shelf. Oh, people, if I'd have known I'd have paid up to a thousand times that. Two thousand, because what a lovely book! Wikipedia informs me it was written in 1948, when Dodie Smith was living in California. It's set in England sometime between the two Great Wars, and the narrator is a 17-year-old girl who wants to be a writer. Her family is living in a crumbling castle, and...well, you just MUST read it. It's Downton Abbey without any money, pretensions, or missing Gutenberg Bibles.

So that's what I've been doing as I'm pretend I'm super-super-busy.

What have you been reading?

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

They Told Me There Would Be No Acting*

One of the multitude of excuses perfectly rational and reasonable reasons I have for being absent from this space for so long is that a couple of months ago I totally and completely lost my everlovin' mind agreed to sing in an opera.

Yes. You read that right: I agreed to sing in an opera.

"But MomQueenBee," you are saying right now, "don't you have a really terrible voice? I have sat in front of you in church and only Christian charity has kept me from shushing you and tying a preventive Ace bandage over your mouth before the next hymn."

And you would not be wrong about that assessment. I have a truly terrible voice, but what I have are pretty-darned-good sight-reading skills and a Puritanical compulsion to show up for rehearsals. Apparently those two qualities are all that are needed to be recruited for the chorus of a Gilbert & Sullivan production on the campus of Small College, so when I got the invitation I agreed with one caveat:

"I will not act," I told the organizer. "I'll buy my own score, I'll show up at every rehearsal, I'll bring my pretty-darned-good sight-reading skills, but I won't emote."

To which the director replied, "Oh, no! No acting from the chorus, please. No, no, no. No acting."

Now, three days before the curtain goes up on The Sorcerer, I'm here to report that opera directors may have voices that shiver glassware but their truth-telling skills are abysmal. I realized that when the following sentence came from his mouth:

"What we're going to want the chorus to do is pretend to be ghosts."

Say what now? Doesn't pretend=acting?

Me: "But you said there would be no acting!"

Him: "This isn't acting. This is pretending to be ghosts. Acting means walking around the stage and involves blocking."

Pfffft. That po-tay-to is a po-tah-to. I will not actually BE a ghost, so I will be ACTING like a ghost.

ACTING. And I don't know how to act.

My friend Mary who stands next to me is an awesome ghost, though. She sways and waves her arms and darned if she doesn't almost scare me. And as I watched her, trying to emulate her spooky hand motions, I realized there was only one other set of people who look like this. It's just that they do their motions faster.

That's why when you come to see the opera this weekend, at the conclusion of the first act you will see one of the altos on the front row of the chorus umpiring baseball in slow motion.


Okay, so it doesn't look precisely ghostly, but Mr. Opera Director, it's as close as I'm going to get.

You told me there would be no acting.

*Some day this will be the title of my autobiography.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

In the Arm, Please, Not the Face

Morning sky in Kansas. 

Back when the Boys were little, maybe when Boy#1 was five and Boy#4 was a newborn, or maybe when I was trying to help all four of them address valentines for their classes or perhaps when Husband and I were splitting up innings because we had baseball games every single night of the week on four different fields, someone a couple decades older than I would invariably look at our frantic activity and say "Enjoy this, because it goes really fast." And I would want to punch that person right in her empty nest because it wasn't going fast at all. It was a million sleepless details, punctuated by empty mouths to be filled and bedtimes that were never soon enough.

Back when I was working full time I heard it from newly-retired friends a couple times every week: "I don't even know how I had time to have a job." And again, my punching instinct would have to be curtailed, because DANG! Try putting eight or nine hours of clock-punching into that day and then tell me how busy you are.

But then the years passed and the Boys grew up, and it was so fast. One day they were sweet hugs and gap-toothed grins, and the next we were calling them for professional advice. And I found myself saying to a new mom at church "I know you don't want to hear this because the days are long, but the years go really fast." To her credit she did not punch me, but that probably was only because she was too groggy to make a fist.

Last week I realized that I had not blogged for weeks, the longest break I'd taken from this space since I started blathering here almost seven years ago. And the break was totally unintentional--I wasn't mad or stunned or any of the other emotions that have caused other shorter breaks. I was just...busy.

Being sorta-kinda-semi-retired has meant that I've had more time to do things I've wanted to do for years--having coffee with friends, trying new recipes, making a meal for a post-surgery acquaintance. Then I started working for The Other Boss (who is still delightful), and took on a freelance project that has been fun but time-consuming.

The spare hours I always thought I would have in sorta-kinda-semi-retirement have disappeared, along with the time I used to carve out for blogging. I've managed to keep up my exercise-every-day commitment (and am seeing some spectacular morning skies), but the and-also-clean-something-every-day resolution? It is to laugh.

So I'm just going to say it: I don't know how I had time to have a job.

Go ahead and punch me. I deserve it.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

My New Job

First day selfie
Between my jobs at newspapers and as a college administrator, I have worked in offices for the better part of four decades. I am (if I may say so) a whiz at word processing (do they still call it that?) and I know my way around a computer. Also, I know how to answer a phone, although the transfer function is not always my strong suit.

So it seemed perfectly natural to raise my hand when my CPA husband started to look for part-time tax season help at his office.

"Oh! Me! Pick me!" I waved my hand like a third-grader who knows the capital of Peru. "I can do it, and then you wouldn't have to pay someone else!"

It made perfect sense to me. My current "real" job is flexible and except for a few set hours, can be done at times I choose. I would just choose hours that weren't in the three afternoons each week Husband needs help, and put that income aside for the bathroom remodel I'm fantasizing about.

In my enthusiasm, I may not have noticed Husband turning a little pale at this offer. I mean, what husband doesn't want his wife invading his professional space, commandeering the thermostat and ruthlessly pruning the philodendrens? The fact that we can't write a Christmas letter together without me having a tantrum is completely irrelevant. But he agreed to a try-out, with the caveat that if it didn't work out we were still going to remain married.

Last week I had my first week on the job and thus far I have learned several things:

  1. The government requires a lot of forms. I mean, really a lot. 
  2. Printer settings matter. (An entire tax form printed out on a label maker is a fascinating artifact, though.)
  3. Transferring phone calls is haaaaaaard.
  4. Some people find beauty in leggy philodendrons, and do not appreciate the tidiness of a well-trimmed plant. 
  5. And finally, every person I tell about my employment situation will make a "joke" that includes a reference to sleeping with the boss. Every. Single. One. 
But also, I've found that my guy not only is a really good accountant, he's also a thoughtful and patient boss who laughs when I print a document on the label maker and has used the phrase "It's okay--they'll call back" without irritation. Thoughtful and patient are excellent qualities in a boss. Also, he's exceptionally cute. 

Maybe next year we can try another Christmas letter. 

Friday, January 20, 2017

It's a New Day

It is a new day in America.
Do you know how I know it's a new day in America? Because this morning, for the first time in 33 years, two months, and one day of marriage, Husband made breakfast.
I came to the kitchen ready to pour my customary bowl of bran flakes (Boy#3 says we have the most senior citizen selection of cereals ever assembled) only to find my beloved standing in front of the stove. And on the stove was a pan, and in the pan was the start of a ham-and-cheese omelet.
"I saw the ham in the refrigerator and decided an omelet sounded good," he said off-handedly.
What the what?
A couple minutes later we were sharing that omelet, along with a slice of whole-wheat toast, plus milk (for him) and a cappuccino (for me). It was delicious.
I'm choosing to take this as an omen.
As many of you know, I haven't been looking forward to this day. The animus that is swirling around us doesn't come just from one side, it comes from all sides. And the despair and heartbreak are not figments of our imagination, or we would not be at this point of division now.
But today started with an omelet, and it was so completely unexpected and lovely, that I'm feeling hopeful that I can find that same unexpected loveliness many places.
I'm declaring this my new day in America. If Husband can make an omelet, I can do something unexpected that might fix even a tiny bit of the unrest that has preceded this day.
It's an omelet day.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Sitting By the Door

Santa apparently thought Lovely Girl's feet were cold, as she received three pairs of socks in her stocking. 
Oh, Dear Reader(s)!

I can barely speak, I'm so excited, but I had to check in here to let you know that I'm going to miss you. Truly, I am. But after today you may not be seeing me much around these parts. After today, I'm going to be busy, busy, busy...

MAKING IT RAIN! (Here, I should be inserting a make-it-rain gif, like this one or this one, but coincidentally, in my class today I will be talking about the perils of using copyrighted material on your blog without permission, so please image your own make-it-rain gif. I do not want to go to jail.) And why do I suddenly have so much wherewithal that I can strew dollar bills around as if they're falling from heaven?

Allow me to back up. This story begins at 6:45 this morning, while I was still dreaming of the possibility of a snow day. That's when my phone rang, but it was not the automated calling-off-school notice I expected. Instead, it was a nice young man with this message:

"Congratulations! You have just won $2.5 million in the Publishers Clearinghouse sweepstakes!" he told me in a somewhat halting accent.

Well, I can tell you for sure, that sat me straight up in bed.

"WHAT?" I screamed. "What time is it?"

"Uh, I think it's maybe a little before 7?" he answered. "And you've just won $950,000 from Publishers Clearinghouse."

Now, I was just a little confused by that.

"You mean you're charging me $1.55 million for asking what time it is?" I mean, I didn't want to act ungrateful, but I did the math, in my head, so go me.

He ignored my question.

"Will you be around later today so that we can bring you your Mercedes-Benz?" he asked, and I could practically hear the keys jangling as he spoke, although the background of noise that seemed to be other Publishers Clearinghouse recipients of $2.5 million was making it difficult to hear him, and he seemed to have the same accent as the deposed King of Nigeria.

"I'll be here waiting for the doorbell to ring!"

And with that promise, I jumped out of bed and began waiting for my Major Prize to arrive. So far no big check is in sight, but I'm making plans for that money and I'm not sure I'll have time to keep things going here at the Nest. It does make me a little sad that I will no longer be contributing to the literary community--where will you get the pictures of Lovely Girl and Boy#1 in their whale and shark slippers on Christmas morning?
Or Boy#2 wearing a Yoda hat and Western-cut jacket and pointing to a sousaphone in my sewing room?
No judgment of the messy shelves, please.
Well, maybe I'll keep checking in until the Benz arrives. I know you'll all want to go for a ride so get your touring hat on! I'm sure that prize is arriving any minute!