Tuesday, June 28, 2016

What Do Panama and I Have in Common?

This photo has nothing to do with today's topic. Isn't it gorgeous, though? Husband made it.
Hey, there, Panama!

I see you down there, with your fabulous hats and your monkeys in the streets! It's been a big week for both of us, no? We both have new canals! Of course, yours is of the $5.5 billion expansion type and mine is of the root type, but still. So very, very momentous.

I mean, a canal is a canal, amiright?

And for both of us, this was a second stab at what we had thought was going to be a one and done project. A century ago, when the first ship sailed through your famous locks (and someone first thought "'A man, a plan, a big ditch,'--dang! That can't be right!") the Panamenos probably thought "Thank heaven that's done. That construction took FOREVER and now we can finally clean up and put the sofa back where it belongs."

I thought the dental equivalent of that a couple of weeks ago, too, when my dentist took his first crack at the root canal needed in my upper back molar. Instead, he worked on it for a while then decided a specialist in the Big City should share the fun so he did the oral equivalent of slapping a BandAid over the wound and sent me on.

Yesterday the Big City specialist did his thing, or at least I'm assuming he did. By the time he came into the room the lovely assistant (who was the spittin'-here image of my favorite children's librarian--hi, Miss Jo!) had already X-rayed me, prepped me on what would be happening, reclined me back in the seat, and slipped some cool shades on me so that I could look especially fetching as I drooled.

I was completely relaxed, thanks to the combined powers of prayer and nitrous oxide, so when the endodontist introduced himself and pointed out the nasty fishhook curve in the root that he would be excising, I distinctly remember thinking "I will not be able to pick you out in a lineup later."

Panama, when your contractors began digging, did you think "No matter what happens, they are totally getting away with it because WHO ARE THEY?"? I didn't think so. Maybe you should have had a whiff of nitrous before you began? Because I don't know what I thought Dr. Whatever-His-Name-Was was going to do that would cause me to have to identify him in a lineup, but Panama, you'll feel better if you don't remember the last nine years of construction.

Over the course of the next hour I wrote half a dozen blog posts in my mind, and they were HILARIOUS. Thanks to the nitrous, they also are gone forever, as is the nasty fishhook root and everything else I thought during the procedure.

I've been able to retrieve only one clear memory of the procedure and that was when Dr. W-H-N-W said to Miss Faux Jo, "Could you straighten out that big paperclip and hand it here?" That concerned me for, oh, two seconds before I cared no more. Not only did this guy have multiple medical degrees (and Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman could have done brain surgery with a paperclip), it probably wasn't at all what he said.

So, Panama, congratulations to the both of us! We are now both done with things that we knew were necessary but that we weren't looking forward to at all.

Now you can put the sofa back where it belongs and go back to looking for monkeys in the street. Me? I'll be looking closely at everyone I see in Big City, seeing if I can actually pick out my endodontist.

I just have to know what he did with that paperclip.

Monday, June 20, 2016

The New Normal, In Progress

The past few months have not been the favorite chapter of my life, to be quite honest. It began with That Thing That Happened, and continued through Clean Out the Attic Month. And because that wasn't fun enough, my very first root canal (which hasn't even been blogged yet) has been thrown into the mix.

Today, though, I'm taking a practice swing at what will be my new normal. This day off from my old job is a run-up to what will be routine soon.

In a few weeks I'll be working half-time, from home. As I've mentioned before, my most blissful default position  is sedentary--knitting, Netflix, and good books. There's nothing wrong with a moderate dose of this default but without the enforced discipline of  a traditional office job I could see myself growing pale and myopic with so much indoor, ingrown existence.

So I'm making a list of healthy habits I plan to incorporate into my daily routine.

Exercise, every day. Quiet time, every day. Writing for pleasure, every day.The satisfaction of cleaning something, every day. And every day, some time outside.

This morning I drank my cappuccino on the deck with the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle. It will be ghastly hot later in the day but the morning was cool and shaded on the west side of the house. It was lovely, and I filled in every square (although I think 78 Down might be incorrect).

I sat there for a few minutes after the coffee and crossword were finished, thinking about how very, very lucky I am to have the luxury of choosing a routine that includes these indulgences. I'm not naive enough to think I will never feel  hurt or uncertainty again, but I welcomed contentment back like a friend who  has been missing and presumed dead.

The swing at the new normal has been a home run.

Unrelated but important  footnote: Boy#1 has officially made me an old person by turning 30 today. He is wiser and funnier and a better writer and person than I will ever be. Happy birthday, Waffle Child!  

Monday, June 13, 2016

Down and Out

If you're around me this week and I suddenly vomit and fall asleep, don't be alarmed. It's just the cumulative effect of hitting my head eleventy-seven times on ceiling rafters in the past few days. Husband has declared June to be Clean Out the Attic month in the House on the Corner, so every morning we're getting up while it's still cool to spend a few hours of quality couple time under the roof.

Having a gigantic enormous house with a gigantic enormous attic has been most handy over the 30 years we've lived here because we have not had to make a single decision as to whether something should be kept or thrown away. "Just put it in the attic" is chiseled on our family crest, and even though we've made fluttery motions at cleaning out the attic from time to time, we've never been terribly serious about it.

And after a week or so of trips up and down the narrow stairway carrying heavy boxes, walking hunched over under the outside edges, and trying not to swear as I hit my head AGAIN, I remember why we never got serious about it before. Cleaning the attic is a pain.

Oh, we've made some really fun discoveries.

There is the antique bed that Husband bought before we got married, intending to refinish it. This thing is really old--the "springs" are a chain link contraption that I'm sure the pioneers found extremely comfortable.

We also found the car seat all four Boys used, and that we had intended to use for grandchildren before it was discovered that this kind of car seat actually is a death cab for cuties rather than a safety device. The baby gate behind the car seat might have come in handy some day except that baking in attic heat for two decades did the plastic webbing no good whatsoever and a toddler with any smarts would escape this Alcatraz with no trouble.

We found the Tie Fighter Halloween costume that Boy#2 made in one of his final costume-wearing years, and it had held up pretty well.

And we were pretty sure we had found a treasure when we found this pristine box.

What could it be?

Oh, yay! It's a computer!

Or, rather...

It is the packing material for a computer. A really old computer.

Yes, our attic is filled with treasures. When we have cornered the market on empty boxes and packing materials, as we apparently are trying to do, the price is sure to go up. We're going to make a fortune. 

Meantime, please excuse the vacant stare and occasional drooling. The concussion symptoms should go away within three months. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

A Short History Lesson

I posted this picture on my Facebook page last Thursday as I set off for the convention I attend every year. It was with a certain amount of chagrin that I remarked that I was pretty sure the passengers on the Mayflower founded a new nation with less luggage than I was taking to a three-day convention.

May I say a word in defense of my pre-convention packing?

  • The "big" suitcase is a carry-on overhead bag, not a full-sized suitcase. It is filled with clothes, because this is the kind of convention where you could possibly change for a banquet. 
  • The other piece of luggage contains only one spare pair of shoes and my ditty bag. (Does anyone else call it this? Or is that a family thing because my dad was in the Navy?) The ditty bag, I will admit, is not small. I am past the age where I wake up in the morning bright-eyed and fresh-faced, and the contents of this bag are used to manufacture the completely false impression that I do. 
  • The next bag contains convention-appropriate paraphernalia (think schedules, paperwork). All right--it also contains my knitting. And a book. And my iPad. I WILL NOT BE BORED. 
  • The blue bag is full of music. All music. Because I am semi-competent but willing, and I agreed to be the convention pianist. What was I thinking?
  • And in front is my purse. 

This may or may not look like a lot of stuff to you. The Pilgrims, I'm sure, would think it excessive. (They didn't even have three kinds of moisturizer back then, and I'm pretty sure they wore the same pair of buckled shoes with every outfit.)

But nay! It is not excessive compared to how I arrived home from the convention. I give you the back end of Pearl post-weekend:

Not only did I return with everything I took to convention, I also was in charge of transporting displays, easels, and other paraphernalia that will be used at next year's convention. People, I had to RECLINE THE SEATS to be able to get everything home.

The Pilgrims avoided this dilemma by founding Jamestown, and now we know that they endured deprivation, pestilence, starvation, and disease just so they wouldn't have to pack everything back onto the ship. History might have been changed entirely if the Mayflower had been equipped with reclining seats.

But I bet their skin was like leather.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Spirit of the Day

The tiny town where I grew up is one of those places that should only exist in a movie. 

It still has the limestone courthouse and corniced buildings that have served the needs of area farmers and small businessmen since the 1800s, it has a Chautauqua Park at the edge of the river, and many of its streets are the original bricks. 

And every Memorial Day, it has a parade. 

This parade could not be cornier if it was drenched in melted butter. There are  Boy Scouts carrying the flag and the old veterans in their special seating area on town's main intersection struggle to their feet to salute that flag. 

There are flatbed trailers bearing reunion classes, and young-looking grandmothers holding babies and waving to relatives. 

There are enormous, gigantic vehicles that cause me to ponder whether I am using the term "compensating" correctly.

And there is the band, which practices a half hour each year and still sounds amazing on its Sousa marches and patriotic medley. The band exists only because my father, at age 89, organizes the music then badgers and cajoles his friends and loved ones to participate. Each year he beams with pride as he gives the downbeat to "Washington Post March" and the national anthem.

This year, though, Dad had cochlear implant surgery a few days before the parade. He tolerated the anesthesia well, but the device hasn't been activated yet so at this point his poor hearing is even worse. Reluctantly he turned the directing duties over to Much Older Sister. He sat with us who don't play band instruments as the parade rolled by, and in a rare moment, looked his age.

The final car had passed by and the band was striking up "Stars and Stripes Forever" for an encore when I heard my sister calling my name.

"Get Dad!" she called, and I took my father's hand, leading him across the street to the front of the group. He looked at me, confused.

"Go ahead," I told him. "You know what to do."

Suddenly he was standing straighter, looking prouder, and he began to mark the beat. He was the very spirit of the parade.

It was a moment that should have existed only in a movie.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Iowa Stubborn

My artsy take on the Meredith Corporation headquarters
Some of our favorite people live in Iowa. Husband's favorite most-older brother and his lovely family live there, as well as my mother's favorite brother's family, so we have made many, many a trip to our northern neighbor state over the past 30 years. And each and every time we passed the border into Iowa, I had to break out my rendition of "Iowa Stubborn."

The Boys, needless to say, loved it.  I'm assuming their rolling eyes and pained expressions were indication of delight.

I sang "Ooooooooh--there's nothin' halfway about the Iowa way to treat you" last week when Husband and I spent several days in Des Moines. For his 60th birthday present, he had decided to not have a party but rather to apply those party-hosting funds toward a woodworking seminar put on by his favorite magazine. (Well, his favorite magazine is Sports Illustrated, but a punt/pass/kick weekend probably isn't the best choice for a 60th birthday.)

Do you see why I love this man? It's was his birthday, but I got the present! Three days in a hotel with knitting and Netflix and naps, then evenings spent with my sweetie. It's my idea of the most perfect vacation ever.

I managed to bestir myself to go to the famous Des Moines farmers' market, which was just a block away from our hotel. Oh, my goodness, people. So much wonderfulness.

Only Husband's reminder that we would be at least 48 more hours without refrigeration kept me from buying All The Vegetables.

And I did give up some sleep to take a 7 a.m. tour of the Meredith Corporation headquarters. In case you don't recognize that name, I'm pretty sure you magazine readers recognize their products. Better Homes and Gardens. Family Circle. Midwest Living. Woods (of course). The list of magazines they produce goes on and on.

We got to see the test kitchens and where they do their photo shoots, and learned that in a lot of ways they are just like us:
Namely in the ways that make us forget to unplug the iron.
I got to eat multiple times at my very favorite restaurant chain (Panera, because I'm high-brow like that) while reading a book that made me laugh out loud

Half a spicy Thai salad, half a winter corn chowder and a great book. Perfection.
Then I got to spend the evenings with a guy who smelled like wood shavings and wasn't above braving Des Moines's maze of one-way streets chasing around a pedal bar that we thought maybe we had imagined seeing. 

Nope. It was real.
It was a fabulous four days, which I would happily repeat and repeat and repeat.

You really ought to give Iowa a try.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

What Not to Say

When I don't have a photo, I have flowers. Thank you, Boys!
What should you say when someone you know has had a life upset--a death in the family, a divorce, a kid who's been arrested, an unexpected job change? (Hey, that last one hits kind of close to home.)

Let's start with what not to say. Here's the absolute worst choice:

"             ."

That's right. Nothing is the worst possible thing to say when someone you know is hurting.

I have known that, intellectually, for at least three decades. That's when my own boss lost his job. (Well, he didn't actually lose his job, but another layer of administration was put between him and the president, which so completely transformed what he did that it was the emotional equivalent.) I didn't know what to say to Max, so I said nothing. I went about my work in a way that distanced me from him as much as possible, rationalizing that I was saving him the embarrassment of having to talk about the demotion. A month later, though, when he had found a new job and was moving on, I was in his office to talk about something else and he suddenly burst out.

"Do you know how many people have TALKED to me in the last month?" he asked me. "One. One person had the guts to come in here and say 'Are you going to make this work or are you going to tell them to shove it?' Every other person at this university has acted like nothing at all has happened."

To this day I regret that I was not that person who said something but I also vowed I never again would let let my own embarrassment keep me from saying something to a hurting person. I've not always kept that vow, but I've been ashamed of the times I've failed.

So today, here is a handy list of things you can say when you are tempted to say nothing.
1. I'm sorry.
2. I'm thinking of you.
3. You're on my prayer list. 
4. I love you. 
5. I'll miss seeing you in the bathroom.
6. Hang in there.
7. I'll miss you the next time I have an apostrophe question. 
8. Thank you for all you've done. 
9. Good luck.
10. This sucks, doesn't it?
11. Let's keep in touch. 
12. You weren't very good at your job, but I know this hurts and I regret that. 

Yes, even number 12 is better than saying nothing.

You don't have to use them all of these handy phrases--please don't, in fact, use number five unless...well, use your own judgment. You'll be able to read the room and know if the person you're talking to wants to change the subject, but the elephant in the room will have shrunk to a manageable size. And feel free to make up your own something-to-say.

Just please, please, don't say this:

"                ."