Thursday, March 31, 2011

Hello. My Name Is MomQueenBee.

My first professional job was as a reporter on a small-town newspaper. It was then that I developed my aversion to unusual names. At the risk of offending their parents, I would say that children with unique names were the bane of my existence. Or rather, the names of children with unique names made me chew my fingernails and mutter grimly to myself.

"Okay, I know that Jason was spelled some way besides the regular way--was it Jaysin?  Jaeson? Jaysan?"

Brittany could be spelled eight or ten or ninety-two ways, and I came to hope that Britnee was an underachiever who never won anything or expected to see her name in the paper. Otherwise I would have to ask (again) if that was with double T's, or double E's, or maybe had she decided to start spelling it Brritny? Aaaargh!

That's why I laid down some ground rules when we began discussing names for the Boys. They had to be solid names that were pronounced and spelled one way and one way only. (I'm ignoring that my own name has two acceptable spellings and that mine is the less common of the variations.)

As a result, we ended up with a couple of Old Testament prophets, an apostle, and one named after his suitably-monikered grandfathers. Common spelling and pronunciation all around.

And that's why, when I run into the parents of Boy#1's friends from high school, they invariably ask, "And how's Forbes doing?"

That's right. One may have been named after a prophet but his high school nickname, imposed by his nerdy friends when he was the 14-year-old spittin' image of a former presidential candidate, is the name that has stuck.

We should have called him Shaka Smart or Moussa Koussa. Those men obviously started life pre-nicknamed.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Street Value

I normally walk around with about four cents in my wallet. Years of having children who always needed $5 for art fees or $2 for a school lunch left me with no ready cash for the past couple of decades and it occurred to me along the way that not having so much as a spare dollar saved me from many an impulse Sonic buy.

Over the weekend my sister- and brother-in-law (who rock, by the way) cleaned out Mother-in-Law's medicine cabinet. As she nears her 10th decade it's easier for her to have the pharmacy bubble-package her medicines, so she no longer needed the bottle after bottle of outdated prescriptions. I'll be taking these old pills to the drugstore for disposal later this morning.

Today, finally, I'm worth mugging.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Role Model

My friend S stopped me after church Sunday to pay me one of the nicest compliments I've ever received.

"L really enjoys reading your blog," my friend said. "She's decided she wants to write a blog, too, so I'm getting her set up and she hopes people will comment like they do on yours."

I could not have been more touched.

L only recently began living with S's family. At 21, she's sweet-natured and loving but developmentally not ready to live on her own. S added L to the homeschool of her own younger children and now is watching her new "daughter" improve her reading and writing skills.

It struck me that as bloggers or as parents or as human beings, we never know what our real influence will be. We may set out with one goal in mind ("I think I'll write a totally self-indulgent blog that will let other empty nesters know we're not crazy!") and something entirely different is the result ("I really think this will help L with her writing.").

I know without a doubt that S and her family did not welcome a new, fully-grown member so that I would look at them and think how lucky L was to have found them, and what perfect role models they are on how to love and give sacrificially, and that I would be a better person if I followed their example.

But that's what happened.

Monday, March 28, 2011

No Joy in Mudville

If you live in Kansas, you are either a Jayhawk or a Wildcat. There is no other option.

Even those of us who work at or graduate from somewhere other than the two Big Universities have to choose a side, and during March those allegiances are tested. Will the Good Guys live up to their talent or will they end up in tears too early, along with the rest of the Wildcat nation? Will the Other Guys prove to be a dominating force as they have all season or will they fold like a cheap suit and take their classy coach down with them? Again?

The answers to these questions are tears, and suit. The former was expected at some point, the latter most assuredly was not. Today even the most ardent Wildcat has to feel a tiny bit of sympathy for the Jayhawks, in spite of the intrastate rivalry and the Jayhawks normally having the most irritatingly superior attitude since the invention of the French waiter.

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
But there is no joy in Mudville - mighty Casey has struck out.

Why, yes. I'm a Wildcat. How could you tell?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Digging in the Dirt

I told my co-workers that I was going to take a day off during spring break and dig in the dirt, and I'm sure they imagined that meant I would be doing some gardening. Ha! In our ongoing (and never-ending) quest to make the back yard just a bit more presentable, I wanted to add a brick landing outside the garage door to coordinate with the one at the bottom of the New Deck steps.

And because I have the impression that you love to know every detail of my life, here is how I did it.

Step 1: Document "before."

Isn't that sad? And isn't that picture dark? It was cold, too. Good thing I'm going to be doing some physical exercise! She said, cheerily!

Step 2: Gather proper equipment:

Gloves. Two telephones (landline and cell). Camera for documentation purposes. Oh, and bricks.

Step 3: Begin to dig.

Dig, dig, dig. I'm a diggin' machine, a regular John Henry in denim capri pants. Whoops, not deep enough, dig some more.

Hey! This is like an archaeological find. I don't know what the previous owners of our house did out here next to the garage, but here's a shard of a plate, found alongside multiple shards of window glass and some rusted bottle tops, and the find of the day:

A toothbrush! Top that, people who discovered the first human settlement in North or Central America.

By now I've been digging for two hours, and carting the dirt around the yard to fill in holes where Our Dog Pepper (see top photo) has spent the winter excavating for gold. I'm beginning to be afraid that if I take out one more shovelful I'll see an Asian face looking up at me from the other side of the earth.

But not to worry, because it's time for the next step--

The spooky-looking frame (does it really look like a coffin or do I just have a really morbid imagination?) sits in the hole to keep the bricks from migrating to opposite sides of the yard. I, the Little Red Hen of construction projects, measured for it, and went to the lumberyard to buy the treated 12-foot board, and unloaded it from the pick-up, and measured it again.Also, I unloaded all those sacks of sand from the pick-up. After I bought them, all by myself, at the lumberyard. Then Husband cut the boards and screwed them together. (What? Even the Little Red Hen wasn't stupid enough to use a power saw.)

Step I've Lost Track of the Number: Almost done.

Fill frame with sand, arrange bricks in a beautiful pattern, then...

 Stand back and admire the "after" shot! Woo! I am woman, watch me do construction!

Oh, and one final step: 

I am old.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

My Left Foot

I believe I've mentioned before that I'm married to an accountant. This is the time of the year that spouses of CPAs learn to be flexible and independent, and Husband's schedule means that I'm often a couple hours into REM sleep by the time he gets home from the office.

A few days ago he noticed that when the blankets are suddenly too warm for me (as happens more and more frequently) I stick my left foot out from under the covers to cool down.

"If I come to bed and your foot is sticking out I'm always tempted to tickle it," he noted.

That's when we had a discussion about the physics involved in the consequences of waking a woman from a deep sleep by tickling her feet, and the fact that the equal and opposite reaction to this action could lead to emergency  dental work.

Who says education stops after you leave school?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Performance Review

In some years, this would be my least favorite day at the office--I'm doing annual performance reviews. Fortunately, I currently have the Best Co-Workers in the World, so it's been low-key and collaborative. It's not always this sanguine, though, and every time I write my John Hancock on the "supervisor signature" line, I'm grateful that I'm not being evaluated like this in my real job.

Employee Name: MomQueenBee
Position Description: Mom, Queen Bee
Years in Position: I've run out of fingers and toes for counting

Goals met during review year: Fourth child off to college, avoiding implementation of poorly articulated consequences that would result if he didn't "get out of bed RIGHT NOW"; head did not actually explode while searching for 842nd item mentioned in the sentence that began "Mom, could you see if you could find..."

Goals un-met during review year: Curtains in Three's bedroom, although the Mexican blanket hanging over the window does have a certain je ne sais quois that indicates these here folks who live here are klassy; Thinner Thighs in 30 Days, despite those tempting e-mail offers; universal delight with meal preparation (see: Husband's admitting, after 27 years, that he doesn't really like ham and beans); failure to embarrass Boys on the internet (see: descriptions of bodily fluids).

Goals set for upcoming year: Clean house on regular basis, Zumba class, increase blog traffic, knit swea   

Aww, never mind. This job I just make up as I go along anyway.

I think I'll give myself a raise.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Verse Cards

This card was on my refrigerator for years.
One of the hardest things about being a mom has been watching my kids do hard things, because hard things are, well, hard. I want our Boys to be stronger, more capable, less fearful than I have been, though, and the only way for them to exercise these strength and capability and fearlessness muscles is by doing hard things.

Almost as soon as they could read I began tucking verse cards into their backpacks or lunchboxes on days when they knew they would have special challenges. Whether they were facing math contest or the ACT test or class elections, the verse was always the same one, Isaiah 41:10:

"Do not fear, for I am with you. Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."

Every once in a while I come across one of these cards taped to the back of a calculator or stuck in a pocket of a notebook and I am glad we have trusted our Boys to the One who is wiser and more powerful than their parents.

I thought of  the cards yesterday when I heard that a beloved young mother in our church was having health problems. I want to save her, too, from the hard things that wait for her in the next few weeks, but I can't. I can only be thankful that she is strong and capable, and that God's promises are for her as well.

"Do not fear, T. and K., for God is with you. He will strengthen you, and help you, and uphold you in His righteous right hand."

Friday, March 18, 2011

March Madness: A Dialog

(Husband and MomQueenBee are sitting side-by-side as they watch college basketball in high definition. They focus intently on the screen.)

Him: "Hey, did you see that Louisville lost?"

Her: "Was that the band?"

Him: "Yeah, I was surprised, too."

Her: "Back it up a little--I think they showed the band!"

Him: "This will really mess up a lot of people's brackets. Obama had them in his Final Four."

Her: "There he is! Oh, no, wait, that guy didn't have glasses. Could you back it up again?"

Him: "This really ought to be a pretty good game. We match up well."

Her: "Never mind, wrong band."

Both: "There he is!"

Him: "Let me go back again in slow motion."

Her: "He looks great! Doesn't he look great?"

Repeat, repeat, repeat throughout game.

Oh, it's fun to watch basketball with us.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Whoops! You Missed It!

Yesterday a Big Thing happened in the MomQueenBee family. I will not go into the details, but I will say that it involved explaining to Husband the significance of becoming Facebook Official. Is that vague enough?

The reason I include this tantalizing tidbit is because about 13 of you, my dear readers, saw a completely different story associated with the heart graphic on this post. It was accessible between 11 a.m. and noon yesterday, and it is now archived and inaccessible because I came to my senses.

I happened to really kind of like the post when I wrote it, but when one of the Boys read it, his reaction was different. "Yeah, I'd be irritated if you had written this about me," he said. So I immediately and frantically Googled "How to remove a Blogger post," and "How to remove a Facebook status update."

The episode reminded me again that this blog will never be exactly what I had intended when I set out. My vision was that this space would be a place where empty nesters would say "Oh, yeah, I get that! I thought I was the only one dealing with (insert issue here)." It would be like those many, many mommy blogs where the bottom line always is that the new mother didn't realize this would be so haaaaaaard, but so woooooonderful. I wanted other moms in my demographic to see that they weren't bad moms just because they didn't miss high school band concerts. Or because they did.

The difference between this blog and the MommyBlogs, though, is that the young bloggers own more stories. They have discretion over sharing or not sharing their own experiences and thoughts, and they own the sharing of their children's stories until those children are old enough to take the stories back.

All of the persons now in my life own their own stories. The Boys, Husband, my 89-year-old mother-in-law, my co-workers--all are old enough to be embarrassed or hurt by things I choose to write, so when I think this might be the case, I give these people who share my experiences veto rights. At least twice I've refrained from publishing a post that made someone uncomfortable. (I know! I'm normally not that considerate.)

That's why yesterday the post went up and down in record time. It's staying in my archive folder, though, and maybe some day it will be appropriate for me to publish it again.

In the meantime it will be like one of those postage stamps with the background printed upside down: Rare and valuable, and not mine to give away.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Phone Messages: A Primer

Over long years of having people leave messages on my phone, and frantically trying to remember numbers and names and exactly what actions these persons wanted me to take, I have perfected a script for use in leaving a phone message:

1. "Hi! This is MomQueenBee, and my number is 111-222-3333."

2. "I'm calling from Small College regarding your Big Idea."

3. (Choose one) "I would appreciate a call back," OR "You don't need to return my call, but I wanted to know I had received your message," OR "I prefer never to hear your voice again." (If you choose the last one, you might want to leave a fake number.)

4. (And this is CRUCIAL) "Again, my name is MomQueenBee, my number is 111-222-3333, that's 111-222-3333. Thanks so much."

See how easy that is? By both opening and closing with the name and phone number, the caller gives the call-ee time to scramble for a writing utensil and flat surface, and take down the number without having to replay the whole gosh-darned message.

You may think this advice only applies to persons who have out-of-home jobs. It does not. One of my finest moments as a stay-at-home mom was the day I was dressing a toddler when the phone rang and I couldn't find a pen or pencil or paper and ended up writing down a phone number in eyeliner on a mirror.

Oh, yes, I did.

So Boys, as you apply for jobs and ask for recommendations and generally become part of the larger working world, take a second and memorize this script with your names inserted at the appropriate places. In the long run it will be much more useful than most of the general education classes you're taking.

You're welcome.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Daylight Stupid Time

The start of Daylight Savings Time this weekend, a good six weeks or so before it's appropriate, reminded me of back-in-the-day when a friend visited shortly after we'd finished remodeling. She took the tour, and oooh-ed and aaah-ed at the appropriate places. Then she gave her appraisal of the project.

"I think there are two things we now know about the QueenBeen family," she said. "They want to know what time it is, and apparently, they don't see very well."

She may be right. Consider the clocks found in the bathroom (above), the dining room (left) and the living room (right).

I love clocks. The clocks I'm showing here happen to be  enormous (leading to Friend's observation), but I'm fascinated by clocks of all shapes and sizes, of all colors and designs. I prefer analog clocks--there's something about the hands going around that reminds me of my place in the current of time--although I'm happy with digital timekeepers, too.

There are clocks in every room of the house, so Spring Forward day is no picnic for Husband, whose job it is to re-set all the timekeepers.

The mass re-set is easy compared to when the Boys were babies, though, and the clock adjustments included advancing their biological clocks to adapt to new mealtimes, naptimes, and bedtimes. As the stay-at-home mom, that job fell to me, and that was when I first realized that not every law is a good law, and that we definitely needed more mothers in Congress.

So, daylight savings time. My first instinct is to call it an idiotic effort to control Mother Nature, leading to six months of feeling just a touch out-of-synch with the universe until sanity is restored when we fall back. But now that the boys are old enough to adjust their own clocks, both actual and biological, I can appreciate Congress's generosity in letting me shop and garden later into the evening.

I think I'll do just that, but the alarm rang awfully early this morning. I might need a little nap first.

Friday, March 11, 2011


I'm riveted by the images from today's earthquake in Japan. Each image of swaying shelves in grocery stores and businessmen huddled under desks takes me back six years, to the November when husband and I were in Costa Rica.

He had surprised me with a birthday/anniversary gift of a long weekend in my adopted country, this time just the two of us in a tiny bed-and-breakfast in the central plateau. But in the wee hours of the morning we woke up because the room was rocking.

I had lived in-country for several years, and knew the conventional wisdom (during the earthquake stand in an interior door frame) but we were in a one-story cottage with a tin roof--if the roof collapsed on us, it was unlikely to be a crushing injury, so we didn't try to walk around until the undulations stopped.

"Huh. An earthquake," we remarked, and went back to sleep. We heard later that someone had been killed in one of the landslides that typically follow a temblor in a mountainous region. That person became an afterthought in our wonderful vacation, someone I didn't think about again until this morning.

Yesterday, a good, kind, hard-working, man died in Small Town. At 59, V was way too young to have contracted the terrible disease that killed him and left his family in mourning.

So this morning I'm thinking about the survivors in Japan, who were struck without warning and whose lives are indelibly changed. I'm thinking about the family of that Tico killed in the earthquake who had disappeared into my mental footnote. I'm thinking about V's family, who had knew this day was coming but have to deal with emotional aftershocks as tangible as the Japanese aftershocks.

And I wish all of them could know that I will remember.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

A Piece of Advice, And an Observation

Boys, if you ever want to make a really, really romantic gesture that will inspire the woman to whom you are married to think you are a swell person, do this. Just before you go to the office, clean the frost off the windshield of the enormous vehicle your wife drives. Do this without letting her know you will be cleaning said frost, so that as she walks toward the enormous vehicle she is dreading the icy feeling she'll have on the back of her arms as she stretches as far as she can reach toward the center of the windshield to clear even a tiny  peephole. She's anticipating thinking some PG-rated words because she knows she'll have to clean the dirt off her front after she sprawls completely across the hood of the car because even though she is quite tall, the only woman tall enough to clean the center of such an enormous vehicle is Brittney Griner. When she (the wife, not Brittney) sees that the windshield has been scraped, she will think you are the swellest person on earth.

Also, since the temperature this afternoon is forecast in the mid-60s, she will think Kansas has weird weather.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

One Bad Mother

I have to say, my image of the mother I aspired to be is illustrated by the ducks shown here. The mother duck is leading, not locking the babies out of the house so she can take a nap. The babies are clean, and not hitting each other, and all seem to be well-fed and swimming in the same direction.

Friends, that was as much as I ever dared dream. That I would be reasonably sane and my children would all be accounted for. Today I discovered a new blog and realized just how inadequate I was.

And Everything Sweet is the story of a stay-at-home mom (which I was) of two girls who "loves all things having to do with parties." (Which I did. Sort of.) Please take a moment to click over here and see the Valentine party she threw for the play group of her younger child.

Go ahead. I'll wait.

Are you back? Okay, notice anything? Like the fact that this party was fancier than my wedding? And that she made all the refreshments, decorations, goody gifts, and CUPCAKE STANDS? Yes, she did. She made them herself. And then she photographed, beautifully, the whole shindig.

And did you also notice that the party attendees were 13 toddlers?

I have no words to describe how inadequate this makes me feel. It must be because she has girls instead of Boys. Yeah, that must be the reason.

At least that's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Perfect Timing

When Husband and I got married, we moved into his little bachelor house in the Big City. That was fine with me; I had been living in an apartment, and except for the fact that he was keeping his college textbooks in the kitchen cupboards, the living conditions were quite satisfactory.

It was a small house, though, and we knew that as we enlarged our family the living quarters would have to enlarge as well. We'd been married a couple of years when we put this house on the market, intending to buy a larger house in the Big City.

It shouldn't take long to sell, we thought. Husband had kept the house in pristine condition and had updated it cosmetically, and the cozy cottage had an enormous back yard and huge trees in front. We contacted a real estate agent, placed the "For Sale" sign between the huge trees, and waited for offers to start pouring in.

We waited, and waited, and waited. We showed the house often, but it was never just exactly right for buyers. They wanted two bathrooms, or a larger garage, or a basement. The kitchen was too small, the back yard was too big. We knew we didn't want two mortgages, so we kept looking for (and finding) our next dream house in Big City, then watching someone else buy it.

A year passed. Boy#1 was born, we kept showing the house, and buyers kept not making offers. We prayed every day that God would FIND A BUYER ALREADY and let us move on with our lives.

In the meantime, Husband had been asked to teach a few evening classes at his alma mater, Small College, which was about an hour from Big City. It turned out he truly enjoyed teaching. The next fall, a faculty position opened up, and he was offered a job there.

We prayed about the offer, and felt God was moving us in that direction. It would mean I could stay at home with the Boy, which always had been our hope. We even looked at real estate in Small Town, and found the perfect sprawling old home in the perfect location right across the street from Small College. But what about the house in Big City, the one that wouldn't sell, the one I now thought of in less-than-thankful terms?

Finally we decided we had to step out in faith. Husband would live in Small Town, in the unfurnished old house. Boy#1 and I would continue to live in the accursed little house while I stayed in my job and covered that mortgage. We would be a family on the weekends. We signed the contract to buy the big house.

People, on that day, after the little house had been TWENTY-SEVEN MONTHS on the market, our agent called us with an acceptable offer.

On. That. Day.

And the buyer wanted immediate possession, so we wouldn't have to be split up as a family while we waited for closing. We moved into the big house on Boy#1's first birthday. We were amazed.

This was our first experience as a family with God's perfect timing, and it reminded us that He is sovereign, and wise, and He loves us. If our little house had sold in any semblance of when we had planned, we never would have moved to Small Town.

I tell this story today because some dear friends are waiting for their house to sell. S. will stay behind to keep the home fires burning enough to keep pipes from freezing but not enough to call the fire department, and G. will start his new job in another state. It is not the arrangement they would prefer.

But this will work out in His perfect timing, friends. You will be amazed.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Nom Nom Nom

It's spring break, and you know what that means--real Texas grapefruit! Pecan-flavored coffee! The Three Bears rolled in at Late and Later last night for a brief stop-over at the home place before leaving for the other more important dates they have on their dance cards. She said, with a slight hint of bitterness.

Oh, I kid. In their shoes I'd choose the Big 12 basketball tournament or a quick visit to friends on the edge of the country over a week in Small Town as well. And, to be quite honest, a full week of sleeping Boys and unmade beds plus the impending end of tax season actually is not the best recipe for peace and tranquility.

But speaking of recipes, this first empty nest spring break has underscored what I had suspected: When the Boys are home I cannot stop cooking. Apparently I unconsciously equate a full house with a full refrigerator, and a full pantry, and a full family.

Even before they left Texas I had made double batches of their favorite cookies because I'm quite certain three average-sized kids will be able to eat 10 dozen molasses crinkles and chocolate chip cookies in the ONE DAY they'll be home.
Then I stirred up Alton Brown's Overnight Cinnamon Rolls so that they'd wake up to the smell of cinnamon sugar love wafting up the stairs.

Don't bother to point out that this culinary overkill is ridiculous--I'm fully aware my Boys are way past the age when they need their mother to make sure they're fed and dressed. But also don't try to stop me from replacing the healthy menus husband and I have been following with The Pioneer Woman's mashed potatoes and chicken fried steak for supper.

It's just for today, and it isn't called comfort food for nothing: The Boys don't need this food, but their mother needs to cook it for them.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Okay, I Do Miss This

I look younger when I read.

I am a reader. I'm reading practically from the moment I get up until the moment I fall asleep, and my idea of heaven replaces the streets of gold with stacks of endlessly fascinating books.

It's no wonder the Boys learned early on that the best way to avoid punishment for misbehavior was to distract me with the shiny temptation of reading.

"All right, who put the waffle in the VCR? And why is syrup dripping down the front of the entertainment center?"

"Mommy? Wead me a book?"

"Why, of course, my precious snookums!"

I especially enjoyed reading to the boys at bedtime. That's when we got into chapter books. The Little House series. The Littles series. The Indian in the Cupboard series.Captain Underpants. (What? I had Boys.) Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle. The Wrinkle in Time series. We read, and read, and read, and still didn't get through my favorites from my own childhood. Oh, the hours I spent racing through The Black Stallion series and My Friend Flicka.

The last book I read to the boys was the final Harry Potter book, and if you subtract when that series ended from how old the Boys are now, you'll realize they all were well into (or through) high school at that point. They were more than capable of reading on their own, but there is something about  reading aloud that made it the ritual I was perhaps most reluctant to relinquish as my children grew up. 

A couple of weeks ago I accidentally downloaded The Hunger Games on my Nook. I didn't realize it was juvenile fiction until I was hooked: Within a few pages I found myself back in my childhood, when I couldn't wait to finish my chores so I could read. I stayed up way too late to finish the gripping story of the valiant Katniss and the noble Peeta, only to's a series! Oh, no!

So today I was at the library checking out the second and third books in the series, and this weekend, even though I have no child to read to, I will be reading children's books. 

As they arrive home on spring break, this would be an excellent opportunity for the boys to let me know about any bad grades they may have been trying to hide. And then asking me to read to them.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Not Peas and Carrots

Husband Early in Marriage. Hubba-hubba.
Forrest Gump and his Jenny may have gone together like peas and carrots, but Husband and I are, well, we're different.

Before we got married, he had kept a record of every single expense over $1 since he started working. I had not balanced my checkbook for a year.

I do the New York Times crossword puzzle in ink, but stare in puzzled befuddlement at the one-star Sudoku. He looks at a column of numbers a page long and the single error jumps out at him on a pogo stick.

I like musicals, he likes Westerns.

I am perfectly happy riding around in a car with the residue of the past two snowstorms on the floor mat. He has a whisk broom in the utility pocket of the door, and he uses it!

I'm a coffee fanatic, he gets through the day with Diet Pepsi.

In his ideal house all the walls are painted white and the furniture is parallel to the walls. My couch cuts an angle across the corner, and I dream of brick red kitchen walls.

Just hearing the theme song for SportsCenter makes me want to throw a brick at the television. He thinks The Real Housewives of New York City are stupid.

Really, we are so far from peas and carrots that we might as well be Brussels sprouts and corn, but somehow this thing we've had going for the past 27 years is working.

Happy birthday, Husband. I'm glad I'm your wife.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

I Loved This Hard Job, Too

I knew exactly the picture I wanted to use with this entry. It showed a young woman, very blond and tall, standing next to a tiny Latina woman. The two are on a red dirt road, and behind them is a meadow so green it seems edible. The two have their heads inclined toward each other, and they are laughing.

When I found the picture the print had faded. The colors weren't as bright, the laughter wasn't as evident. In this case, though, my memory is much more accurate. Chena and I were always laughing, and the colors were always vivid.

Chena was my mama during the years I spent in Costa Rica as a Peace Corps volunteer, and as the world celebrated the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Peace Corps yesterday, I realized that it's been three decades since I spent rainy afternoons laughing and drinking coffee with her.

My Peace Corps service was not, as the Corps propaganda promises, the hardest job I'd ever love.That designation goes to motherhood--swatting mosquitos and running after buses is chocolate cake with frosting compared to holding an asthmatic baby  and willing him to pull one more breath into his lungs. But, oh, I loved both of those jobs.

I was a fairly typical Peace Corps volunteer when I arrived in-country in 1979. Although I had a college degree, and had worked on a newspaper for a few years, I wasn't quite ready to settle down permanently.  But I knew instinctively that if I didn't close my eyes and jump off that cliff right then I would forever find reasons to cling to the safety of what I knew. And, of course, I thought I could change the world.

In its wisdom, the Peace Corps sent me to the perfect spot for the girl I was then: Smart and with high potential, but someone who had perfected the art of letting others clear the path. I coasted in the slipstream of my parents, my siblings, my friends. The 1979 Costa Rica was not the tourist mecca it has become, but it also wasn't a hardship post. The places I lived always had electricity and running water, and transportation anywhere in country was just a bus ride away. It was a life different enough from what I knew in Kansas to be challenging, while similar enough to be manageable.

A blog post isn't long enough to detail those 3 1/2 years. Suffice it to say that some of the closest friendships of my life were forged around tables where we drank coffee and solved the problems of the world. I learned that I could, and I worked and played and learned and laughed in a place where no one knew or cared that I was Dr. S's daughter or J's sister.

My performance in the Peace Corps' first goal (providing technical assistance) was, shall we say, minimal. But my fulfillment of the second and third goals (learning about a different culture, and giving the opportunity for those in that culture to know me) was stellar. I still dream about Costa Rica frequently, although my Spanish is now rusty enough that the conjugations wake me up.

The Peace Corps wisely limits the time a volunteer can serve, so after I had extended my service a year to complete a project, I returned to the U.S. and started the next phase of my life. I never got over loving Costa Rica and Central America, though, and my viewpoint on the relative importance our nation has in the world had been forever altered.

I went into the Peace Corps to change the world.

Instead, the world changed me.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Neighborhood Kids Are Trying to Kill Me

One of the nicest things about the Empty Nest is that there are no longer open mouths peering out of the nest every time I fly back in. Oh, I love cooking for my Boys and they are always totally appreciative of my efforts (except when the efforts include legumes) but feeding a family is like this all the time.

So when the Boys flew away--to flog an analogy completely into the ground--I took the opportunity to give our eating habits an upgrade. More vegetables. Less red meat. Fruit, fruit, fruit. "We will be healthy!" I told Husband jubilantly.

This was working pretty well until fund-raising season kicked in.

It is well-documented that I HATED fund-raisers when the Boys were in that mode. We were the Grinch parents who thought sending wide-eyed moppets door-to-door with their hands out was a bad idea. We usually ended up sending a donation check to the cause (First Grade Field Trip! Hamster Cage for the Fifth Grade!) and our poor moppets sat sad-faced while their classmates collected the Really Cool Incentive Prizes! others had earned. (Or more likely, their parents had earned by coercing co-workers and customers to buy.) Ooooh, how I hated fund-raisers.

Ahem. I think I'm off track here.

Anyway, during those days I also vowed that once my own children were no longer busy at work depleting our financial resources (curse you, fast-growing feet) I would never turn away a child who came to my door and gave even a tiny semblance of a sales pitch.

This week has been both Girl Scout cookie and candy-bars-for-third-grade-field-trip week. So far I have been able to resist opening any of these items, but if many more temptations come along the healthy new diet may disappear.

These kids are trying to kill me.