Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Not-So-Pioneer Woman Hotel

Every once in a while Pioneer Woman shows us the hotel room where she is spending a night or a couple of nights or a week. I love these little glimpses into luxury, just as I love the glimpses she gives us into cattle roping and cooking fabulous meals.

Our hotel room in Very Small Town was just as interesting as the PW's glass-lobbied hangout, if not as quite as luxurious. For example, the security lock on the door doubled as the DO NOT DISTURB sign. Flip the locking mechanism (below) and the sign shows up outside (above).

Of course, there was a more modern option for those of us who couldn't figure out the lock.

Also, the television was neither big-  nor flat-screened, which was good because we were there to be with family and not with The Real Housewives.

 The bathroom was small-ish, but clean and hot-watered and if you're having to spend a lot of time in the bathroom you're not having a very good weekend anyway.

But the part I loved, almost the very best part, was that in 1960 when this motel was built they must have known we would have a new(-to-us) car this weekend. They built Pearl her own little parking station!

And the absolute best part of my trip was when my high school friend checked us in at the front desk, and these three generations of smiling faces were only a few miles away.

PW, eat your heart out.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Because They Did

This weekend we were able to wear our Ad Astra Per Awesome t-shirts...

...and put every leaf back in the table at the farm...

...and listen to John Philip Sousa marches played by a band on a flatbed...

...and marvel at pieces of farm equipment that cost $190,000 (plus tax)...

...because my father and his brothers and millions of other boys like them went off to war when they were 17 and 18 years old. Dad, Uncle B., Uncle W., and Uncle H. (who hadn't arrived at the parade when I took this picture) all came back from the war safely, but so very, very many mother's sons did not.

The veterans stood at attention while the colors passed by at the parade in the Very Small Town where I grew up. They know that if they had not put themselves in the way of evil when they were very young, they would not have grown old in a country that remains, for all its flaws, a land of astonishing good.

We can only be thankful that they did.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Multiple Choice

Guess what I found when I went out to water my plants this morning?
(a) A promise of summer
(b) Heaven on a vine
(c) Fantasies of fresh salad three times a day
(d) Baby tomatoes

The answer, of course, is (c), but I will give full credit for (d) and credit-and-a-half for (b). Only half credit for (a) since the cloud that goes with this answer's silver lining is made up of equal parts humidity and perspiration, but we're not going to think about that.

Oooh, tomatoes. I can't wait.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Word I Needed Today

My deadlines today, right this minute, are about as tight as they get in my world. Two enormous projects are due tomorrow--one that would normally have me tight-lipped with anxiety, and another that adds a whole new dimension of stress.

I've reminded myself of all the things I tell the Boys when they're under pressure. That this will all get done, one way or another. That they're capable and resourceful and know how to use both of those traits. That this stress has an expiration date.

Then this morning another straw was thrown on the camel's back and it almost did me in. As I left for an appointment I hadn't anticipated I was clench-teethed with anxiety at what the delay would do to my schedule. My friend at the next desk knew this and wished me well.

"Grace," she said.

It was the perfect thing to say. As I drove toward the appointment that had me stewing, I thought about grace, about the undeserved joys in my life, and how these joys are often intertwined with clenched-teeth tentacles.

I love and am grateful for my job, and would not love it nearly as much if it did not challenge me. I love and am grateful for my Boys, and the clutter that accompanies them is a small price to pay for having them home. I love and appreciate the three-day weekend that has me scrambling to have everything done in time.

Grace comes wrapped in some convoluted packages, but when the convolution is gone, the grace remains.

The grace remains.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Nouveau Trashe

Climb right up here on Granny's knee, Honey-Chil', and I'll tell you about the olden days.

Why, I remember the first time I ever used a computer. I was a sophomore in college, and I was working on the newspaper. I typed my story into this contraption and the words appeared ON A SCREEN IN FRONT OF ME. I tell you, it was magical.

And if I wanted to change a word, I just backed up the little arrow, and the WORDS DISAPPEARED! Honey-Chil', it was an amazing thing. Why, you probably didn't know that in the olden days there was no number "1" on a typewriter. To write1973 (which was the year of this miraculous event) on a typewriter I'd use the lowercase L so it came out like this--l973.

My-oh-my, we do love our computers around this house. But Honey-Chil', computers get old. That computer I used to write my story at college? That was all it could do. It could put words on a screen. It didn't play games, or have an alarm clock, and it didn't fit in your pocket so you could ignore your parents when they called you on the computer that is your phone. (We won't talk about the phone system back then, but the stories I could tell....You had to actually STAND UP to answer a phone because it was HANGING ON THE WALL!)

Anyway, if you had told me waaaay back then that Granny and Grampy would be taking four old computers (plus a scanner) to the recycling center because these old computers only have quadrillion-matrillions of gigabytes instead of hapamongous-fontillion terrafonts, I wouldn't have believed you.

Because back then we didn't recycle.

Oh, Honey-Chil'! I know that sounds like a horrible, barbaric world, but I didn't mean to scare you! Shhhhh, Granny's here, it's all right.

What do you mean are they going to put Granny in the back of the pick-up and recycle her because she's  old? 

Hrmph. Go to sleep, kid.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Misty Water-Colored Meeeeeemories

Having an enormous attic on top of the enormous House at the Corner of Drainage Street and Halfway Down the Hill is both a bane and a blessing. Because we have a gazillion square feet or so of storage space, we have felt no obligation to get rid of the stuff that accumulates during several decades of family-hood, and that's great. But this has caused more than a few moments of anxiety during channel-surfing as I found myself thinking, "Hey! Is that show being taped in our attic?" and realized I was watching the latest episode of Hoarders.

With an influx of college Boys on their way home with the transitional stuff that accompanies changes of semester and academic year, Husband and I decided we needed to spend some quality time together in the attic editing the accumulation.

It was a trip down memory lane, with every new box a new surprise. There were pictures of our little Boys with their little school friends and their adorable haircuts. (And would these have been helpful to have while I was frantically trying to put together high school graduation displays? Oh, yes, they would have been quite helpful.)

There were worksheets from when Boy#1 was just learning to spell:


There were instructions their grandmother wrote out for playing Mexican Dominoes, the game the Boys loved to play when their grandparents visited.

There were reminders that the Boys weren't the only ones who changed through the years, although in some cases the changes were less progress and more train-wreck:

And last, but certainly not least, there was my sons' favorite photo of a favorite uncle. This picture inspired more laughter among my pre-teen Boys than perhaps any photo ever taken, because really, what could be funnier than this?

I've edited the picture to save your eyes, but trust me, there is nothing in the world funnier to a boy than Uncle S.'s plumber's butt.

I think maybe mothers of girls have different memories of the way we were.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Our Temporary Home

We Kansans learn early what to do in case of a tornado.

Go to the basement. If you don't have a basement, go to a small interior room. Crawl under something large and flat, to disperse debris if the house falls around you. Don't stay in a car if you are driving.

We learn to hate The Wizard of Oz because that's the knee-jerk image everyone outside of Kansas has of the state, and because we know that unlike Dorothy and Toto, those caught in a tornado often do not live happily ever after.

But we also know that if you're smart and careful and pay attention to the warnings, even in Kansas you are unlikely to be hurt by a tornado simply because tornadoes usually hit where there are no people.

Last night I watched the news reports out of Joplin with increasing horror. This morning I stepped outside into the cool, dewy morning, and checked on my flowers. The geraniums need to be dead-headed, the irises are winding down, and the mint is taking over the garden. Still, I am thankful, and praying for those who have lost flowers, homes, and loved ones.

We are just passing through.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Meet Pearl

So just how excited are you? The day has finally come when I introduce you to my new(-to-me) car! Woohoo!

This is Pearl, so named not only because of her color (which is less silvery than this picture would indicate) but in honor of Minnie Pearl, who had a few miles on her but nonetheless was cheerful and stylish. That's exactly the personality of my new(-to-me) 2003 Ford Escape.

Pearl has wonderful qualities, most of which the remainder of the civilized driving world has taken for granted for the past decade or so. For example, many drivers already knew that it is possible to unlock a car door without using a key. You just push a button on a little black pad, and voila! You're in! Amazing.

Also, contrary to my experiences during the past 15 years, did you know a car can be parked BETWEEN the lines in a parking lot and still have room to spare? And that a car sometimes will FIT IN A GARAGE? I know! It's an incredible new world.

The Boys are helping me discover Pearl's bells and whistles, of which there are many. Boy#1 pushed a button on the dash and the roof retracted! Who knew? He suggested it's now possible to truly enjoy snow by turning on the bunwarmers and riding around with the roof open. I may just have to try that in a few months.

However, the Boys were not pleased with my choice of a name for my new(-to-me) best friend.

"Pearl?" they wrinkled their noses and rolled their eyes. Naming a car is fine, but naming a car after both a birthstone and a Grand Ol' Opry star is not so fine, so the whippersnappers took it upon themselves to re-christen my car.

They agreed that Pearl of Doom is a much more intimidating label, so now that's all they call her, and the second part is always emphasized. "How is Pearl...OF DOOM today?" they might say. Or "When are you going to let me drive Pearl...OF DOOM?"

Of course, Pearl isn't perfect. I've discovered that overzealous detailing left surfaces slick enough that I slide forward on the seat every time I brake, but hey, that's a little like complaining that spring weather is just a little too perfect.

Yesterday I left work and walked toward Pearl, smiling and pressing the unlock icon on the key, when I noticed something horrible. Someone in the next parking space had obviously opened a door with too much vigor, leaving an ugly ding in Pearl's shiny paint. Oh, no!

I hurried to her side, but instead of the friendly lights-blink greeting she usually gives me, the car sat in dejected darkness. I looked a little closer. Whoops! Wrong car!

This new(-to-me) car thing takes a little getting used to.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

I'll Move On Now

I promise that this is the final installation of the saga that was Boy#2's commencement last weekend, but I can't move on before pointing out that even my big strong competent grown-up boys still need their mother.

As Two was rushing to get to his own graduation on time, I noticed that his regalia was less than presentable.

"Oh, yeah, I've had it in a drawer for a couple of years since I had to buy it for an initiation ceremony."

Now if I had not been there he would have ironed the thing, but I do remember when I ironed my own gown 30-some years ago and melted it, and that was Not Going to Happen on this day. Thanks to his mother, who had been feeling just a little unnecessary, Two walked across the stage and received his diploma in wrinkle-free splendor.

And his brother, who noticed me wielding the iron and remembered he had stuffed his khakis in his duffel bag when he moved out of the dorm, looked spiffy, too.

Oh, yeah, I'm still useful.

(Tomorrow: No more talk about graduation!)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

On the Road Again

The thing I'm discovering about moving four Boys out of the nest is that for the first several years, they do return. Yay! They bring back the laughter and the bad puns and the music and the footsteps on the stairs in the wee hours of the morning, and I could not be happier.

They also bring back the stuff.

Over the past year Husband and I have unconsciously relaxed into the spaces that had been filled with the clothes and books and computers and guitar amps that surround the Boys. This week all that stuff was cleared out of the off-shore apartments and returned to the House on the Corner of Drainage Street and Halfway Down the Hill.

The picture above doesn't look so bad, does it? Just a queen-sized bed and a two-wheeled dolly in the back of the pick-up I drove home from two states away. But look closer. Peer through the back window. This is a different perspective:

As he packed the pick-up Husband was kind enough to leave me space to sit and drive. Every single remaining inch of the extended cab is stuffed with, well, stuff. I wedged myself into it like an astronaut entering a space capsule. Add to this two additional cars in similar states of pack-age and you have the Beverly Hillbillies caravan that propelled our trek back to the nest.

We are klassy, with a capital K.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


The processional march had just started to play Saturday when I found myself clutching for Husband's hand. We are no newbies to commencement ceremonies, having seen all four Boys graduate from high school and Boy#1 receive his bachelor's degree. A college graduation  marks more than completion of a bachelor's degree, though.

With high school commencements, there is a sense of shared accomplishment. Parents can, and should, acknowledge the hard work (and luck) it takes to guide a child from helpless infancy to legal age. But college? That's an accomplishment the child-no-longer can claim all on his own, the passport stamped to adulthood.

Despite our love for Small College, Husband and I discouraged the Boys from enrolling at this school right across the street from our house. We believe the college years are the incubators for fragile new grown-ups--out of the home, but still in a place where some support systems are in place. Kind of like a maturity halfway house.

At college, they will (or will not) get themselves up to go to class. They will not (or will) play video games all night when they should be studying. They will choose to (or choose not to) attend worship and join accountability groups. They will (or will not) eat what's good for them as well as what's good. They will (or will not) hang out with people who like them and laugh with them, but also challenge and stand by them.

The list goes on and on but it distills down to a single qualifier: They will (or will not) make good choices.

So when they called Boy#2's name, and announced he'd graduated magna cum laude at a prestigious university, I had to swallow around the lump in my throat. Then I cheered as his face appeared on the big screen, and as he accepted his diploma from the president. What he has accomplished during the past five years is the result of his own abilities and choices, and he has worked hard and chosen well.

We could not be prouder.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Those Parents

Clay, Willie Mae, Brenda Leigh and Fritz. Fun!
Husband and I have turned into Clay and Willie Mae Johnson.

For those who don't watch The Closer,Clay and Willie Mae are the fictional parents of the fictional star of the show, a sharp-as-a-tack Los Angeles deputy police chief named Brenda Leigh Johnson. She is married to hunky FBI agent Fritz Howard, and every once in a while her parents visit from...somewhere in the South where people speak English with a malleable accent. Atlanta? Arkansas, maybe?

Clay and Willie Mae are hard-working and well-meaning, but they are old, clueless hillbillies who make Brenda Leigh and Fritz roll their eyes and whine behind their backs.

This weekend we've been in Kingdom Far Away for the college graduation of Boy#2, and there is a full post on that coming but in the meantime I can tell you it was lovely and touching, and I could not have been prouder of my little boy.

Packed into the day before and the two days following commencement, though, are the packing, packing, packing, and more packing, interrupted by schlepping and intermingled with some digging out and topped off by cleaning. Boy#1 and Boy#2 are moving out of their apartment they shared this year, and Boy#4 is moving home for the summer.

Husband and I are here to help with the process, and oh, my, goodness. We are Clay and Willie Mae. Old, clueless hillbillies. Hard-working and well-meaning, of course, but old, clueless hillbillies surrounded by hip smart college students and equally hip and smart new graduates.

I will let your imagination measure what a heapin' helpin' of fun this is.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

So Long, Faithful Friend

I'm a little weepy as I write this. But so excited! But a little verklempt. But smiling from ear to ear! But sad. But...

Okay, I'll quit now. You get the idea. You know the thwarted dream? The thing I wanted so desperately a few days ago? Hey, guess what? We're getting it!

I know, I know, I was being all chin-up and stiff-upper-lip so you thought you had heard the end of the story. Hahahaha! You don't know me very well, do you? My drooping chin and quivering upper lip prevailed and today I can reveal that the thing is a new car!

Well, it's new to us at least. At the MomQueenBeen house we drive our cars until they no longer move forward, then we drive them in reverse for a few years, then we think about trading them in. Husband and I have known for some time that our faithful Suburban wouldn't be reliable forever. After all, when we bought it 13 years ago it already was five years old, and had 80,000 miles under its tread. Now it's 18 years old, and this is the odometer:

Impressive, no?

Boy#1 was 11 when we bought this car, so it quite literally carried our children through their childhoods, or at least through their teens. It has spent countless hours ferrying children to school events, and soccer games, and weekends at grandparents' houses. It has pulled a trailer thousands of miles to the perfect campsite (and to some that were less perfect), and heard a million road songs and books read aloud.

When Husband called the salesman to tell him that he had hit the number we had agreed was our absolute top limit we could manage, I suddenly was seized by nostalgia. I could barely manage a smile when the deal was sealed. And what about the Boys? Wouldn't they feel terrible that we had sent this huge part of their childhood off to "live on a farm in the country" (wink-wink) without a chance for them to say good-bye?

I texted them. "Guys, I have an announcement. We just got a new (used) car! 2003 Ford Escape. Low mileage, 4WD, bun warmers. It's just what I prayed for."

Boy#2 replied: Ooh, exciting. When you said that you had an announcement, I was expecting a little brother or something, but this is pretty cool, too.

So not much sentiment there. Then I went to clean the detritus of 13 years out from under the seats, and to photographically document this transition.

Good-bye, chrome that's been peeling since we bought you! Thanks for hanging in there!

Good-bye, front license plate that's been crumpled for four years ever since Boy#1 rear-ended that guy on the bypass!

Good-bye, headliner that's developed leprosy and started draping down over our heads when we drive!

Good-bye spare fuses that we keep in the glove compartment because the wonky wiring on the trailer's lights mean we blow a fuse every time we back it up!

I'm looking forward to parking in a single parking space, though, and to dropping to double-digit gas fill-ups (yes, the last one in the Suburban was $124.76), and to the moonroof, but you served faithfully and I won't forget.

Good-bye, Suburban. You were faithful, old friend.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

I Love a Parade

In the excitement of the weekend (Mother's Day! Commencement! Thwarted dreams!) I forgot to mention what ordinarily would have been my favorite part: The Small Town Festival parade.

Oh, I do love a Small Town parade, whether it is in my small town or in someone else's small town. I find every bit of it endearing, beginning with the color guard of veterans whose unison marching may not be perfect but whose patriotism is unparalleled.

I love that the grand marshal's wife is a friend of mine,

Hi, Mary!
and that another friend is a city commissioner and riding the antique fire truck ("The oldest working firetruck west of the Mississippi!")

Hi, Tom and Greg and Tag!

I love the parade of antique tractors (some driven by girls)...

Love the matching T-shirt
...and the clowns throwing candy, and Tessie, the K-9 dog.

I love the floats, especially the ones that have kids on them wearing sunflower hats and waving to the crowd...

...and I love the horses with the sunflowers braided into their manes, and the kennel club with the sunflower-festooned dogs that were so beautiful I forgot to take a picture.

And most of all, I love being a judge of the parade entries and being able to give out ribbons and this trophy...

Husband as hand model
...and tell the entrants how great they looked and how proud I was of them for being in the parade, and encouraging them to put the ribbon up on the float where everyone could see that this entry was pure WINNER.

I was having so much fun that Husband took a picture of me handing a ribbon to a kid so that I could post it with this entry. He snapped the shot directly from behind, just as I bent over to get to the kid's level, so you can bet that shot will never see the light of day. It was not a winner.

But the parade? Practically perfect.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Mother's Day Recap

With a day of perspective, I realize that the woe-that-was-me described in yesterday's post came about partly because I was dreading Mother's Day. As it does most years, graduation at Small College falls on this holiday, which means it's a long, hot, complicated day of work for those of us in the public relations office. Add to this the melancholy that comes from missing my own mom (who has been gone for two Mother's Days now) and not having a Boy in the nest for the first time on Mother's Day, and, well, woe was me.

But then I was surrounded all day by mothers bursting with pride at the accomplishments of their new college grads, and I couldn't help but absorb some of the splatter.

I smiled every time I walked past the flowers the Boys sent to my office on Friday, without prompting from their father, and beamed at the thoughtfulness that prompted them to send flowers to their paternal grandmother as well.

And last night, after a day that had been long AND hot AND complicated, the phone rang. Thanks to modern technology all four Boys were on the line to wish me a happy day.

It was like opening a picnic basket full of puppies. The conversation rolled and tumbled and turned back on itself and all but piddled on the rug in exuberance. At one point I sat quietly, listening to my sons tease each other and laugh and look forward to being all together at the end of this week.

III John 4 is correct--I have no greater joy than to hear of my children walking in the truth.

But this? This is a close second.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother

The Boys, Christmas 2010
Yesterday was this kind of day:


I'm slammed at work, and my allergies are kicking in, and the weather has jumped straight from covering-up-the-tomatoes-at-night to heat rash (what the heck, Mother Nature?). Yesterday's special sauce on my pile-o'-poo life sandwich was that I found something I desperately wanted to buy, and the dollars for that purchase are absolutely not in the budget picture.

Yes, it's a big-ticket item, so it would have been a stretch in the best of times. But even though they are brilliant and hard-working and largely paying their own way, having four Boys in college at the same time is not an inconsequential expense. A rational adult would look at that big-ticket item, say, "Gosh, that's too bad," and move on.

Yesterday I was not a rational adult. My inner child (who is kind of a brat) stomped her feet and stuck her fingers in her ears so she couldn't hear the voice of reason and wailed "But I waaaaaant it!"

So I pouted for a while, then sat down to work on some of the previously-mentioned job slammage. (I know! Saturday night! How bad can this get?)

At that moment my instant-messaging popped onto my computer screen. It was Boy#4. "Hey, Mom! My calculus final wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be. I'll see you in less than a week!"

Then Boy#1's I-M window lit up. He knew I'd have the Royals game on for white noise, and would have heard a young phenom hit his first major league single. "Message to Eric Hosmer: RETIRE NOW," One wrote.

I laughed and went back to my editing but as I deleted commas and sorted out composes and comprises, I was thinking of what a great time it is for college students, who are emerging from the tunnel of finals week shading their eyes and blinking at the sunlight. I remembered that one of the reasons I am behind at work is because I had chosen to take a half-day off so that we could hear Boy#3 in a fabulous concert, and because I'll miss more days to see Boy#2 graduate from college next week.

And I realized that while I had been poor-me'ing about the THING I couldn't buy I was distracting myself from the appreciating the poverty imposed by the four doofuses who keep me penniless but rich.

Happy Mother's Day, Boys. You're worth it.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

I'm So Tiiiiiiired

This is me. I drew the portrait myself. (I know! You're asking yourself why no one has hired me as a graphic designer. Also, you're asking where my glasses are, and the answer to both of those questions is, "I have no idea.")

Anyway, my goal today is to warn young people what it will feel like to stay up too late once you've reached the age of, oh, 35 or so. And because I know some people learn better through pictures than through words, I'm offering my own 35-year-old-plus (plus, plus, plus) face as a model.

 Husband and I did not get back from Boy#2's band concert at Pretty-Far-Away University until 1:20 a.m. For those of us in my demographic, this is the most horrifying number on the clock radio. Any earlier, and you're getting a decent night sleep. Any later, and you're taking a personal day and sleeping in.

So the things I learned by looking in the mirror this morning are these:

1. Wrinkles are exacerbated by fatigue. That one line you're sure no one notices on the side of your mouth? Oh, it's noticeable today.

2. Huh. Who knew the bags under my eyes actually could be darker?

3. I need to put some lipstick on already or face the fact that my mouth is just an opening in my face.

4. Wow, I really, really need a cut and color.

By sheer coincidence, today I also ran across an article about a new sleep study. Scientists found that when rats were sleep-deprived, their brains went into what the article called "rolling blackouts," allowing each region of the brain to take a breather even while the rat appeared to be perfectly alert. And if this happens in the geese (rats), these scientists claim, it also probably happens in the ganders (humans).

That means today, after way too little zzz's last night, my train of thought might...I'm sorry, what was I talking about?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Uncharacteristically Quiet

A friend asked me yesterday if I planned to comment on the hoopla that is surrounding the killing of Osama bin Laden. The short answer is "No, this blog isn't a political forum, it's a site for self-indulgent naval-gazing."

The longer answer is more complicated and acknowledges that I have family and friends of all political persuasions--some are vocally victorious, some are morally repelled, and frankly, I swing between these two extremes myself.

Then I read this blog:

Derek Maul: I Am So Angry at Bin Laden

What he said. That's what I feel.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Rest of the Goldfish Story

A few days ago I posted a cryptic apology to my older sister for telling our mother that J was the one who sucked up the goldfish up with the vacuum. To my surprise, multiple people have asked for details on the goldfish story.

You are going to be so disappointed, because the actual event was neither interesting nor funny, but that has never stopped me from telling stories in the past, so what happened was this:

We did not often have company at Shady Oaks, living waaaaay out in the country as we did, but someone had been invited to supper. And because many hands make light work, my mother assigned my sister to vacuum while I dusted. I've been trying to reconstruct how old each of us must have been, and I'm carbon-dating the event by the names of our goldfish, which were Kennedy and Nixon. (In spite of our Republican leanings, the short and non-attractive one was Nixon, and the sleek and beautiful one was Kennedy.)  That election was in 1960, so we must have been 7 and 6 years old at the time, with two younger siblings.

I was a dutiful worker bee, so I dusted industriously. Sister J, on the other hand, was creative and curious. (You see where this is going, right?)

At some point, the thought moved into J's consciousness: "I wonder what would happen if I stuck the vacuum tube into the fishbowl?" This, friends, is the seed of genius. I mean, I'm sure Galileo had a younger brother who was dusting while Galileo was thinking "I wonder what would happen if I put this curved glass lens into a tube and went outside at night and looked up at...oh, wow! Look at those stars!" Do we remember the name of the younger brother? We do not.

Anyway, J stuck the wand of the (running) vacuum cleaner into the fishbowl, just for a split second. The fish were unharmed, if startled, and J went back to her carpet cleaning. Not long after, though, the vacuum began to make some odd noises. From the kitchen our mother suggested that maybe the dirt bag needed to be emptied--"I'll do that for you!" she called innocently.

Mom unlatched the cannister and pulled out the cloth dirt bag--which was a solid block of mud, followed by a gush of water. As it turns out, mothers do not appreciate the creative process nearly as much as you would think they should. I don't remember the exact consequences but I do remember being glad I was the one holding the dustcloth instead of the vacuum cleaner hose.

And now you know why I was apologizing to J for telling Mom that she was the one who tried to suck up the goldfish with the vacuum cleaner.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Date Night

My date keepsake: Key coders
Back in the day, when we were still young and footloose, I had certain requirements for date night. The location had to be special, expensive, and romantic.

Of course, that's not what I said when Not-Yet-Husband asked where I wanted to go on a date. What I said was, "Oh, I'm fine with anyplace." But I hoped it would be somewhere special, expensive, and romantic.

Last Saturday was the first one in months and months uncommitted to taxes, Christmas shopping, or some other life moment, so Husband suggested a date night. After 27 1/2 years, we've been married long enough that I could make my preferences known without worrying that I would come across as a greedy or manipulative.

"Oooh! Take me someplace special! Take me someplace romantic! Take me someplace expensive!"

Husband, bless his heart, knew the perfect location: The grand opening of a new Menard's.

It was special (Woo! Free painter's hats and coloring books!) and certainly it was expensive (even with grand opening prices those cheap hammers and bags of mulch add up, don't they?) but was it romantic? Well, two moments of the evening stand out.

Moment the First: I was the cart driver, and almost T-boned another woman's cart. She had not looked for cross-traffic as she came out of a side aisle because she was busy grabbing for a balloon her toddler had thrown out of her cart and trying to wrangle a couple more pre-schoolers, one running ahead and the other running behind. I heard her intone the international mother's mantra:  "I am so over this balloon."

Moment the Second: I hear from 50 yards away the father pulling a couple of kids away from the cordless drill display where they had been obeying the sign that urged "Try me!" "They didn't mean you," he was telling his young sons, "they meant people who had any chance of buying one."

We had just spent 20 minutes comparing the virtues of various storm doors, and not a single person had whined or hurried us. No one was complaining about being hungry or bored or asking if they could just go to the car.

I sighed happily and told Husband to go ahead and look for the replacement air hose that was on sale, and I'd meet him in the trash bag section.

Oh, yeah. It's plenty romantic.