Monday, December 31, 2012

Perfect Ending

I love my job. Really, I do.

Every so often, though, I arrive at the office with a sigh.

"I really, really wanted to stay home today," I tell anyone who will listen. "It was so cozy in bed, and I didn't want to bundle up and get out in the cold. I wanted to read a good book and drink tea and knit. I really didn't want to come to work."

Yesterday I was a world-class whiner. Instead of getting my Sunday afternoon nap I went--again--with Husband to the apartment where we are cleaning out his mother's belongings. My back hurt, I was tired, and I knew at least three of my children were on the road from one place to another (which in spite of my confidence in them brings a tiny worry).

"I knew this move would take a while," I snipped to Husband as I lifted one end of a mattress, "but I didn't realize it would take up EVERY SINGLE FREE MOMENT of my Christmas vacation."

Graciously, he didn't respond to this childishness with the eyeroll it deserved. Instead he offered to let me stay home while he picked up the Boys from the airport, an offer my behavior certainly had not earned.

Today Husband is scrambling through the end-of-year scrambling accountants do and I had planned to finish up the packing.  Instead, I woke up to the sound of tires slushing through the intersection next to the House on the Corner.  Huge flakes were drifting straight down, turning our view of the campus across the street into something from an improbably perfect movie set.

And because it's New Year's Eve and not the typical Monday morning there is nothing pressuring me to get going. No calls to be made cancelling classes, no alertness for students making bad sledding choices, no scramble to find boots and scarves. I plan to read a good book and drink tea and knit. The packing of the apartment will have to wait until tomorrow, when roads are cleared.

I'll turn on the Christmas lights one last time and think about how blessed I am, to have a perfect ending to this year that has been so full of unearned blessings, blessings my own behavior surely would have forfeited.

God is good.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Loveliest of Days

This post must be prefaced by a caveat: I have loved being the mother of all boys.

The 15-year-old me would not have believed this statement. Oh, how I wanted baby girls! I wanted to dress them in frilly diaper covers and Scotch-tape oversized bows onto their bald little heads. I wanted to teach them to make pie crust and appreciate brainy boys. What was I going to do with sons?

God laughed, and here I am several decades later, having absolutely loved being the queen bee.

Occasionally, though, I still gave a little sigh of nostalgia at the thought of my phantom daughters whose hair I've never French-braided (probably the reason I have only boys; God also knew the extent of my hair-impaired-ness) and whose newborn babies I will not be the first to bless. When I thought of my sons' future weddings I remembered wistfully how my own mother had altered the dress in which she was married so that I could have my dream-come-true wedding day. This relationship, I knew, was something not meant for the mothers of all boys

And then Lovely Girl entered our world on Boy#1's arm and heart.

Really, all she needed to do was love my son and I would have thought she was wonderful. But since they told us they would be getting married, she has brought me into the world of having a daughter, a world she could so easily have kept to herself and her mother. She invited me and my Much Older Sister to be part of the wedding dress shopping day, and I felt as if I had just been given the secret password to a wonderful sorority.

The shopping posse (the bride, the maid of honor, two mothers, two aunts) turned out to be wonderfully, raucously compatible as Lovely Girl tried on gown after gown. LG's beauty is vintage,with  porcelain skin and enormous eyes in a tiny  5'2" frame, so she knew her perfect dress probably wouldn't be easy to find, and the posse was ruthless.

"Mmmm, no," her aunt declared when the bride-to-be minced out in a strapless number so tight her bouncy walk was muted to a mincing hobble.

"And just what to you propose to carry on that tray under your chin?" someone said about a too-boned bodice.

Other dresses were okay, but they looked just like every other bare-shouldered bride on the society page.

But then, our Lovely Girl walked out of the dressing area beaming. I found myself with my hands clapped to my face, like the melodramatic girls in those Jumbotron proposals.

She stepped onto a tiny platform in front of angled mirrors and the fitter made a few final adjustments, straightening the train and twitching the veil over a shoulder. By now all of us were on our feet, wiping our eyes and making delighted sounds. We pointed at her tiny waist, and how the ivory shade brought out the beauty of her skin. We remarked on how this dress somehow looked like her.

"We have one more dress on the rack," the fitter pointed out. "Do you want to try it on?"

"I might as well--" Lovely Girl started to say, but then she looked in the mirror again, and a smile broke over her face. "No. This is it. This is the one."

And it occurred to me, again, how well Boy#1 had done in choosing a bride: He also chose my daughter-in-law, and she chose him.

This is it. This is the one.

Friday, December 28, 2012

One Cup, Packed: A Christmas Metaphor

Well, huh.

Merry Christmas to you!

And Happy New Year, in case I miss that holiday, too!

To tell you what Christmas was like in the House on the Corner I must resort to a metaphor. Christmas 2012 was like cooking something sweet and delicious, where the recipe calls for a cup of brown sugar.

My pre-Christmas intention was to dig the measuring cup into the brown sugar bag and pull it out, comfortably filled. I had a full-to-the-top schedule that included time with Husband and the Boys, a couple of holiday parties with friends, a smattering of visits from loved ones, the singing of my favorite carols, a day-long marathon of A Christmas Story.

But whoops, the recipe calls for the brown sugar to be packed so I pushed in more molasses-y goodness--one of the parties was at the House on the Corner so there was cleaning to be done, and the football bowl schedule and marching band responsibilities meant two of the Boys needed to catch a plane in the next state at 7 a.m. Christmas morning so the family Christmas festivities moved to Christmas Eve. I found soft yarn on sale and decided to knit an afghan for my mother-in-law's Christmas present, and vowed I WOULD FINISH Boy#2's t-shirt quilt.

And then, when every last molecule of space had been pushed from between the grains of sugar, we added the moving of my mother-in-law to new living quarters, and have been drop-jawed with amazement at how many cubic tons of memories had been stashed into a smallish two-bedroom apartment.

That was my Christmas holiday. It has been packed so tightly that not one more molecule could be jammed into the measuring cup and as I dump it out to see how I might re-enter the blogging world it's a big solid lump. So sweet, so wonderful, that I will be tasting it for weeks.

Tomorrow (or sometime soon): The loveliest of days with the Lovely Girl.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Pulling on the String

My mother-in-law made this intricate gingerbread house many years ago
It may not look like it on the surface, but there are some things in my life I simply don't write about here. Some I censor because they're not my story to tell (even though Husband and the Boys have been wonderful sports about my public ramblings), some I hold back in the name of good taste (you're not going to read about...well, lots of stuff).

But there is a huge part of the empty nest life I haven't shared here before because it's difficult and sometimes sad and almost impossible to describe without a certain degree of frustration: Our parents are old, and going through this stage of their lives with them is much, much more difficult than having teenagers.

With teenagers, a parent's role is to gradually release the string of the balloon, gauging abilities of the child and allowing more privileges, demanding more responsibility, giving more freedom until the balloon is flying by itself. With aging parents, the process is reversed. As our loved ones' physical and cognitive abilities decrease, we begin to watch them more closely and gradually share their responsibilities, pulling in the balloon and trying to protect them.

Husband's mother is 91. In her prime she was one of those women who's always in motion--directing the choir, stitching needlework, organizing dinners, traveling. She was already slowing down when her husband died seven years ago, though, and she moved to an retirement complex near us when it became increasingly apparent that she should be closer to family. She wasn't eating right, had taken a couple of falls, and her driving was becoming suspect. Here in Small Town she could see the Boys when they were home from college, and check in with us by phone several times a day. The apartment managers were compassionate and responsive and she filled her apartment with her dozens of stuffed animals.

But time doesn't stop, and the reeling in process is inexorable. First she had to be limited to driving in town, then we told her we would chauffeur her anywhere she needed to go. She began using a walker to get to the communal dining room. A personal assistant was hired to make sure she took her medicines properly.

This week, two months after a fall left her in the assisted living wing of the complex, her sons had to tell her that she would be safer and happier if she did not return to her apartment as she had hoped she could. We know the first of those is true; we can only hope the second is also.

Yesterday she sat in a chair while family bustled around her, cleaning out the apartment and choosing just a few pieces of furniture to go in the single room that will circumscribe her world from now on. She saw us dumping entire drawers into bags to be taken to Goodwill or thrown away. It may have been easier, or kinder, if she had not been there but that was not what she chose and we did not have the heart to deny her this final choice. She picked two stuffed animals to go with her and another two to be sent to young great-grandchildren; dozens more are bagged for storage along with the furniture she and her husband accumulated over more than six decades of antique hunting.

The balloon is almost completely tethered now, and no one could have told us how hard this would be.

This morning I walked out to find the first snow on the ground and remembered that this is the next-to-shortest day of the year.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Christmas Gifts

Twisterfish put it kindly in a comment on my post about cutting down on my self-imposed Christmas expectations. "This seems to be the theme for the year for many people, myself included," she said.

Let's sing it all together: "I'm doin' NUTTIN' for Christmas!"

It's a heady decision, to decide that some seasonal traditions have moved from the meaningful to the burdensome side of the balance, and that they must be taken off the scales or everything will crash into stress and chaos. So we decide to not decorate sugar cookies. Or we limit the number of parties we'll attend. Or we take ourselves out of the running for Mother Who Makes the Best Home-Crafted Gifts and hand Johnny's teacher a gift card to Applebee's.

It feels good, this decision that the season is more important than the stuff.

And still. Still.

We weep at the news coverage from Connecticut, first thinking of the children, then of the parents, then of the town, then of the entire nation that despite our best intentions remains imperfect. We mourn and once again are reminded that we are not in control. The school had done everything it could imagine to guard against this, the unimaginable, and still....

We find ourselves fretting about whether we've pared down enough. Have we cut out enough I-HAVE-TO-DO-THIS items that we can enjoy the peace of the season with our family and friends? We hope we have,and still....

What we forget is that Christmas peace is not an entitlement, it is a gift, and "every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father of heavenly Lights, who does not change with shifting shadows."*

We are not entitled to any of His gifts, but in spite of our imperfections and inability to get things right, the Father of heavenly Lights sends us the good and perfect: Peace. Joy. His Son.

This is what we're preparing for, waiting for, and I pray those gifts for all.

*James 1:17

Friday, December 14, 2012

All Over the Crafty

So, a little Christmas quiz about me. On a scale of 10 to 1 to negative 1 gabillion, how crafty do you think I am?

Yes, you can push that indicator all the way to the left, way past the 1 gabillion into infinitely un-crafty. I am HORRIBLE at crafts. I can't cut a straight line or tie a good knot. But as I've mentioned before, Pinterest has deceived me into thinking this is not true. Oh, Pinterest. You horrible, horrible deceiver.

After seeing all the CUTE! and EASY! Christmas crafts on the boards proctored by people who know how to use glue guns without burning their fingers, I decided I was smart enough to do this.

Well, it turns out that finishing a Christmas craft isn't so much about handiness with scissors and glue as it is about picking the right project.

My project is named Christmas Card Display-er, and I made the pattern myself. Every year the postman delivers a couple dozen gorgeous Christmas cards to the House on the Corner, and I love them so much that I throw them into a basket and never look at them again until they're discarded in the pre-holiday cleaning frenzy the following year.

"I want to see those beautiful pictures!" I whined to myself. "I want to remember these loved ones who remembered us."

So I took an old shutter we had in the basement:

Yes, that's my arm at the left. Ansel Adams had the same problem when he held up mountains.
Bought two rolls of ribbon at 47 cents each:
Red and gold, because it's Christmas.
Punched holes in the corners of the Christmas cards and tied them to the shutter.
Great lighting, Ms. Photographer
Then I propped my Christmas Card Display-er up next to my little lamp filled with left-over tree decorations, and voila. It's a craft.

Take THAT, Pinterest.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Let's Not Panic About Christmas

MomQueenElizabeth, ready for Christmas
I can tell you the exact moment when I started to panic about Christmas this year. I even blogged about it. It was December 4, and I had suddenly realized that I had done nothing at all to get ready for Christmas, and that I was leaving on a four-day vacation the following day.

Woe! I cried to myself, and to you. Woe! Woe! Woe! Christmas is ruined!

Okay, before you read even one more word, I want you to click over to Swistle and read her Soothing Holiday Words post. I'll wait right here.

All done? Isn't that completely great? She nailed down what I've been feeling recently: Christmas expectations are not assigned to me by others, they are self-imposed, so I can remove those expectations as I see fit.

On the way back from our vacation in Smoke Sin City I mentally categorized what is important to me about this season and what is not important, just so I could gauge how panicked I should be this week. I was ruthless in putting holiday-related expectations into those two categories. I discovered that both lists are comfortingly short.

These things are important: Spending time with my family and friends, having a Christmas tree and stockings out, baking peppernuts, having a present under the tree for each member of my family, listening to my favorite seasonal music, taking time to savor the moments.

These things are not important: Everything else. That includes baking and making candy, having a perfect Christmas morning with all of the traditions observed, finding the PERFECT present for each and every person, and shopping in actual stores.

So I started checking items off my list.

Tree up? Check. Two hours on Sunday night and it was done.

Presents for each member of the family? Check. Ordered last night, and blessings of the season to you,

Listening to my favorite seasonal music? Check. On it even as I sit here.

Peppernuts? In progress, and will be done by the weekend. 

That leaves only spending time with my family and friends, and by paring down my "important things" list, I've left myself TWELVE WHOLE DAYS for this most important thing, and that will give me time to savor the moments as the Boys drift in and out of the House on the Corner over the next few weeks.

Oh, I'll probably do a few more things, maybe get our Christmas cards out before the end of the year, knit a few more inches onto my mother-in-law's gift, possibly even rig up that card-holder I bought the supplies for and didn't finish. Or maybe not. No one will be disappointed (or surprised) if I do none of those things, and I will be happier and less irritable and more fun to be around. 

I feel like the elf who saved Christmas.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

It Still Felt Good

When we got back from VEGAS, BABY! there was no food in the house. Well, not quite literally. The pantries are crammed with canned goods and the freezer is full of half a beef, but the refrigerator echoed with the lack of anything healthy or applicable to our new cholesterol-improving lifestyle. Also, we were out of salsa.

So I went to the grocery store, and because I needed some ribbon and a lampshade, I went to the Big Box where I filled a cart with good-for-us food. Then I got in line to check out.

Check-out lines at the Big Box are especially bad at this time of the year, particularly in the hour between office-closings and suppertime, but just after I joined the queue this line stopped cold. The woman ready to pay at the register apparently did not have enough money, and she was confounded as to what to do.

"MomQueenBee," I thought to myself, "you came back from Las Vegas with money. Also, you got to go to Las Vegas in the first place, and this woman can't afford to pay for new underwear." (Yes, judgmental me had checked to make sure she wasn't buying cigarettes, because after last week I realize Kansas is a pretty wonderful smoke-free-ish place.) So I handed the clerk a $5 bill to make up the difference, the woman thanked me profusely, and the line began to move again.

It was not a big deal, and I didn't think much about it until my cart-load of vegetables and yogurt had been scanned through and the clerk announced the total.

"That will be $73," she said.

Whoa. That was an enormous load of vegetables and yogurt--obviously God had seen me giving that woman her early Christmas present, and in a cast-your-bread-upon the waters moment had DIVINELY LOWERED ALL THE PRICES. It was a Christmas miracle!

I felt wonderful all the way home, through the unloading of the groceries, through supper, until halfway through the evening when I suddenly thought of something. Because the checking out had taken so long I hadn't even really looked at the receipt--I'd already swiped my debit card and I just tucked the receipt into my wallet for recording later.

Oh. Turns out the total was $173, which was not at all out of line with what I had expected to pay. I laughed at myself--but I still felt good about the shopping experience.

Feeling good about a Christmas-season shopping experience? I believe I did experience a Christmas miracle; it just wasn't the one I originally thought I was seeing.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Leaving Las Vegas

I am guessing that most people, when they see this sign, are just getting off a plane and think "Well, I'm glad I'm not THERE anymore." I, on the other hand, was glad to see the message at o'dark-thirty Saturday morning because it meant that we were reversing our travel process and that in a few hours we would be in Kansas again.

Oh, it's not that we didn't have a lovely time. I hope that when Husband and I are 94 years old and toddling together into the special needs pre-seating line we will enjoy traveling together as much as we do now. I'm crossing my fingers that we'll still be rolling our eyes together at the women who carry dogs in their purses, and that he still will be gallantly offering me the aisle seats and hogging the armrests. I do love traveling with Husband, but I think we're crossing Las Vegas off our bucket list and calling it done.

Here are the things I wasn't so crazy about in VEGAS, BABY!:

The smokers. Oh, my holy heaven, the smokers. You know how movies show the shadowy underworld figures fighting to control Vegas's gambling trade, or the prostitution traffic? I'd go for the cigarette concession. Coming from a state where smokers are pretty much politely excused from public places, and where all my smoking friends are extremely considerate of those of us who don't indulge, the lack of both of those niceties was glaringly evident, even through the haze.

Also, I REALLY disliked the guys on every street corner who handed out pictures of nekkid ladies. Whoa. I know I'm a prude. In fact, I could probably be the Church Lady's double if the Church Lady ever made a movie ("Could it be...SATAN?") but I usually am able to accept local customs and mores. Except in this case, when I was holding Husband's left hand as they were pushing photographs of bazooms into his right hand. DO NOT DO THAT, GUYS.

Here are the things I was crazy about in Las Vegas:

The hotel room. Seriously, it was wonderful, and the bed made me think little bluebirds of happiness had plumped the pillows and pulled up the (high thread count) sheets. The fainting couch (yes!) was perfect for watching television and knitting, which is probably why Husband left me there early in the morning to go to his tax seminar and found me still there when he returned after discussing 1040s and sheltered dividends all day.

Also, the hotel itself, which was not so swanky as to make us feel like country mice (I'm looking at you, Wynn Las Vegas) and not so filled with black-hatted cowboys (the National Professional Rodeo was in town) as to make us feel like Thurston and Lovey Howe. Boy#2 laughed when I confessed my discomfort with either end of the social spectrum. "That could be part of the family crest: Solidly and proudly middle class," he said.

So we're back from VEGAS, BABY. We came out $3 ahead on our $10-ish investment in nickel slots, and saved the money we might have spent seeing Carrot Top. (I know. It was a struggle to make THAT decision.)

We're in Kansas again, and there's no place like home.

Friday, December 7, 2012

More Craziness From VEGAS, BABY!

I seem to be incapable of saying the name of this place as anything except its nickname, in all caps, followed by the English word for a small infant, also in all caps, followed by an exclamation point. What is it about this place that drives me to such paroxysms of shoutiness?

Well, maybe it's the price of the ONE BANANA (whoops, there I go again) that was my breakfast. Seriously, Las Vegas? I realize it's not Tuesday, when bananas are 19 cents a pound in Small Town, but one hundred and thirty five pennies for ONE BANANA? (Ask anyone from Small Town how much bananas cost on Tuesdays and they'll know it's 19 cents per pound.)

I spent my first day of my Sin City vacation exactly as I had hoped, watching a completely creepy and wonderful series on Netflix (thank you, Boy#1, for opening my eyes to Damages) and knitting four inches onto the afghan I hope to have done by Christmas. It was wonderful, except for the 90 minutes I spent on Apple Care support after I updated my iPhone and it no longer made or received calls, but thank you, Apple Care, all good now!

Then Husband got out of his tax seminar and we were off to experience the wild and crazy VEGAS, BABY nightlife.

As it turns out, we are super-terrible at being wild and crazy.

We sat down at the penny slots with our $26 worth of coins and proceeded to lose $2. We looked at each other, bug-eyed. It was not going the way we had scripted, which was that we were going to put in six nickels and win several thousand dollars. So we managed to make ourselves play $3 worth at the quarter slots, and won enough to get back our initial investment throwing-away-of-money, so we cashed out. As we walked back across the bridge Husband dropped our roll dimes into the basket sitting beside a young man flanked by two little girls whose sign said they needed money for rent. I know, I know, panhandlers often are just scamming tenderhearts and drive back to their houses in the suburbs in BMWs. But whether those three young people were or were not con artists, they certainly needed our dimes more than the casino did, so we felt like winners.

So, having escaped the one-armed grip of the slot machines, we walked down to the Mirage and watch the "volcano eruption" that happens every hour on the hour, where hundreds of tourists gather to watch the spectacle on the tiny screens of the cell phones they are holding between their actual eyes and the spectacles. Really, people? You think you will get such spectacular footage of this that you must STORE IT ON YOUR PHONE rather than in your memory? Huh.

And finally, we enjoyed the lights and Christmas trees and reminders of the season, because nothing gives homage to this sacred time of the year like a statue of Ceasar draped in tinsel.

But that's VEGAS, BABY!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

How to Pack for Las Vegas


Please excuse the quality of the photo on today's post. This is actually yesterday's post, but by the time I snapped the fuzzy image above we had been trains-planes-and-automobiling (minus the trains) for about 12 hours and I was starting to feel pretty close to what that shot looks like: fuzzy and not quite centered.

But we're in VEGAS, BABY!

Yup, Husband and I left Small Town behind yesterday and headed west for a convention of tax accountants. (On a side note, is there any more cognitively dissonant pair than "tax accountants" and "Sin City"? No, I thought not.) Because I am a PARTY ANIMAL, I packed up my books and knitting and came along to sit in the hotel room and finish some Christmas presents and catch up on Arrested Development using my free month of Netflix. Envy my wild and crazy nature, all you wild and crazy people out there.

We flew through Dallas and Las Angeles, which oddly enough, look exactly alike if you don't leave the airport. Exactly. Alike. But when we got to Vegas we knew we were in a distinctly different place. That's because the signs said "Welcome to Las Vegas!" Oh, and there were slot machines waiting the second we got off the plane because apparently there are some folks who can't wait even three minutes to sit down and start offloading cash. 

Husband and I aren't really what you'd call big gamblers. This is not because we think it's wrong per se  (although I could give you a pretty good argument about how it preys on the folks who can least afford to lose money, and how expecting something for nothing IS wrong, etc.) but because we're cheap. We are so cheap that the thought of simply inserting coins into a slot and watching them disappear seems like the nth degree of stupidity and makes us break out in hives.

But it seems kind of...ungrateful? unpatriotic? unnatural? to come all the way to the gambling capital of the world without participating in the local custom. So as we dithered about whether or not we could bring ourselves to throw away good American currency, I had a brilliant idea. 

We had planned to check a bag containing our coats, extra books, spare socks,apples for in case we got hungry, etc., and American Airlines was going to relieve us of $26 for the privilege of carrying our surplus stuff across the country. Instead, we left the books and socks at home, and Husband came out of the bank with this in his hand:

Wooo! $26 worth of coins for the slot machines. The sum total of our gambling money. (Plus one dime Husband found on the floor of the airport shuttle.)

Of course, this morning I discovered that slot machines don't actually take coins so I may be coming home with all of these rolls still in my purse.Who says I'm not a complete winner?

Stay tuned for more updates from VEGAS, BABY!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

It's Beginning to Look Nothing at All Like Christmas

File photo, obviously.
So, are you all ready for Christmas at your house? Tree trimmed? Lights lit? Stockings all hung by the chimney with care?

Here at the House on the Corner we can count the number of things we've done to get ready for Christmas on two fingers. Those two fingers are the index finger and the thumb, and to count the actual accomplishments you first have to hold those fingers tip to tip, then read the resulting number. We have done zero things. NOTHING.

I'm blaming the lack of outward and visible signs of the season on the early Thanksgiving. On a normal year, when Thanksgiving falls within striking distance of the end of November, it stands to reason that you have to step lively while the turkey carcass is still in the refrigerator or all of the Yuletime preps will not be completed on time. This year, as I made cranberry sauce practically the day after Independence Day, I was thinking "Well, with a whole week after Thanksgiving before November is even over, I'll have lots and lots of time to relax and really go into Christmas organized."

Ha! Instead, I spent a few days just giggling to myself because we were getting a Lovely Girl in the family, then another few days thinking that I really should be getting my shopping done while FREE SHIPPING! was all over the internet, then a few days watching Boy#3 in his final marching band moments and wahoo-ing because WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS OF THE WORLD (according to the song played pretty much non-stop during the final minutes of the game) and hey! Here I am with absolutely nothing done for Christmas.

Well, that's not strictly true. I have pinned a good many crafts on my Pinterest board and intend to complete all of them in the next 22 days. I'm going to do this and this and this and quite possibly this. (I'm not even linking the pins of homemade gifts that I'm going to be working on, because maybe one of those gifts is for YOU!)

Or perhaps I will fall back on the habits I've established during my first half-century-plus of life, and throw some decorations at the tree, bake some peppernuts, enjoy my family, and call it a great holiday.

Yes, that's definitely the new plan for this year same plan that has served me well.

Ho, ho, ho!

Monday, December 3, 2012

What Do You Say?

Suppose you are just a little (or a lot) late getting dressed in the morning and you're hurrying up the stairs to take your shower and one hand is holding up your too-long-but-oh-so-cuddly bathrobe to keep it from tripping you and killing you in a fall down the stairs and the other hand is holding your too-full-but-oh-so-delicious triple-shot cappuccino which you'll sip as you dry your hair after you get out of the shower and as you fly up the steps you are thinking to yourself "pick up your feet, pick up your feet, pick up your feet" because you have on your slippers and they aren't exactly precision footwear and you truly don't want to fall down these stairs and break your neck or something more important but on the LAST STEP you catch your toe on the lip of the step and while you don't fall down the stairs and break your neck or something more important you do slop coffee all over the floor and even though you know nothing is ruined (thank you, hardwood floors, for being impervious to triple-shot cappuccinos) the episode is so surprising and annoying that a word flies out of your mouth before you even think about what you are about to say.

What is that word?

My word, I now know, is "dangnation." That's pronounced with the emphasis on the middle syllable (dang-NA-shun) and with much vehemence. Much, much vehemence. In fact, so much vehemence that I am quite glad the word that flew out was G-rated. DANG-NA-SHUN.

Please recreate this scenario, then tell me what your word is so that I can feel all morally superior to persons who were not lucky enough to have four little pitchers with big ears around to parrot back any words said with vehemence over the past 26 years.

Or rather, don't tell me. I don't want to see my morally superior vocabulary blush.

Friday, November 30, 2012

The Twelve Days: I Give Up

Well, huh. As it turns out, it's much more difficult to write about something for twelve straight days than I had anticipated, even when that "something" is as exciting as the upcoming nuptials of Boy#1 and Lovely Girl. Turns out I do have a teensy-tiny bit of conscience about completely invading their privacy and splashing their story all over  the internet.

So I'll just leave you with the white flag of surrender flying, and one final picture that was taken as they watched Husband and me on the dance floor at my father's wedding.

Despite the spectacle, she still said 'yes.' Obviously, she's a keeper.

Also: I'm at The Train of His Robe again today, talking about bosses.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Twelve Days: It Must Be Love

One of my favorite comments from when Boy#1 and the Lovely Girl became Facebook Official was left by a mutual friend from their days at a liberal arts college. That friend had worked with Boy#1 on a political campaign, and I don't remember the exact wording of the comment (and am too lazy to go back and look it up) but it was something like this:

"Somehow, I can't help thinking our side just lost one."

I laughed out loud.

For all their commonalities (they're both good enough, smart enough, and doggone it, people like them) Boy#1 and Lovely Girl spring from political backgrounds that are distinctly different. Even though they attended the first Obama inauguration together (or at least slogged through the snow for blocks before they came to their senses and slogged back home to watch it on television), my son was in Washington to intern for a prominent Republican senator and LG was there working for a liberal political action group.

Now, One is voting blue and endorsing Obamacare. This causes his father a great deal of chagrin, but I am not at all concerned by this shift to the left. In fact, as a former Peace Corps volunteer, I think it's probably good for him--everyone needs a cross-cultural experience.

And, as a friend pointed out when he heard that our Kansas boy was engaged to a DEMOCRAT, if you aren't liberal when you're young and broke, you don't have a heart; if you aren't a conservative when you're old and pay taxes, you don't have a brain.Boy#1 and Lovely Girl have both hearts and brains, and they've reached across the divide.

Maybe if we're going to back away from the financial cliff our elected representatives need to fall in love.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

He Just Thinks I Won't

Boy#1 asked me this morning what I was blogging about today, and I said I was over at The Train of His Robe, thinking about my friends who are suffering because their kids are suffering.

"That's a shame," he said. "I thought we might be having The12 Days of Boy#1 and Lovely Girl."

He thought that was a joke; I thought it was a challenge.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Oh, and Welcome to the Family!

I've made no secret of how delightful I find the Lovely Girl. How can you not love someone with those dimples? The fact that she laughs at my jokes and asked for my sheetcake recipe are just icing on the warm chocolate dessert, so to speak. 

So when the phone rang Friday afternoon and I heard Boy#1 was using his speaker phone, I jumped to my feet. I'm way too old for such affectations, but I could hear my inner teenager squeeeeeee-ing as I answered.

"Is Dad there?" he asked.

"Yes! I'll get him! Is Lovely Girl there?" I burbled back.

"I'm here," she said.

Oh, yes! Oh, I think I know what this might be! Oh, my! Exclamation point, exclamation point, exclamation point!

"Honey, it's Boy#1 and Lovely Girl!" I exclamation pointed to Husband. "Quick! I'll put us on speaker!"

And then I pushed the button I was sure would let us share the news in a veritable puppy pile of happiness...and disconnected the call.

 I'm going to be just a swell mother-in-law.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Great Is Thy Faithfulness

The best family on the Best Day of the Year. (I am not in the picture because after owning it for eight years I still don't know how to work the timer on my camera.)
Oh, my! I didn't realize I had left you so long with only a picture of boiled-over potatoes to represent Thanksgiving in the House on the Corner.

The Best Day of the Year lived up to its reputation. In fact, because I've run out of modifiers to describe just how fabectacularonderful it was, I'm resorting to numbers to sum up the day. (See what I did there? Numbers? Sum up? Never mind.)

Number of thanks-givers seated at lunch: 31.

Decades represented in birthdates of attendees: Well, let's see. 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, 2010s. We must have taken the 1970s off.

Pounds of turkey cooked: 41. Yes, you read that right. One un-smoked (21 pounds) and one smoked (20 pounds).

Pounds of potatoes cooked: 25, divided between Yukon Golds (15 pounds) and sweet (10 pounds).

Pounds of butter incorporated into the meal: 9. No, I am not even kidding.

Number of pies to be eaten by 31 people: 11. "Would you like pecan or pumpkin?" "Yes, please!"

Temperature immediately after our Thanksgiving meal: 75 glorious fall degrees.

Number of Boys in attendance: Only two. The expense involved in flying back from the right edge of the country was a bit too high for Boy#2 (especially with a Christmas trip coming up in a few weeks), and Boy#1 decided he'd rather spend it with the Lovely Girl in Boston than with us. And this brings us to our final number of the day:

Number of proposals accepted on Thanksgiving Day in Boston: One! (Or maybe more, but the others didn't send us into shrieks of delight as the call telling of this one did.)

Blessings all mine, and 10,000 besides.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Smells Like the Best Day of the Year...

...because it's not Thanksgiving until the potatoes have boiled over and charred onto the burner.

It's the best day of the year--may it be filled with turkeys and loved ones, rolls and rolling with the punches, sweet potatoes and sweet thoughts. And in everything give thanks.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Blessings to Most Living Creatures

Illustration from
If you were to watch me as I take my post-exercise walk around the block at o'dark-thirty (which, please don't, because that's creepy) you would be amazed at my uncanny  resemblance to the dinosaur fish illustrated above. I amble slack-jawed, cooling down and catching my breath after 45 minutes on the elliptical.

But then if you keep watching, you might see me abruptly morph into this:

Image from Associated Press
And why am I suddenly a brisk and businesslike Pope Benedict bestowing a papal blessing? Two words: Spider webs.

Our block is an old one, and the trees that line the sidewalks and are so picturesque during daytime hours seem to be filled with spiders who spend their nights weaving sticky gossamer traps across my cool-down path. Believe me, nothing dissipates the warm, relaxed, self-righteous glow of having completed the day's exercise before 7 a.m. like potentially becoming a spider's breakfast.

Oh, I'm quite aware that the spider is unlikely to be able to completely devour me but "unlikely" and "absolutely not able to" are two different matters, and the feel of that sticky web across my face fills me with the irrational fear that a spider is about to sink its teeth into my eyeballs.

Now as I approach a tree I snap into a mouth-closed, hand-extended Papal Blessing Position that clears away any spider webs before they reach my face. Those spiders can have my pinky fingers but they are NOT devouring my eyeballs.

Blessings to you. Unless you have eight legs.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Not Even Halfway There

Nov. 19, 1983
Most wedding pictures show the bride looking radiant but demure. Eyes cast down, blushing prettily, serene but remote.

Not my wedding pictures. In almost every single one of the photos from Husband's and my wedding day  I'm grinning like the village idiot, big ol' ear-to-ear smiles that show a double row of teeth. I look as if I've just won the lottery--because that's how I felt.

I was 28 years old when I met Husband, and I'd pretty much accepted my lot in life as the crazy spinster aunt who brings bourbon balls to the Christmas dinner and doesn't know how to support a baby's head. But then, at a young adult party at a new church I was attending, I met a nice guy who tried to set me up with his best friend, and 29 years ago today that nice guy and I had the most perfect wedding ever, and that includes the wedding that featured Pippa Middleton's rear end.

Of course, the inappropriateness of the previous statement pretty much sums up what Husband has had to put up with over the years. He should have known: Right after the picture above was snapped, I was a little too vigorous in feeding Husband that first bite of wedding cake, and he was Not Happy about the resulting icing-smeared mustache. (What? I thought that was what I was supposed to do.) Friends sitting in the front row were afraid they may have witnessed the shortest marriage in history.

Instead, for better or worse, today I have officially been married longer than I have not been married.

We told ourselves when we were engaged that because we were relatively elderly to be getting married for the first time, we would only shoot for 70 years together instead of 80. With 41 years left to meet this goal it's good to know we're still on the uphill side, because this is still really fun and I'm still grinning like the village idiot.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Best Friends Ever

When I was a kid birthdays rolled around once every century or so. Or at least that was the way it felt at the time, with a countdown of months-to-weeks-to-days-to-tomorrow between occurrences of MY OWN VERY SPECIAL DAY.

Now, though, it feels as if every few days I'm being wished a happy day and have to think "Oh! I guess it is my birthday!" Between the recitals and the football games and the work deadlines and the mother-in-law's health issues, I'd barely registered that we're already in mid-November and that my birthday is tomorrow.

That's why I was genuinely puzzled when a box showed up with our mail yesterday. It had the return address of the bed-and-breakfast where my high school buddies and I had such a great reunion a few weekends ago, but I hadn't remembered ordering anything to be sent later. Had I left earrings in the bathroom? A charger plugged into an outlet?

I opened the box to find this inside:

Oh, yes, I gasped. The four of us had been in the b&b's gift shop when I discovered and coveted this set of measuring spoons. As a Kansas girl I love the sunflower motif, as a Kansas girl I love the oak leaves and butterflies that make them whimsical, as a Kansas girl I'm blown away by the combination of beauty and functionality. I didn't buy them, though, because...well, it just seemed so darned self-indulgent.

When the box containing these spoons showed up on the mail my shrunken heart swelled three sizes to think of the thoughtfulness of the sender. The only problem was that the sender did not identify herself.

There was a note slipped into the box:
I think we can agree, though, that this note may have been forged, seeing as how mouse in the corner did not have opposable thumbs and would have been incapable of taping the box shut. And unless the mouse in the corner was Mickey, the mouse also was not wearing pants so would have had no place to keep a wallet.

"But MomQueenBee," I'm sure you're asking, "don't you know the handwriting of the next best suspects, the three friends who are quite possibly  your oldest and dearest in the world?"

I believe I do, but the thing about my friends is this: Any one of them is wonderful enough and thoughtful enough (and, truth be told, sneaky enough) to have done this generous and lovely thing. I'm basking in the thought that I have the best friends ever, and that one of them is a mouse in the corner.

Happy birthday indeed!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Semi-Competence vs. Perfection

Is this just an excuse to post one more picture of Boy#3's senior recital, with proof that the percussionist part did feature brake drums?

Nope. It's an invitation to read my reflections on being the accompanist over at The Train of His Robe.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Musical Harvest

I know you all are tired of hearing about the wonderfulness that is Boy#3's final undergraduate year as a trombone major. In the past three weeks he has soloed with the university orchestra, played a recital in Small Town, and presented his senior recital at Big University. For music majors, this season is like harvest for farmers--the time when all the hard work pays off, and you pray that the hailstorm (or the upper respiratory infection) stays away.

With last night's recital we officially declared the musical harvest season a success. Husband and I fought cheek-splitting grins of pride and happiness, and at the time (between selections) I found the whispered comment "I think his tongue is unhinged" from the retired pastor sitting next to us the funniest thing I had ever heard in my life.

A week ago, when I nervously took the stage as Three's accompanist for his Small Town recital, I remembered that my mother had said that one of the best parts of being a parent is seeing your children being better than you are. I thought about the dozens of hours we'd spent playing together since he began taking lessons in fourth grade, and how over the years he has way outstripped my ability to accompany him (see the post where I explain being a Semi-Competent But Willing pianist).

For the final performance last night, though, Three had a professional accompanist whose proficiency freed him from having to wonder about his pianist, as well as a percussionist who not only was a fantastic drummer and marimba player but also played a mean brake drum and piano chain. Really.

And I made refreshments for the post-recital reception. These cupcakes, and these truffles, and these bars, and these cookies, and these complete flops. Add to that these cupcakes and another batch of cupcakes I don't even have the recipe for that my Much Older Sister provided, and I'm pretty sure no one went away hungry.

It's been a great harvest.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Blurbs and Orts

It's time for another edition of Blurbs and Orts, in which I clean up all the little half-formed blog ideas that will never make it to full post status but which collect in the wrinkles of my cerebellum like dust bunnies until I sweep them out. (Wow. I believe that may be the most convoluted metaphor I have ever devised.)

Ort #1: Is this a gorgeous leaf or what? I picked it up off the sidewalk and brought it in to work this week, and have spent hours looking at it rather than writing a story about healthcare administration. I mean, which of those options would you choose?

Ort#2: Thank you for the kind thoughts and offers, but you may now throw away those file-baked-in-a-cake recipes. I am no longer in violation of the law of these United States, and the judge has dismissed my citation for Pearl's tinted windows. When I phoned to let the magistrate know that the unknowingly-too-dark tint had been removed, he asked me how did I plead and I said "PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE!" When he finished laughing he asked me about the MOMQBEE license plate, and I pointed out that as a 57-year-old empty nester I was a little too proud of having been cited for driving a pimpmobile. He laughed again. This is the kind of justice I like. Also, I've removed the following from my exercise playlist. I was memorizing it just in case the person deciding my case turned out to not have a sense of humor.

Ort#3: We all agree that Pinterest is evil, no? That this time-sucking social medium fools you into thinking you can DO things that quite obviously you cannot, and should not, do? Things like using power tools and making fancy cupcakes? Well, I've finally found one thing on Pinterest that is the BOMB. I've tried a lot of ways to keep the shower clean during the past three decades, when I estimate our shower has been used about sixty-four gabizillion times. Pinterest advised that I get one of those soap-holding dish wands, fill it with half white vinegar and half regular strength dishwashing detergent, and wipe down the tub surfaces each time I turn on the shower water. People, this works! My tile is shiny and the shower room smells like apple cider. Happiness!
Ort#4: This morning Boy#3 sent an early text to find out if we wanted the audio AND video recording of his trombone recital or just the audio. This will be his last collegiate performance, so I wanted the best commemoration possible. "Go ahead and get the video as well, please," I texted back. "I'd like to be able to play it on a loop when I'm in the nursing home. It'll drive my roommate crazy." To which he replied, "Sounds good. And that won't be the only thing that will drive them crazy, I'm sure."  Pfffft.

Finally, a Blurb: Husband and I saw Argo last week. We laughed! We gasped! We were on the edge of our seats!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Fleeting Beauty

It takes a special eye to see the beauty of my state, in that hardly an inch of Kansas is frivolous. I remember my mother looking out over a stretch of flat ground that reached beyond the horizon and saying, "Isn't that gorgeous? It's so useful." 

Wheat grows best on flat ground, and rolling hills are perfect grazing ground for cattle. Day after day the 34th state is busy producing food for the rest of the world--she's the hard-working upstairs maid and not the trophy wife.

But the hot, dry summer has meant a gloriously brilliant fall in Small Town. Our hundred-year-old trees are practically on fire, the maples competing with the oaks to see which can be more gorgeous.

In New England or Colorado, I'm sure, this kind of annual beauty is taken for granted. In Kansas it is not. We Kansans walk around during these few colorful days in an autumn-induced stupor. We shuffle our feet through the piles of leaves on the sidewalks and turn our faces up to a brilliant blue sky.

Today is windy, though, and by the end of the day most of the leaves I saw on my morning walk will have been blown off the hardwoods. Husband will be fretting about getting the front lawn raked before the first snow.

The trophy wife moment will be over, but I saw it, and it was spectacular.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Across the Divide

I'll start this *cross-posting with an Andy Rooney-ism:

Have you ever noticed how the words "woe" and "woo" are only separated by one letter? No? How about now?



It's a difference that's just about as thin as the margin of victory/defeat that separated my WOO! friends from my WOE! friends. If you read social media at all, though, you would never, ever know this.

WOO! my blue friends say. "Woo! for four more years! And increased prosperity! And peace among all nations! And bluebirds and happiness!"

WOE! my red friends say. "Woe! for four more years! And bankrupting of the nation! And national weakness! And good intentions paving the road to hell!"

Well, in this post that already has just about worn out my caps lock, I have one more capitalized sentiment that sums up my post-election reaction:


The bottom line is that the United States is an enormous ship, and one person will not change the course of this ship. Electing either candidate would not have meant instant change; that is something that will  happen only slowly and only by all of us working together. Or if not all of us, a whole lot more of us working together than are working together right now.

So if you liked the results of this election, you'd better be talking with the people on the losing side--winning them over, and not just winning. This winning over will not occur through superior attitudes and clubbing about of the head and shoulders of those who did not win.

If you did not like the results of this election, you'd better be talking with the people on the winning side--because standing there with your fingers in your ears saying "I can't hear you" is not working. Not for your views, and not for your country.

Fortunately, win or lose, woo or woe, the sun came up this morning and we have another chance to do this whole messy process again, and to do it better next time.

Also, God is in control.

*In the academic world where I work, a cross-posted course is one that can be taken for credit in two different departments. "The History of Mathematics" might count to fulfill requirements in both history and mathematics, for example. If I were giving credit for reading my blogs, I'd give credit to people who read because I'm an empty nester and to people who read because I love God.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

An Honor and a Privilege

 I stood in line to vote in the Small Town community center this morning. I won't lie; I'm glad to see the end of this election season. I have friends from all over the political map, and my Facebook feed has practically burst into flames from the heat of their passion.

Even within my family I hear arguments that span liberal and conservative, blue and red.

Today, though, after I presented my photo ID to the election clerk and walked to the voting booth, I indulged in a family tradition that is part of this patriotic privilege. As I worked through the contests, in a couple of the races in which a popular incumbent is unopposed, I wrote in the names of my family members.

Husband got one vote for the state board of education, one of the Boys has a nod for a judge-ship, another will be counted in the final tally for register of deeds.

This started out as a joke when the oldest Boy began voting. Wouldn't it be a hoot, he thought, if he wrote in his best friend's name as a candidate for sheriff? Of course the vote was meaningless; even in small towns an unopposed candidate always wins in a landslide. As his brothers got old enough to vote, though, they cast their ballots for each other for precinct committeeman, for court of appeals judge.

And what began as a joke has turned into something bigger. As I cast my vote this morning, I thought about how this write-in tradition has come to represent my optimism about my country.

Any citizen, even the ones I write in, could become a real candidate. That person could be elected by a majority of the voters, and could hold an office, and that is an amazing fact. Citizens of hundreds of countries around the world cannot say the same thing.

When the ballots are counted, those votes I cast for my family members also will be counted--I wasn't forced to approve a candidate I didn't support in an "election" to uphold a dictatorship.

A vote in the United States of America, isn't just a vote for a person. It's a vote for a system that constantly affirms that in a government for the people and by the people, I can have a say and make a difference.

We are the people.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Tra-la-la! So Alert!

Oh, it's the second best (regularly-scheduled) day of the year! And I'm wearing new earrings to celebrate!

The day after our clocks fall back is my first-runner-up favorite day of the year. It's second only to Thanksgiving, and that's because you simply cannot have a favorite day of the year in which pie is not involved.

Anyway, on the Monday after we end the cursed Daylight Savings Time, I wake up refreshed and ready to meet the day, no matter now later I've been up the night before. My post-exercise walk around the block is done in daylight so I see (and avoid) the sunken spot in the neighbor's sidewalk that fills with dirt and becomes the outdoor litter box for all the feral cats in town. (Really, feral cats? You have the ENTIRE TOWN to poop in. You have to do it right there, where I invariably stumble into it?)

On this day I walk around singing tra-la-la, happy all the day, and taking pictures of my new earrings which I love, even though taking pictures of one's own neck without having the neck accordion into itself in discouragingly aging ways is difficult. I LAUGH about the difficulties rather than cursing the darkness of (obviously premature) neck wrinkles.

I love the click-clack-tinkle-clack-tinkle of the new earrings as I walk down the hall, rather than shrieking at the noise that is constant and un-shutting-up and relentless, and I'm not going to move again because those danged earrings....

I may need pie.

Saturday, November 3, 2012


Hey! I've written something about sudoku over on The Train of His Robe, and it actually makes sense to me! Let me know if you think it does, too.

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Opposite of Crafty

So this is the third time I've written about our annual high school buddy reunion--I've talked about how much I love these women here and here--but what I haven't admitted here in full sight of everyone with internet connection is that one of the things we do when we get together is a craft project.

Yes, we do.

Even though I am the most wildly craft-challenged person to ever pick up a glue stick, when we get together we delude ourselves into thinking we are good at this kind of thing and take one more step on the eternal quest for craft perfect. So far we have not reached that nirvana.

The first time we tried a craft was in 2007, when I found easy-peasy instructions for making a bead angel Christmas tree ornament. I will not link those instructions here, mainly because I threw gasoline on the link and burned it to the ground halfway through the frustration of trying to thread the stupid beads on the stupid wire, and the stupidness of the stupidity. Go ahead, you know how to Google. Check out any of the Web images for bead angel.

Fortunately, I did document how my own bead angel turned out.

Yes. The wings are asymmetrical, the halo is askew, and she seems to be trying to hang herself by the skeletal wire. It didn't look anything like the illustration, but at least I finished it, unlike some people I could mention (I'm glaring meaningfully at you, C! and you, D!) who almost immediately gave up on the angel and started stringing their beads into necklaces and bracelets.


This year it was my turn, again, to furnish the craft and I was determined that we were going to leave with a handmade remembrance of the weekend to hang on our trees. Thanks to Hobby Lobby I showed up with all kinds of suitable-for-painting wooden ornaments, paint, red-green-and-white buttons and tiny little plastic gingerbread men.

While some people were watching college football Saturday afternoon, the Fearless Four of Crafting were tackling miniature snowflakes and gloppy paintbrushes. One of us (K!) showed unusual innovation in being able to paint PLAID. I know!

After two hours, when the football game was over and we cleaned up the mess, we discovered we had created something beautiful.

As always, really, really terrible crafts. And as always, great memories.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


I spent all my words at The Train of His Robe today, but if you decide not to trek over there I hereby present the best two Halloween costumes I've found on the web this year:

Comedian Patton Oswalt as the Spiderman villain Doctor Octopus, costume courtesy of Mythbuster Adam Savage--the story and photo are found here.

Tied for best costume is this kid from Sweet Juniper whose father MADE his entire costume as a voyageur, including the birchbark canoe and the (non-functioning) walnut musket. This dad obviously doesn't know that he is making all of us who draped a sheet over a kid and called it a costume look really, really bad. (The kid's mom knit his hat and beard, in case you were thinking she was being a slacker.)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Really, Young Man? Really?

I hate that I left you hanging on my last post, causing you to ignore Frankenstorm as you worried whether or not I had reached my reunion. I did (Pearl's malady was a $300 cough, but that's a lot better than vehicular pneumonia), and it was so. much. fun. that I can hardly stand it. You will hear much, much more about that eventually, but first I have to relate the issue that happened on the way home from our girls' weekend. (At our age it's more of a creak-and-croak weekend, but we FELT like girls.)

Anyway, to set the background for this post, I am a compulsively law-abiding driver. I mean, to the extreme. Is the speed limit 30? I'm driving 30. Is this a no-passing zone? I am following that tractor driver at negative mph until he turns off into his field. Am I turning? My blinkers are blinking, even if there's no one within miles to see them.

That's why I BRAGGED to my friend when we passed the trooper early Sunday afternoon. He looked about 18, and I was sure he was admiring how well some old people (me) drive.

"Ha ha," I said proudly. "I was doing exactly the speed limit. He's not making his quota on me."

C. is one of my oldest and dearest friends so we kept talking and laughing as I glanced in the rear-view mirror and noticed the trooper had made a U-turn. Still, I wasn't concerned.

"Well, he must have gotten a call from the next county," I told C.

And then he turned on his lights.

I have given multiple people three guesses as to why this whippersnapper trooper ticketed me. Not one has come within spittin' distance of guessing my infraction. It was not speeding, or passing in a no passing zone, or excessive laughter coming from old ladies.

Go ahead. Guess. I'll wait.

Give up?

I received a ticket, a legal summons that will cost me money, for having TINTED WINDOWS.

"Uh, sir," I told the impertinent young pup, "we bought this car, used, 18 months ago, and it's a 10-year-old car, and no one has EVER mentioned that the window tint was too dark. Could you give me a warning?"

Nope. This earnest young man will now be able to brag to all his law-enforcement buddies that he ticketed an old lady for driving a PIMPMOBILE.


We managed to restrain ourselves from beatboxing as he wrote it out.


Friday, October 26, 2012

Off the Road Again

Guess where I am? Do the downturned expression and "vehicle service contract" notice behind my head give you a hint?

If your answer is "Not, as you had planned, on the road to the reunion with your three high school buddies," then ding, ding, ding! You are right!

Pearl is hooked up in the diagnostic station right now to see if she has a minor cough or pneumonia.

On the other hand, I do like my new pink jacket.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Over There

As if writing in wet cement isn't enough controversy, I'm talking politics and religion over at The Train of His Robe. 

Yeah, I'm living dangerously.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Set in Cement

My Husband, the accountant, really would have preferred that all of the new sidewalks' surfaces be smooth and perfect. We've lived with the old cracked ones for so long that these pristine slabs must have fed his orderly soul.

Husband's sentimental wife, though, couldn't let the moment pass. The someday-owners of the House on the Corner will need to know that the family that lived here when these sidewalks were new had  loved this creaky, never-quite-finished, always-needing-something-done space.

So Husband held my skirt back, keeping it from blowing into the wet cement as I knelt by the new walkway and used a screwdriver to scratch our initials into a tiny corner by the porch step. Then I carefully drew a heart above the letters.

He'd rather have had a smooth sidewalk but he loved his family enough to let me set that moment in cement, and that's one of the many reasons I heart him.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


"Why, yes, Mrs. Homeowner! Please come out here and tell us how we can better do our job, which you have hired us to do because you don't know how to do it yourself!"

Said no contractor ever.

Perhaps I should back off and go to work.

Monday, October 22, 2012

(Side)Walk This Way

When we moved into the House on the Corner we backed the moving truck right up between the two trees next to the street, over the curb, across the front sidewalk, through this grassy strip and up to the front porch. At that point the trees were tiny saplings, and Boy#1 was a pre-toddler.

Fast-forward a quarter century and the trees' canopies have grown together, Boy#1 (and his three brothers) have learned to walk, and the sidewalk has deteriorated into a cracked mess. In fact, for the past half a dozen years or so every time Husband's mother has visited our house she has complained about the uneven sidewalks and wondered why the city didn't just replace them, and Husband has patiently explained that the city doesn't replace sidewalks, that it's the homeowner's responsibility and that this is an expensive proposition, and hello, FOUR BOYS IN COLLEGE, etc.

But this summer the sad state of the sidewalks reached Code Red, and today the sidewalk repair guys pulled up with their equipment.

They are frighteningly efficient. Those landscaping timbers that we spent hot summer weeks pounding into the lawn edges, then reinforcing with Rebar so that they wouldn't float away when it rained? Gone in five minutes. Those two sections that Husband tried to patch with KwikCrete? Popped out in less time than it had taken him to get the bags open during the repair job.

(There is a metaphor in here somewhere about difficult jobs being easy when the proper equipment is used, but I can't seem to tease it out, so please figure that out on your own.)

Anyway, tomorrow the contractor will be back with the big truck and pour the cement.

Do you have any idea how exciting this would have been 20 years ago when four little Boys would have been watching the process through the front window?

I need to borrow some grandchildren.