Thursday, May 31, 2012

Extra Time

Image borrowed from
Several months ago my beautiful younger sister came to town and we had a wild and crazy sisters weekend, which is to say that she got a new haircut. She went from an almost-shoulder-length straight bob to a cut that looks almost exactly like the one shown above. (That is not my sister, but it looks amazingly like her. Make the hair a little more chestnut-colored, and hold out your arms for a hug, and that's my gal.)

Anyway, R went from spending a fair amount of time every day washing, then drying, then straightening, then curling her hair, to washing and tousling. (Tousling? Is that a word? It is now.) And she looks absolutely adorable, at least 10 years younger than she did pre-shears.

She spent the night at the House on the Corner last night, en route to a family celebration a couple of states away. The easy maintenance of her cool new haircut gave us enough time to have a cup of coffee before she hit the road.

"I sometimes wonder what I would do with all the time I used to spend on my hair, if I could get it all back in one piece," she mused.

I have a similarly low-maintenance style, but I have a suspicion I know what I'd do if I had all that time back that I used to spend with a curling iron. I'd either take a nap, or I'd fritter it away on my new obsession, one I've taken up in desperation after I found myself falling asleep at 8 p.m. every night when I tried to read. 

Because I am 114 years old. Sigh.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Look at Me

This salad contains scapes, which are garlic shoots.  They are very, very good.

Memorial Day weekend is a command performance in my father's world. All of his children, and as many of their children as possible, return to the farm for the Smaller Town parade and the featured band-on-a-flatbed conducted by my 85-year-old dad. (As an old violin player, my role is to clap loudly at the end of each Sousa march, but a full quarter of the band members were my parents' descendants.)

After the parade we have an indoor picnic, and this year my niece-in-law made the potato salad. When I say she "made" the potato salad, you might be imagining that she went to the grocery store, purchased a bag of potatoes and a dozen eggs, and threw in some Miracle Whip. You would be wrong. C made this salad by first GROWING THE INGREDIENTS. No, I am not kidding. Everything, from the vari-colored potatoes to the scapes she used for seasoning, were raised in C and J's gardens.

So that's impressive. What's even more impressive is that C and J have four children, and the oldest is six years old and the youngest just turned one. Oddly enough, that is the exact spacing of my own children. The difference between C's children and my children is that at similar ages, my own children were out-of-hand hellions and C's children are delightful, adorable, affectionate moppets.

And the difference between C and me (besides the obvious fact that she is GROWING HER OWN FOOD) is that I was a wild-eyed Mom Shrieks-a-Lot, and I did not hear C raise her voice at all during the weekend. Not once.

It turns out that C has at least one trick in her parenting arsenal that I wish I would have had in mine when my children were that age: When C wants her children's attention, she first gets their attention. "Look at me," she says. Then, when she has established eye contact, she gives praise or instructions or correction.

"Petunia, look at me.(pause for eye contact) You need to wash your hands now." or "Kane, look at me. You did a wonderful job coloring that picture."

No communication is given until the attention is in place. A couple of times, she repeated "Look at me" three or four times before the active two-year-old stopped for instructions, but the results were like magic.

It occurred to me that God often deals with me in the same way. He doesn't intrude on my life until He has my attention, and He'll call several times if that's what's necessary for me to look straight in His eyes.

During the past several months, I've heard Him saying "Look at me," even when I was fidgeting off in another direction. This week the call came in the form of a doctor's visit for one of the Boys that might turn out to be Nothing, or Something, or Something More.

God has my attention, reminding me again that He is in control and we are not. Now I'll wait for His next instructions.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Tastes Like Summer

Well, would you just stand back and appreciate the homegrown-ness of this week's summer supper! Bacon fresh from the farm (thank you, Brother), and tomatoes from my own little tomato factory in the back yard.

I know, I know, there is no such thing as fresh bacon. (Does anyone else watch Survivor? Did you see the bikini-clad contestants chasing the pig around the island shouting "Ham! Bacon!"? Then did you roll your eyes in unison with me and every other sentient being on the planet who knows that ham and bacon must be CURED or they are not ham or bacon? Also, that butchering a pig is just a teensy smidge more complicated than gutting a fish? Sheesh. City folk.)

But there IS such a thing as homegrown tomatoes, and we have them! The control plant Husband bought to test whether our gabillion-dollar tomatoes are superior to a $10 plant from WalMart has pulled into the production lead, with these five ripe specimens harvested Monday. In May! I've never heard of such a thing.

The control plant is fast, but production has definitely slowed since its output began to rely on my notoriously-sporadic watering schedule.

I still have high hopes for our high-tech self-watering plants--when I linked back to the newly-planted seedlings I was amazed at the jungle-like growth that  has occurred in the Earthtainers (picture to be added soon) since I featured them earlier this month. Jungle-like, I tell you, which is good, because I plan to eat my weight in tomatoes before the summer is over.

Get cracking, tomatoes. It's almost June, and MomQueenBee's hungry.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Decision Points

We first saw the House on the Corner in May, when Boy#1 had not yet reached his first birthday and Small Town was not yet home. The magnolia in the back yard was blooming.

I'd never seen a magnolia tree before, and I was enchanted by the huge, waxy leaves and the enormous, intoxicatingly fragrant  blooms.

We did our due diligence, measuring the rooms, peering worriedly at the hairline cracks time had left in the 80-year-old stucco, exclaiming over the historic richness of the house's resume. But I was only going through the motions: I had fallen in love with the house that would welcome our family when I saw that tree.

Good lives have been built on less.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Amazing Tip of the Day: Birthdays

My brother's birthday cake, name artfully airbrushed to protect the aging
The weekend festivities included my brother's birthday, and since I normally am not able to celebrate  with him, that called for cake. (One of the Boys came into the kitchen while I was baking and asked if carrot cake was Uncle's favorite. "Nope," I told him. "It's mine. Cook's prerogative.")

Anyway, after lo, these many years of baking and decorating birthday cakes, the internet had an amazing tip to make the clean-up easier. Persons of the XY-chromosonal variation probably are not aware of this fact, but cake decoration is a messy, messy process. Tint the buttercream frosting for the lettering. Fill piping bag with lettering color. Pipe lettering. Change to star tip, pipe flowers. Clean out piping bag, change back to lettering tip. Fill piping bag with stem color. Pipe stems. Change to leaf tip. Pipe leaves. Clean out piping bag. Clean out...  Well, you get the idea. It's messy, is what I'm saying, and the person who can get through this without splattering blue frosting all over the kitchen deserves to squirt some buttercream into a spoon and eat it straight, no chaser.

But then I stumbled across an amazing and life-changing video. Check this out.

If you don't have the inclination to watch a video about cake decorating, allow me to summarize. After you've mixed your icing, blop a spoonful onto a sheet of Saran wrap, twirl it up into a neat little package, drop the package into a piping bag, cut off the end the end of the Saran wrap twirl, decorate, pull out the Saran wrap, toss. And you are DONE. No clean-up. (Well, minimal clean-up, compared to the usual suds-fest required to get rid of all the greasy residue--they don't call it buttercream for nothing.)

So that's the first tip of the day. Friends, if you ever decorate cakes, DO THIS.

I will add a bonus tip of the day, one I have discovered after lo, these many years of putting age-identifying numbers on birthday cakes. The tip is that these wax numerals aren't cheap  and past the age of 12 or so, no one cares what numbers are on the cake. Hence, Uncle's cake lists him as 28 but I'm pretty sure that's not his actual age. He didn't mind the misrepresentation, and since I'm eight years older, that would make me 35.


You're welcome.

Monday, May 21, 2012


Yesterday my father was the guest speaker at my first alma mater's commencement ceremonies. He sent the 56 graduates of Really Small Town High School into the world with great advice: Dream big. Never give up. Go for the gold. Forgive, forget, move on. One more point, which I've unfortunately forgotten, but Dad is a wise 85-year-old, and I could not have been prouder of him.

Dad wasn't the first member of my immediate family to be a commencement speaker. My little sister, one of the earlier women from Really Small Town to become a doctor of the ilk that can prescribe drugs, was elected speaker by the graduating class of--1990? Something like that. She did a great job as well, with my favorite point of her speech still valid, memorable, and blindingly true two decades later: Life isn't fair. Get over it.

I'm quite sure I'll never be invited to speak at the RSTHS graduation ceremonies, because I am not even capable of taking a picture of the speaker, much less BEING the speaker, as the backs-of-heads shot above proves. Also, because I am easily distracted by shiny things, and the hair on the right and the head in the middle are--

I'm sorry, what was I talking about?

Friday, May 18, 2012

Current Events

Donna Summer. Image borrowed from last.fam
Last night at supper (also known as dinner in Downton Abbey and other fancy places) Husband and I were discussing the day's events with the two Boys who will be at home this summer.

Topic number 1, of course, was the passing of the Queen of Disco, Donna Summer. Say what you will about the relative musicality of the disco genre, that woman had some pipes. Husband and I belted a few bars from some of her top hits, disco drumming the edge of the dinner table, so that Boy#3 and Boy#4 would see just how great she had been:

"Ooooh, love to love you baby (BAdabada-BAdabada-BAdabada-BAdabada)"

"She works hard for her money (BUM-bah-dah, BUM-bah-dah, BUM), so hard for her money (BUM-bah-dah, BUM-bah-dah, BUM), she works hard for her money, so you'd better treat her right!"

The Boys were suitably impressed, if their googly eyes and slightly slack jaws were any indication. Then Husband casually mentioned something that stopped my disco beat right in its tracks.

"You know, when I was in high school I thought Donna Summer and Donna Fargo were the same person. I thought she was just a really versatile singer."

Say what? You thought "Bad Girls" and "The Happiest Girl in the Whole U.S.A." were sung by THE SAME PERSON? Well, okay. I'll overlook that.

What I won't overlook is that for the rest of the evening (and apparently through the entire night since I woke up singing it) my mind was busy searching for the words to the refrain of "The Happiest Girl." I was doing this with a synaptic system that can't retain PIN numbers worth a hoot, so it was a strenuous exercise, but I finally nailed the lyrics and as of this moment my mind has had the following on auto-repeat for the past SIXTEEN HOURS:

Shine on me, sunshine, walk with me, world, it's a SKIP-pety doo-dah day. 
I'm the happiest girl in the whole U.S.A.

I may need shock therapy.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Top 10 Signs Boys Are Home

Apple Dapple

1. Apple Dapples cereal. Really, Boys? I send you to the store for a few staples and you come back with APPLE DAPPLES?

2. My recliner, usually empty when I’m not in the room, is filled with Boy.

3. All ESPN, all the time, baby.

4. Reminder to self: Check the toilet seat.

5. “Hey, would you mind watering the tomatoes? I’m running late. Thanks!”

6. A loss in the 15th inning is cause for deep consternation, and the final inning is watched by 200% more people than would have watched it a week ago. (Is that correct? I never can figure out what percentage 3 is of 1.)

7. Dishwasher usage accelerates from its empty nest once-every-two-days to a more vigorous twice-every-one-day.

8. Milk consumption accelerates from one gallon per week to one gallon per day. No, I am not kidding.

9. Music! Trombones! Piano! Back in the house! Yay!

10. But seriously, Apple Dapples?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

We Just Met

Before Boy#1's friend came to visit I wanted to make sure I didn't poison her so I had the following instant message exchange with One:

MomQueenBee: Does your girl have any restrictions on what she eats? Vegetarian? Lactose intolerant? Aversion to onions?

Boy#1: Not that I know of. She and I eat pretty much the same things.

MomQueenBee: Well, that will make life easier. 

Boy#1: She doesn't like tomatoes either.

MomQueenBee: (crickets)

MomQueenBee: What do you mean she doesn't like tomatoes either?

Boy#1: You know, like I don't like tomatoes.

MomQueenBee: You don't like tomatoes? 

Boy#1: (crickets)

Boy#1: Didn't you ever notice that every single time I got tomatoes on my hamburger I pulled them off and gave them to you?

MomQueenBee: Yes, but I thought you were just being nice.

Boy#1: How long have you been my mother?

Apparently not long enough.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Beginning of the Story

Boy#1, ca. 1987, also known as yesterday
When Boy#1's friend slid out of the silver Taurus I gasped. Later, as I hugged my son, I whispered some advice.

"She should never let anyone take her picture," I told him. "Cameras don't do her justice."

Of course I'd seen pictures of her--she was One's upperclass mentor his freshman year, and his editor on the college newspaper--but we'd never met. And while she and Boy#1 have been friends for many years, it's only been a few months since this friendship has deepened into the digital age's proclamation of romance--in March they became Facebook Official. This weekend they spent at the House on the Corner, before leaving for a few days with the girl's parents.

As it turns out she's tiny, with long dark hair and deep dimples; she could not be more of a contrast to our Germanic-looking tribe. But as soon as her feet hit the ground in Small Town, she fit into that tribe. The girl jumped into the give-and-take of the boisterous Boys who were seeing each other for the first time in half a year, nodded in appreciation at my horrible puns, and wandered with us through the local antique stores.

It's an odd position to be in, seeing our sons bring home the young women who might become our first daughters. In some ways it's like bringing our own newborns home from the hospital: Each has a distinct and unique personality, each has some quirks that will make us say "huh." We are pre-programmed to love this child, and we do.

But with girlfriends, we are also acutely aware that we play secondary roles in this story. Even though we are falling in love with this child who loves our child, we are not really part of their life decisions. Relationships, even those that are Facebook Official, confront unexpected turns and being emotionally invested brings with it the potential for pain as well as joy. For a moment, when I first heard we would be meeting their girl, I warned myself to not make that emotional investment.

As I watched my Boy and his girl over the weekend, though, I realized how much I would have missed if I had followed my own stand-offish advice to myself. A mother wants her son to be loved, but she also wants him to be challenged and in this challenge to become an even better man. I saw that, and I smiled.

I deliberated for a whole day about writing this post at all. (Did you miss me yesterday?) After all, this isn't my story to tell, and we don't know the ending to the story yet. No matter the ending, though, we've now seen the beginning, and this week I'm glowing in the aftermath.

The beginning of this story is lovely.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Someone's In the Kitchen

If I have seemed a little food-centric in the past few days it's because the first wave of summer arrived last night in a silver Ford Taurus. Boys#1 and #4! And a friend! Woooo! And Boy#3's Taurus will pull into the driveway later today! Woooo!

Tuesday I shopped in preparation for the nest re-filling, and it felt like old times. By the time I had reached the frozen food section I was using cereal boxes to sidewall the cart so it would hold more. It was like riding a bicycle: I saw the dropped-jaw reactions of my fellow shoppers and responded with stock lines. ("Four Boys!" and "I'll trade you bills!," if you were interested in using the lines yourself.)

I'm pretty sure none of my guys has been starving while he's been away at school but you wouldn't know it by the way I've pulled out the pots. I even made Boy#1 a cappucino this morning, although he was on his way to the dentist and couldn't drink it until it was pretty much the equivalent of an iced coffee that sat in a hot car all afternoon. Yummy.

This has been an excellent opportunity to try out some of the recipes I've pinned on Pinterest during the last few months but which don't fit into the Empty Nest Cholesterol Reduction Plan. Raspberry-Lemon Bars may be my new favorite food. Chef Mommy's Pork Tenderloin is marinating in the refrigerator as I write this. And the ingredients for Carrot Cake Cheesecake are in the refrigerator in case I get hungry before the next time the dessert cart rolls by.

In a couple of days we'll settle into a regular equilibrium with me cooking normal, healthy food. With a couple of the Boys planning to stick around for the summer I may have to go back to direct deposit of my paycheck at the local grocery store, and there will be days when I miss the Empty Nest's new normal of two-serving recipes.

But right now I could not be happier with the old normal, cooking and cooking and then cooking some more, because if I'm cooking it means the Boys are back.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Bright Copper Kettles and Warm Woolen Mittens

And the color of fresh fruit when the antique dumpling bowl is filled, as vivid and delicious as the first bite will taste.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

I Hope You're Happy (Feet)

Well, thanks a lot, Fashion Council.

Last winter, when I asked if it was okay if I continued to wear pantyhose although the hip young chicks have given them up, you answered with a resounding NOOOO!!!!! except that I think you used more exclamation points. I might ONLY wear tights, and ONLY if my legs were really cold, you said.

I paid attention, and today as I walked to the car even new Birkenstocks (yes, I'm 114 years old) couldn't make up for the blinding whiteness of the feet I saw sticking out from under my skirt when I glanced down. This picture doesn't do them justice: Those little piggies could be used as illumination on a cave exploration.

But because I trust you, here I am in my un-nyloned glory. The imperfect pedicure, the wonky ankle veins, the uneven skin tone. All on display because you, my Fashion Council, said pantyhose were démodé.

You'd better not be making this stuff up.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Advice From the Expert

One of my favorite parts of writing this blog is that I am the oldest mommy blogger I know. I may, in fact, be the oldest person on Blogger, but I'm not going to say that with certainty. As the oldest Mommy Blogger, I'm the undisputed (self-proclaimed) expert and will give advice at the drop of a hat. Most of the time this advice isn't solicited or appreciated, but a couple of days ago another blogger actually asked me to weigh in! Woo!

Twisterfish, who has a funny take on life and family, wrote "After You Cut the Apron Strings, You Have to Take the Apron Off." That, my friends, is practically a perfect post in 13 words. But the post goes on to admit that it's awfully hard to let our new adults make their own decisions, and consequently, their own mistakes. What is parenthood if not letting our offspring learn from our own painful missteps?

"I liked being needed," Twisterfish wrote about her new college kid. "What bothers me is that I’m sure there were other times, times he did need me but didn’t think he did — or he wanted to not depend on me or the help I could offer. Times he fixed problems on his own, or let them slide, or made the wrong decisions."

When I empathized with her experience, she responded! To me! Through the internet!

"Please share your experiences since you’ve done it four times already! Does it get easier? Do you say “ha! I told you you’d need me” when they come back for help/guidance? Or do you do a happy dance when no one is looking? Or do they even come back for help after they’ve been gone a few years?"

Well. Husband and I were the helicopter parents from hell during the college selection process. We hovered over every application, and backwashed every interview with our own questions and comments. I'm guessing admission counselors had a special stamp they used when filing correspondence with the Boys--"Great candidate; nightmare parents."

Once they went off to school, though, we made a conscious effort to stay out of their business. I was shouting advice to them as we drove away from the first drop-off (okay, and also mopping some tears), but after that, Husband and I used the same method we used when we were sleep training them as infants--we took turns being the one who kept the other from dashing in and picking up the wailing infant. Not that the Boys wailed once they got to college, but all of us have heard that sad, exhausted, empty voice that a freshman invariably uses sometime during the first few weeks. Then you just have to be a listening voice, and a sympathetic ear, and repeat over and over--"It'll be okay. You can do this. God's in control. It'll be okay. Have you had a good meal lately? It'll be okay. You can do this."

And then you hang up and cry, because you really would like to fix it. But we also were reminded, as we knew from when the Boys were still living at home, that children are resilient. They bounce back from being sad and exhausted, and they are okay, usually much more quickly than you would imagine. They don't usually want your advice, they want your sympathy, and there's no limit on how much sympathy you can provide. (Also, believe me when I say you'll be asked for sympathy more if you give advice less.)

We made a couple of exceptions to the no-contact-with-the-school rule. When Husband's father died we called Boy#1's dean of students to ask him to touch base with our son during the aftermath of this, the first death in the family. An hour later, when One arrived at class, a professor conveyed his sympathy and his availability to talk. (I love small colleges.) Another exception is in dealing with financial aid officers, because holy cow, much as I love financial aid officers that is one confusing operation and Husband's analytical mind and knowledge of our finances make life happier for everyone including the financial aid officers themselves. I would have intervened, had I known about it at the time, when Boy#3's roommate turned completely creepy and began peering nose-to-nose at my sleeping son and asking if he wouldn't be better off dead. (Whoa.)

But we don't, ever, intervene with professors on behalf of our son's grades, or in roommate problems that are simple conflicts of schedule or taste. Even when Husband and I agree that the professor or roommate involved is a complete jerk, these are training grounds for jobs and relationships, for life, and the Boy needs to figure out how to deal with the issue.

Then we sit on our hands and don't write e-mails or pick up the phone to make a nasty phone call, and we reassure ourselves it will be okay, he can do it.

God's in control. 

Monday, May 7, 2012


In a lot of ways, graduation day hasn't changed much in the 16 years I've been at Small College. Happy graduates, beaming parents, lots of toddlers who should have been left at home because it's hotter than blazes and they won't remember Cousin Becky's graduation anyway.

One thing has changed dramatically, though: Technology.

The very first commencement coverage I edited for our Small College alumni tabloid included the picture shown above. Can you tell why? It's because the gesturing man was calling someone on his cellphone to coordinate family seating arrangements. Back in 1996, this was extraordinary--the cell phone was the size of a two-pound barbell and sprouted a four-inch antenna, but it allowed him to FIND HIS FAMILY in the mob that surrounded him.

My photographer had used black and white film to capture the moment, then she developed the film and I used a special magnifying viewer to check the image before she printed it off in the campus darkroom. (Film and photographic paper were expensive, and we didn't want to burn unneeded prints.)

I thought of that picture this weekend as I sat in the darkened auditorium for honors convocation. The new graduates' families were sitting in front of me so I was watching as fully half of the parents experienced the ceremonies via their iPhones or through the viewfinders of tiny digital movie cameras. Several were holding up iPads (an unfortunately bulky task) to capture the momentous occasion.

Yesterday, instead of having to wait a couple of days to see if we had gotten any good shots, I could check my own phone and find Instagram pictures of the ceremony in progress.

I'm not sure there is any deep insight in this observation. These are not the first graduates to know that they live in a rapidly-changing world. Heck, I'm pretty sure I remember the commencement speaker telling us in the BHS Class of 1972 that we were living in the most important time in history, but Miss Matheis had also told us in eighth grade that America would have switched to the metric system before our class got through high school and that hadn't happened either.

I guess what I'm saying is that times are changing, and they're changing faster than ever, and if anyone tells you what will be happening in 10 years, you can be sure that person is talking through his hat. The only thing you can be sure of is this:

Toddlers won't enjoy graduation. Leave them home.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Friday Question

Strawberry Cake
Oooh! This is a first! A question from a reader, because MomQueenBee has given the mistaken impression that she has all the answers. (To which I reply, "i before e, except after c...")

A loyal visitor to this corner of the internet sent this picture and asks: "Do you have any idea why my frosting slides off  my cake like this?"

To which I reply, "Yummy! Strawberry cake!" because I am a Pavlov's dog when it comes to cake, and could actually drown myself in saliva if a similar question was asked of pie. Unfortunately, this is not a helpful answer for the loyal visitor, so I'm turning to my Baking Council. 

Maybe the cake was too warm? Not enough powdered sugar in the frosting? Too much strawberry syrup? Mistakenly using the recipe for Stripper Frosting?

What say you, Baking Council?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Lifetime Learning

As someone whose life history can be traced through her e-mail (and apparently I was born in 2005) I constantly face the battle of the bulging inbox. Or put another way, my computer administrator sends me frequent (daily) messages that my mailbox has reached its CAPACITY and I need to DO SOMETHING ABOUT THAT or I will be sorry. Really, really sorry. As in my life history will be halted.

When I get that warning I try to find the largest files and move them out of the inbox, and since my professional life is largely spent in graphics and publications, this usually does the trick. Today, though, I was determined to solve this problem for more than one day.

Can you hear the ominous music building in the background? I can certainly hear you telling me I should call someone in the tech center before I do anything, but I wasn't hearing you two hours ago. Nope, I decided I would autoarchive! To a .pst!

"But MomQueenBee," you're saying now, "do you have any idea what a .pst is?"

Well, I did not an hour ago but I do now. That's the sound I should have heard in the back of my head just before I accidentally bundled most of my e-mail into a file that is no longer easily accessible. Turns out it's important to check the date on the "autoarchive everything before this date" button and make sure that date isn't pre-set as today.

I happened to be instant messaging with Boy#2 when I sent my life history (aka "sent" mailbox) into limbo. He was not as sympathetic as I would have expected, if his LOLs and hahahaha's are any indication. But he did point out that this would be a learning experience, as I try to figure out how to extract at least a few months worth of messages so that I can do my job.

It's a good thing I work here--I don't think I could afford the tuition for all the learning experiences I'm having.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Seeing the Ninety Percent

Students at Small College are protesting today. As protests go, it's pretty festive. A jazz combo is playing at one of the campus landmarks, and folks are bringing their lunches to sit in the sun and listen to the music. A well-liked faculty member will be leaving the college at the end of the academic year, and the protestors want him to stay so they're making sure we hear their opinions.

For me, a child of the '70s who remembers the horrifying news of Kent State, this is a snuggly parody of a protest. No one is in danger, very little is on the line.

It reminds me, though, that the life of a college is an iceberg:  Even when every effort is made to bring the entire chunk of ice to the surface the facts often stay in the underwater and unseen 90 percent.

In this case, as the president told these protesting students several weeks ago, we love the faculty member and wish there were some way to keep him. He was here on a one-year appointment as a visiting scholar, though, and that year has elapsed. The only way he would have been offered a new contract was if certain ambitious enrollment goals had been reached, and they were not, so the budget line that would have kept him here was eliminated. There was no malice or lack of appreciation in the decision; it was strictly a prudent but much-regretted financial necessity.

The students, although they've been told these facts, only see that someone they really really like will not be here next year, so they're gathering signatures on a petition they'll send to the same president who went over these facts with them earlier. Unlike enrollments, signatures do not fill budget lines, so the odds that this protest will be successful are about the same as the odds the Titanic will make it to New York the next time you see the movie.

I love their fervor, I love their passion. But one things students learn at Small College (or at any college, for that matter) is that as a young adult you inevitably will bump up against a part of the world that your fervor and passion will not change. When that happens it's important to once again look at all the facts--it's highly likely no one is out to get you.

But if you have seen 100 percent of the iceberg, and you still want to melt that baby, protest away.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Dirt on My Tomatoes

After my post yesterday lamenting my gardening-ravaged hands a friend asked me to add a picture of the tomato containers I had been building, and because it's a quiet week in Lake Woebegone, here they are! Fancy, no?

I estimate that each of these containers cost approximately $1 gabillion to construct, but divided by the number of tomatoes I expect to harvest from the four plants, that breaks down to a mere $2 gabillion per tomato. (My confidence in my gardening skills is underwhelming, but well-deserved.) But the system claims to be self-feeding and practically self-watering even during a Kansas summer, and that sounded perfect for my let's-go-camping-and-leave-the-garden-to-suffocate dreams.

See that PCV pipe sticking out of the corner? It goes down to a reservoir in the bottom of the outer container, which holds water that is wicked through a basket of grow medium into the inner container--okay, so I can't explain it. It's gardening magic.

Anyway, the instructions for the Earthtainer system seemed fairly easy, so I dove in. I was right--it was easy to build these except that the required Rubbermaid containers are no longer manufactured, and the wicking baskets must be ordered online, and it turns out a saber saw doesn't cut a Rubbermaid container very well, and wait! don't trim that edge so close or it will pull out from under the top, and hey! this thing weighs about eight tons when fully loaded and who is going to help me move it out of the garage?

I am nothing if not persistent, though, and with a few (I hope) reasonable substitutions of materials, I am now growing tomatoes!

No, not in the Earthtainers, in the pre-fabricated patio version Husband saw at WalMart while we were buying our plants, and suggested we purchase as a companion and comparison to the gold-plated fruits that will soon be overflowing our backyards.

The companion plant already has tennis-ball-sized tomatoes set on. It cost $10.


Well, wash out your mind with this:

An herb garden in a turquoise wheelbarrow! If you think Husband did not roll his eyes when I insisted on paying good U.S. currency for this wheelbarrow at a garage sale, you do not know Husband at all.

And with this:

Our Dog Pepper, back from the nearly-dearly-departed, and checking out the additions to her backyard.

Even Pepper can't wait: Let the BLT season begin.