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.