Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Is This a Great Country Or What?

Courtesy of Etsy.com
The past couple of weeks have been--how should I describe them? Heavy?

Full of emotions, from the passing of my mother-in-law and the ensuing rites of passage, to some familial transitions that are VERY COOL but not yet mine to share, to the suffocating (literally) self-pity in the wake of spring bronchitis that has taken over my alveoli and is giving me a lot more empathy for coal miners.

Fortunately, I'm easily distracted by shiny objects, and this morning I was captivated by this headline in the local paper:

Could an unmanned drone bring you a burrito?


Is this or is this not the coolest headline in the history of the printed word? It even interrupted my usual story-skipping on the way to the Sudoku page and prompted me to read the first couple of paragraphs of the story.

The next time you feel the urge for fresh Mexican food, just look up. A taco-toting drone may be circling in the sky. Researchers at the Darwin Aerospace laboratory in San Francisco have designed the Burrito Bomber, the world’s first airborne Mexican food delivery system, which would allow customers to have food parachuted right to their doorstep.

Read more here: http://www.kansas.com/2013/04/29/2782874/could-an-unmanned-drone-bring.html#emlnl=Morning_Headlines_Newsletter#storylink=cpy

I think the rest of the story had something to do with uses of drones and agriculture and privacy and blah blah blah, but I don't remember because I was kept having to look out the window to see if that shadow in the corner of my eye was maybe a DRONE bringing me a BURRITO!

Hey, it could happen. If you'd have told me when I was in grade school that someone was going to invent the internet I wouldn't have believed that, either, any more than I would have believed there would be bun-warmers in my car seats.

Thank you, burrito-bearing drones. You are just the ticket for distracting me from the past few weeks and from the coal dust in my lungs.


Friday, April 26, 2013

Friday Orts and Blurb (Gastronomic Edition)

Courtesy of Taste of Home
April weather in Small Town has been, to put it in technical terms, weird. We've had highs in the 80s early in the month and snow as recently as this week. My peonies shot up, developed gorgeous buds in the warmth of spring, then shriveled when temperatures dropped into the 20s.

Today it's chilly and rainy so I'm making soup for the final time this season. Of course, I've said that at least half a dozen other times this month because if it's below 50, that's soup weather and I looooove soup. This may really be it, though.

Also, I had bought a spiral ham during the post-Easter sales and that hambone has mocked me every time I opened the freezer for the past three weeks. Mwahahaha, hambone! Tonight you are SOUP! Delicious-looking Navy Bean Squash Soup that made my mouth water just looking at the recipe!

Husband is not so crazy about beans and ambivalent about butternut squash so he will not be as warmed by the prospects of tonight's supper as I am, but at least now he won't have to dread the leftover ham any longer.

Speaking of supper, do any other wives out there ever wonder how weird it would be to have a meal waiting for you when you come home from work every night? I am the cook in the family, and Husband is the money guy so I never have that experience and he always does. (Not to be all gender-stereotypical or anything, but that's the way we've gravitated and we're both exceedingly happy with our roles, so back off, Betty Friedan.)

Last night we decided at the last minute to go out to eat and Husband asked what supper would have been if we'd eaten at home. Pizza meatloaf, I told him then, and I'm guessing that's what he'll expect to be on the table tonight.

Whoops! Sorry about the beans, honey!


And finally, the blurb.

You know how I've been all hand-waving and excited about the Friday blurb choices up to this point? How I looooove my garlic chopper, and my pineapple slicer, and my mandoline?

This week the new kitchen product for review was whole grain spaghetti. Do not expect hand-waving excitation, because this stuff is next door to nasty. It may be heart healthy and wonderful when compared to good ol' unhealthy American Beauty pasta, but spaghetti? I don't think so.

I should have been tipped off when I poured it into the colander and realized that the cooked strands did not bend. Seriously. They were softened but lay in the bowl like so many pick-up sticks; forget about winding them around a fork for easy transport.

As for the taste, well, it was okay, maybe? Kind of like I would imagine cooked shredded wheat to taste?

Thumbs down, and spit it out.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Original and Still the Best

The Boys (l. to r., #1, #2, #3, #4) with their Much Older Aunt
When Boy#3 was 17 days old, he was hospitalized with RSV. At that point Boy#1 was three, and Boy#2 was just about to have his second birthday. The baby was out of the hospital but not progressing as he should when Boy#2 suffered an asthma attack (his first) so severe that it became his turn to be admitted for round-the-clock breathing treatments.Then Boy#3 was back in the hospital, again breathing erratically.

On the outside I seemed to be keeping it together. I administered epinephrine mist that turned my babies into hyped-up, trembling dynamos but kept them breathing. I cuddled Boy#1 and read stories, hoping he wouldn't catch my terror almost as fervently as I hoped he would avoid his brothers' breathing issues. I counted inhalations per minute, and called the doctor when the number passed a certain point. I did what had to be done.

But then, as soon as she could get there, my mom walked into the house. To this day I remember the sharp feeling of relief, and the thought that flashed through my mind: "Oh, thank God. Now I don't have to worry for a while."

That was the exact feeling I had when I walked into the church Saturday morning and my Much Older Sister was standing there. She has the same aura that my mother did: When she is in the room the air is lighter; everything is going to be okay.

For the rest of the morning MOS did what she always does--whatever is needed. She bantered with the Boys, who adore their aunt and think of her first when they need advice or comfort or someplace to crash. She hugged me and Husband, and handed us Kleenexes when we needed them. She arranged families into groups for photos and snapped shot after shot on the series of cameras that were handed her.

She's a school administrator so this time of year is a blur of semester-end activities and deadlines but my sister and her husband had driven four hours before 9 a.m. to be at the funeral, and would return the same afternoon. When I thanked her for coming, though, she waved the effort off as if it were nothing.

Today is Much Older Sister's birthday. I'm wishing her many more, not just because that's the ending of the song but because I don't know what I'd do without her in my life, making me laugh and holding me up and letting me believe that everything is going to be okay.

Happy birthday, J., and many, many more.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

All Kidding Aside

Yesterday I poked fun at the funeral mores of our society in which an afghan can be made from the dearly departed's final formal portrait to provide a floating head that benevolently watches the memorial tributes. ("It's so lifelike! As if she were right here, but ginormous! And fringed!") Is this a great society or what?

Kidding aside, though, may I take a moment to say how very, very much I appreciated the help of the funeral guys? I'm not sure what to call them, actually. Morticians sounds so Old West-y and funeral directors sounds like mid-level management at WalMart, so I'm going with funeral guys.

I have a mental picture of the people who bury people for a living that is straight out of Dickens, all oily hair, five-o'clock shadows, and unctuous handshakes. (You will need to imagine this because holy smoke, when you Google "image undertaker," you do not get the results you will be expecting.) This is in spite of my experience with funeral professionals, which includes a couple as a more-or-less principal player and many, many more than that as the pianist on "It Is Well With My Soul."

The mortuary we chose for my mother-in-law's services assigned Brad to take care of our family, and I felt a little sorry for him as Husband and I prepared for our first meeting. I mean, at the best of times we're no shrinking violets, and thanks to all those stints at the piano I had some Definite Opinions about this process.

"First of all," I announced as Brad introduced himself, "no poems."

"I'm sorry?" he said.

"No poems. None of this 'Do not stand at my grave and weep' baloney," I said firmly.

And he laughed. He laughed!

"You don't like my poems? But I am not there! I do not sleep!"

At that point I knew we were going to get along just fine.

Over the course of the following week, Brad guided us through the legal (how many death certificates would we need?), the financial (death ain't cheap, but costs were slightly more flexible than we had realized), the uncomfortable (see: commingling of ashes), and the mundane (we wanted hymns and our church doesn't use hymnals).

He also put up with the personal foibles of a daughter-in-law who has many thereof, including an aversion to state postal abbreviations that is closely akin to Joan Crawford's aversion to wire coat hangers. ("I totally understand. Do you want to check the obituary one last time to make sure I got them all?")

We also were astounded at the niceties possible today--each of the flower arrangements had a thank you note pre-assigned with a PICTURE OF THE ARRANGEMENT INSERTED. Do you know how nice this is? To think back and smile about the beauty of the arrangement and the thoughtfulness of the provider, making a social obligation into a moment of comfort?

Anyway, I won't go on and on. Just know that the funeral guys at my mother-in-law's funeral were spectacular.

Thanks, Brad. We'll say no more about the afghan.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

What Will They Think Of Next?

Husband and I made countless decisions as we were improvising our way through the final chapters of his mother's life. Some of our decisions were wise (hire a personal assistant who could check on her every morning and report back to us) and some of our decisions were not so wise (that final $500 piece of dental work done days before she died) but one of the very best decisions took place more than a year ago.

That was when our church was doing its semi-annual pictorial directory, and all attenders were being encouraged to participate. My mother-in-law didn't particularly want to have her picture taken.

"I don't really know people, and I don't want to buy any pictures, so I don't think there's any reason for me to get it done," she told us.

We were all going to McDonald's after Husband and I had our sitting, though, so on the spur of the moment we straightened her sweater and told the photographer to have at it. "This would be good to have on hand in case we ever need one for...well, you know..." I whispered to Husband as she posed.

Well. If I had one piece of advice to give to someone who anticipates a loved one may be entering decline, it would be to have that person's picture taken. Now. Today. Without delay.

On the way to meet with the funeral director I stopped by the house and grabbed that picture of Mom that was sitting on our bookshelf, and it turned out to be the lynchpin of the entire weekend. When we arrived at the church Saturday morning we discovered it not only had been used with the obituary in the newspaper and online, it was embossed onto the front of the guestbook, printed on a memorial candle, duplicated on the front of the funeral folders, reprinted on the thank you notes, and enlarged to poster size (three times) for easels at the altar and entrances of the church. Every time we looked up we were seeing a new and more unusual application of the now-familiar picture.

It had almost become a Where's-Waldo-ish exercise to find another use of Mom's black-sweatered visage when we turned around after receiving pre-funeral instructions at the front of the sanctuary to see this behind us:
Turns out one of the services provided by the truly remarkable funeral home was the automatic commissioning of an afghan of the dearly departed. Viewed from the front side, it was not quite as horrifying:

But in case you don't get an idea of the magnitude of its splendor, check out the size relative to the chair sitting beside it. This face would not be out of place alongside the presidents on Mount Rushmore. 

We haven't yet decided the final disposition of this unusual souvenir. (My sister-in-law and I politely hot-potatoed it back and forth. "You ought to have it." "No, that's okay, I know you'd appreciate it more." "Oh, no, I'm sure she would have wanted you to have it.")

Finally Boy#3 suggested it should be passed along as a courtship litmus test for Mom's unmarried grandsons. "If I met someone I was interested in," he said, "I could just be like, 'Hey, girl! Want to go cuddle under Grandma?"

I may be getting a clue as to why I don't have more daughters-in-law myself. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

She Would Have Liked This

Funerals, of course, are for the living. Those we commemorate are busy greeting the great cloud of witnesses that surrounds them, and reveling in the new bodies they've put on. Those of us at the funeral are merely throwing confetti and shouting in joy that they've graduated from earth.

Still, I think Husband's mother would have liked the celebration in her honor.

She would have liked that her three sons and all six of her grandchildren were here, crossing half the continent to honor her matriarchy. No one was prouder of family than my mother-in-law.

She would have liked that we sang old songs at both the Saturday funeral and the Sunday pre-graveside services. She would have been delighted that her least churchy son, when told that his mother had passed, hummed a few bars of "In the Garden" and requested we sing it for her. And she would have marveled that although it was not planned this way, the final hymn we sang at the Sunday morning service before meeting one last time at the graveside was "God Be With You, 'Til We Meet Again."

She would have liked the impromptu family reunion in the little country church we attended Sunday morning. Almost everyone there is a relative to Husband's family, one way or another, and she was the queen of family reunions.

She would have liked the six kinds of salads and eight delicious desserts those relatives spread before their visiting family, because food is especially healing when it is provided by loving hands.

She would have liked the garbage bag her sons wrapped around the lovely wooden box her oldest son had made to contain her ashes, and been delighted that her daughters-in-law (both of them) were outvoted by the sons who provided this wrapping because she would have hated seeing dirt on that box.

She would have liked that when it came time, those sons gathered around, and gently lowered the box to be thiiiis close, almost touching, to the ashes of her husband. After eight years apart, they were finally together again, and that seemed so natural.

All of this--the gathering, the singing, the eating, the laughing, the hugging, the remembering--all of it was for us.

But she would have liked it.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Regrets? I Have a (Very) Few

My last post has mistakenly prompted some people who don't know me well to think that I was some kind of super-daughter-in-law. Nothing could be further from the truth. J. was a wonderful mother-in-law, but our relationship probably was no different from that of most women who (legally) love the same man. Most of the time we thoroughly respected, and enjoyed each other with genuine affection, but there were times when we drove each other freakin' crazy.

Each and every time we ate at the same table, for example, she would say "Now, don't eat fast, because I'm a slow eater," which simultaneously made me feel like a six-year-old and a pig at a trough. Also, the stuffed animals were far less charming in person than they sound when I write about them. I know my insistence on letting the Boys go barefoot until they were old enough to walk was a constant irritation to her sense of propriety, and my terrible housekeeping had to be dreadfully distressing.

I really only regret one interaction deeply, though, and this interaction came when Husband and I had only been married a few months.

His mother was very much an everything-in-its-place person and I was whatever is the diametric opposite of this. My philosophy had stemmed from my mother's attitude of housekeeping--"messy enough to look lived in, not so messy it looks died in." I was working full-time and had my usual complement of church and community activities so I didn't spend a lot of time on the finer details of housekeeping.

Still, I had tried to make sure the house was spotless when Husband's parents came to visit, and felt good about the little two-bedroom place we lived in when they arrived a few months after we got married. But then I came home from work and found J. in front of the stove. She'd pulled out all the drip pans and had them soaking in the sink, and was attacking the knobs with a toothbrush and cleanser.

I. Came. Unglued.

I didn't say anything to J., but I yanked Husband into our bedroom. I was so insulted my ears were ringing. "I may not be a good housekeeper, but I do not need to have that thrown in my face," I hissed at him. "Go out there and tell her to stop that RIGHT NOW." Then, as I frequently did in those days, I burst into tears.

Poor Husband, caught between two women who could make him miserable, had to go to his mother and ask her to put down the toothbrush and walk away from the stove. She did, of course, and was mortified that she had hurt my feelings.

"I know how busy MomQueenBee is, and this was something I could do to help her out," she told him.

To this day I am ashamed of my newlywed self, and wish I could take back that tantrum. I'm on the other side of the equation now and I appreciate what a fine line she walked between appropriate involvement and appropriate distance. I'm trying to suss out that line, and it's not as obvious as I thought it was back in those days.

Now, of course, I would have handed her more cleanser and encouraged her to move on to the refrigerator after she finished with the stove. It wasn't a competition and I wasted a lot of potentially-clean appliances with my over-sensitivity.

I don't regret much about our relationship but those drip pans? Not my finest moment.

Monday, April 15, 2013


When we got married Husband asked his parents what they would like me to call them, and they said "Why, Mom and Dad, of course."

I hated that. I already had parents whom I adored, and it seemed wrong to call someone else by their nicknames, as if I were being disloyal to that love. So I spent most of the three decades I knew my in-laws avoiding the issue. I would call them "Husband's mother and dad" or their first names if I was talking about them to someone else. When the Boys came along they became Grandma and Grandpa. If I couldn't avoid direct address, I would say MOM or DAD in a slightly higher-pitched tone--it just wasn't natural for me to call these people Mom and Dad.

But a month ago the hospital needed a health history as our frail 91-year-old widow was being checked in for observation following her latest fall. "I'm her daughter-in-law," I told the nurse. "Is it okay if I'm the one who does this?" The nurse looked at me. "How long have you been married? Thirty years? She's your mother now, too."

Friday morning Husband got a call from the retirement village. We've come to dread the sight of that number on the caller ID and this call was no different. Still recovering from the fall of four weeks ago, my mother-in-law apparently had suffered a minor stroke. What did we want to do?

We had talked about this possibility during the rapid decline of the past few months, and we agreed that nothing was to be gained by a trip to the emergency room where she would lie on an uncomfortable gurney for hours. Instead, we called hospice.

That morning I sat with my mother-in-law and held her hand. With recent loss of appetite she's also lost any extra flesh she might have had and I could feel every bone in her fingers, every pulse of a vein. She looked at me, gripped my hand and tried to talk but could only manage frustrating nonsense syllables. Finally I began to sing in my unlovely voice, old hymns that she had so often played on the piano. She closed her eyes and slept.

The next day comfort care was in place, and when I visited she was in bed. She didn't rouse when I took her hand.

"I don't know if you can hear me," I whispered, "but I want you to know that I could not have asked for a better mother-in-law. You never came between Husband and me, and you always thought I was a better person than I actually am. Thank you for that, and for raising such a good son and for being glad I married him. I love you, Mom."

The final call came yesterday at mid-afternoon.

She loved her family, especially her three boys, intensely and and with unwavering loyalty. She loved stuffed animals and eating at McDonald's.

Her name was Jeanette, and she was my mother, too.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

I Must Have a Guilty Conscience

My parents and siblings (and I) ca. 1970. I'm on the left, Much Older Sister is on the right, Much Younger Sister is center front.
I was wasting company time checking to make sure the internet was working when I saw that Small Town Library had posted a notice on its Facebook page:

Invitation to Resume Writing - 1:30 today

Huh. How do they know I'm just messing around and not working on the news release about commencement? Are they tracking my computer usage? Do they have some kind of surveillance camera installed in my commemorative pen set that is watching me not work?

Obviously the sweet librarians also know that I didn't blog yesterday, even though it apparently was Siblings Day and I was the only one in all of social media who didn't recognize the day. (Hey, siblings! I love you, and you, and you, and you, and think you are the swellest of swell siblings! Hogs and kisses!)

But why are they nagging me to resume writing? Maybe it's because they know I have four (count 'em) overdue books right now and they're assuming I'm lolling around reading books instead of writing. To that I must say "I wish."

Oh, whoops. Just realized that Facebook doesn't have the acute accent that distinguishes "resume" (start again) from "resumé" (a brief account of one's professional qualifications). The sweet librarians weren't urging me to get back to work, they were urging me to update my jobhunting materials.

Hmmmm. I'm not sure that makes me feel any better.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

About the Same

Our friends and family know that this has been an especially difficult season for Husband's 91-year-old mother. Over the past six months she has moved temporarily from her two-bedroom apartment into a room where she could receive more assistance in daily activities. Then the move became permanent at Christmas, but she began falling and eventually needed to transfer into the full care wing of the nursing home.

These loved ones ask us how she is because they know the winter has taken a toll on Husband and me and they want to support us, but it's hard to know how to describe how she's doing, because any status report calls to mind two comparison points.

How is she doing in comparison to last fall, when she was still in her own place and was feeding the cats that begged at the sliding glass door to her patio? Really poorly. Or how is she doing in comparison to two weeks ago, when she was in a hospital bed with a brace stabilizing her fractured neck and a horrifying gash in her scalp held together with staples? Much better.

How was she doing two days ago when she held her head in her hands and cried to get back in bed? Not well at all. Or how is she doing today, when she knows us and enjoys the piece of chocolate I unwrap and place in her hand? Much better.

At the start of this slide we tried to be descriptive and precise. We said that she was declining but not in pain, and that she enjoyed visitors. Then as the decline became steeper we told people that the woman they had known would not be the woman they would see.

Now we don't try to be precise. She's about the same, we say, and this covers the variableness of her condition from day to day as well as the certainty that what she had last fall will never return.

We're hopeful that when the doctor approves removal of her neck support she will be more comfortable, and that more comfort will...well, we can't really hope for more than that. We're thankful she's getting good care, and more than grateful for friends who empathize with this stage of her (and our) life.

Because we know that from now on, comparisons are no longer useful. She'll be about the same.

Monday, April 8, 2013


Bierocks. Yes, I made them. They were okay.
I am not a food blogger.

You know I am not a food blogger because when was the last time a food blogger you know spent an entire post talking about her eyebrows? How about two entire posts?

But you also know I'm not a food blogger because (the previous paragraph to the contrary) I GET TO THE POINT. Today my point is that food bloggers are the snake charmers of the internet and most of the time I am just an unsuspecting cobra curled up in a basket.

I read way too many blogs written by great cooks and I am completely susceptible to their wiles. Over the weekend I tried a new recipe. It was this one*, and I tried it because I had all the ingredients available. It was tasty. Then I tried another new recipe, this one**, because I need to take a dessert to a meeting tomorrow night and also, it is cheesecake, so enough said.

But I tried both of these recipes because according to the blogs that presented them to the world, both are DELICIOUS! And one of them is HEALTHY AS WELL AS DELICIOUS! And one of them is CREAMY! And one of them is CHEESECAKE!

Food bloggers, almost to a person, are guilty of reciperbole. (Yes, I made this word up. It's a combination of recipe and hyperbole, and it means hyping a recipe until someone--and I'm not mentioning names but her initials are MQB--has pinned at least 500 recipes to her Pinterest board even though she knows she's going to be making one of her usual rotation of five recipes every night this week.)

However, food bloggers intersperse their reciperbole with pictures of their food so vivid and beautiful that some of us must wear bibs because we keep drooling as we read their posts. For example, I do not like sauerkraut. I don't like the way it tastes, I don't like the way it makes the house smell as it cooks. But look at this:
Yes. I've now added sauerkraut to my shopping list.

And food bloggers don't just add one beautiful picture to their purple prose. Under the guise of showing us exactly how we should be cooking their DELICIOUS or HEALTHY or CHEESECAKE recipe, they add a beautiful picture every half sentence.

"Add the salt (picture of salt pouring) stir carefully (picture of hand stirring), until no lumps remain (another picture of hand stirring)..." well, you get the picture.

So in conclusion...I'm sorry, I seem to have lost my train of thought here as I think about the yummy, yummy sauerkraut out there waiting to be eaten. I may be a victim of reciperbole.

Thanks a lot, food bloggers.

*It was really, really good. Delicious, even. And so EASY! 

**The verdict is still out on this, because it is cheesecake and needs to be refrigerated for some time, but it looks quite tasty. And so EASY!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Friday Orts and Blurb

Good morning, and welcome to another end-of-the-week sweeping up of items too big to forget and too small to write entire posts about.

1. We start off with my breakfast place mat, which was covered by a reading lamp this morning. Why did this make me smile? Because several days ago I offhandedly mentioned to Husband that I needed to find the specialty lightbulb this lamp requires so that I could read in bed, and that way I would never again have to leave the Most Comfortable Bed Ever Made(tm). Really, I didn't expect him to find the bulb because (a) tax season, and (b) lots on his mind. But this morning there it was, complete with the lightbulb that turns out to be a specialty bulb I never would have thought to look for because (a) lazy, and (b) appliance impaired.

He is the most thoughtful man ever. If you need to find me in the next decade or so I'll be reading in bed.

2. I don't often post pictures of items I've knitted, because how many pictures of knitted dishcloths does the world need? I've been on a hat kick lately, though, and when one of my co-workers won a special award, I made him a hat to wear to the celebratory party. The hat coordinated nicely with the under-the-sea theme, as did the oyster stew, goldfish crackers, octopus gummy worms, and shark cupcakes. (Our working group knows how to PAR-TAY!)

Look for this chapeau next year next year on the red carpet--I believe it was the look this guy was going for and missed.
Thank you, zimbio.com, for the image

And thank you, Amazon.com, for this image
3. Finally, my weekly product review, this week of the Progressive International Adjust-a-Slice Mandoline. Oh, it does a great job of slicing carrots and celery for soup, and is fabulous at slicing potatoes for Sunday Night Spinach. But that cautionary line about the blade being sharp and always using the guard thing-a-ma-jig? They aren't kidding.

I laughed. I cried.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

What Say You?

Okay, I'm coming back to my trusty Advice Council today because I am need of advice. And counsel. This time I'm looking at you, teachers among the AC, to provide the expertise.

Here's the set-up: Every spring the Small Town High School band director calls to see if I can accompany her students at the regional music contest. Someday she's going to have a forehead-bopping moment and think "Hey! I could get someone with some actual musical talent to do this!" and she will no longer call me and that will be the end of the community service that I love perhaps most of all, but I digress.

Last night the students performed in a mini-recital for parents. The goal of this event is to help them get over the performance jitters that tend to mess up contest performances. It's low-pressure and informal, a good run-up to the real event next week.

The clarinet quartet performed first, then were required to stay and hear the dozen soloists who followed their short-ish song. I was sitting at the piano so I had a perfect view of the increasing boredom among the clarinetists, and after four or five subsequent soloists had played I saw a couple of the girls stand up between numbers and go to the back of the room to "put their clarinets in their cases."

That phrase is in quotes because the real reason they went to the back of the room was to retrieve their phones. This is in direct violation of the no-cell-phones-during-a-performance rule. Oh, they thought they were being all sly and crafty as they palmed the contraband (because that doesn't look suspicious at all) and the band director was busy tuning the next soloists so she didn't see it. I did, though, and here is where I need your teacherly advice:

What should I have done?

What I did do was wink at one of the girls, to let her know she had not earned her Bourne Identity stealth award yet. To her credit, she blushed. But she also then checked something on the phone she had stashed in her lap. She was embarrassed but not embarrassed into compliance with the rule.

Should I have ratted her out? My assumption is that the teacher knows this kind of thing is going on, and until I call her attention to it she can be humanely ignorant and save herself some hassle. But maybe she would rather know, because my knowledge (and wink) imply my complicity in (and approval of) this behavior?

What say you, oh wise ones of my Advice Council?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Choices, Choices

I hate, hate, hate making decisions. Pie or cheesecake? Sweater or coat? Generic or brand-name?

And if these kind of decisions are hard, it's even harder to make the life choice decisions. Where will we live? What will we do?

This is the time of year lots of people in my college-centric world are caught up in those decisions, so I wrote about it on my other blog. 

Take a look.

Also, when in doubt, cheesecake.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Pity the Fool

Here's the thing about April Fool's Day: I'm a pretty good sport, or at least not a bad sport. I will not relish tricks played on me (especially if they involve switching salt for sugar, because that cereal looked so doggone delicious and now, waaaaaah) but I will PRETEND that I do.

I beam and glow when the April Fool's joke is one of long-standing, and I don't care whether I'm the fooler or the fool-ee in this case. I will smile all day.

But don't ever pull an April Fool's joke on me that plays on my sympathy or my good will. Not ever. Because I will hate you, no matter how funny you think it is or how hilariously you shout that I am an APRIL FOOL!

Here is an example: I read a blog written by a guy who calls himself the Fat Cyclist. I am not a cyclist, but this guy makes me laugh and he has lived through some pretty grueling things with his sense of humor intact, so I've kept him in my blog reader. Yesterday his post asked readers to take a survey, because he has experienced financial difficulties and has decided he needs to monetize his blog and would like to know how to appeal to advertisers.

You see where this is going, right? 

I did not, because his wife had died of cancer and I have friends whose medical bills are huge millstones around their necks right now. I took the survey. I naively spent several minutes of my life answering questions, and while I should have been tipped off by the question "What is your annual salary? How much do you wish it was?" my punking radar obviously was on the fritz. By the time I realized that the whole thing was a big ol' YOU'RE AN IDIOT moment, I didn't feel fooled, I felt deceived.

There is a big difference between those two feelings. The April Fool feeling is fun--you got me! I really thought for a second the Royals had traded for a great pitcher! Ha ha ha! The deceived moment makes me doubt myself--how many other sob stories have I fallen for?

It reminds me of a time, years ago, when a friend called.

"MomQueenBee," she said quietly, "I need help. I'm in trouble and I need money."

This was back before my return to the work force, when we were making ends meet only by stretching the middle almost to the breaking point. Still, this was a friend in need. I immediately began wondering what I could sell or do to find the money this friend needed.

"I've been locked up in the heart association's Cardiac Arrest, and I need money to pay my bail!" she said gleefully.

Oh, no, no, no. Do not do that to me. Do not test me on my friendship and then reveal that this is a FUNDRAISING EVENT.

And even though this was a friend and the cause was a good one, we did not contribute. Had she led with the fact that she was raising money for an organization that we already support, we'd have come up with some cash.

So go ahead. Put salt in the sugar bowl, and a fake spider in my pencil drawer. Fool me once, fool me twice, fool me as many times as you want on April Fool's Day.

Just don't make me feel like a fool when I was only trying to be a good person.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Don't Cry for Me, All You Young'Uns

If you had asked me a decade ago what I thought would be the saddest part of being empty nesters, I would probably have included the word "holiday meals" somewhere in my answer.

I love cooking for holidays. My menus are as unchanging as the Rock of Gibralter, and as predictable as right-wing outrage.  Thanksgiving is turkey, yams, and pecan pie; Christmas is ham and peppermint ice cream pie; Fourth of July is fried chicken and homemade ice cream.

Easter is ham, asparagus, strawberries, homemade rolls, and cheesecake. Always.

Except that yesterday, for the first time in 30 years, Husband and I had no extra chicks in the nest. The Boys haven't been home for this holiday for several years, what with three of them in school many states away and the fourth a musician for whom special church services are a prime opportunity for picking up paying gigs. Since the Boys have been gone we've had Husband's mother with us, so I continued with my rock-bound big meal tradition.

This year, though, it was only the two of us. Two of us who don't need a week's worth of leftover homemade rolls and cheesecake, much as that prospect makes me drool on my keyboard. At this time of the year Husband  is more focused on deductions than on asparagus so he was fine with my tentative suggestion that maybe we should try the buffet.

The only problem was that I'd always assumed holiday buffets were for a certain segment of the society, a segment mostly defined by the words "old" and "lonely," and also tagged with the label "loser." I pictured the sad  white-haired couples tottering into the restaurant where they would gum their food and carefully count the tip out of their coin purses. Since obviously that does not describe the young(ish), life-of-the-party winners that Husband and I are, would we have moved into that pitiful category feared by full-nest folks?

Well, the answer to this question is, of course, "MomQueenBee, you are an idiot." 

Did you know that you can pay the restaurant some money, and they will COOK YOUR FOOD FOR YOU? You don't have to spent Saturday proofing rolls and carefully incorporating cream cheese into eggs and sugar, or set the alarm for 4 a.m. so the ham can be in the Crockpot before church. Also, the nice restaurant folks CLEAN UP! AND DO THE DISHES! so the Sunday afternoon nap is uninterrupted by hand-washing of the good china and wrapping up of leftovers.

Also, when you have lived in Small Town as long as we have, you know most of the people in the restaurant anyway, so it's like eating with family. That's especially true if you drag the preacher's wife and her husband with you because they're empty-nesters, too. You'll be waving at the family two tables down and asking the nice lady next to you how her daffodils are doing. You will eat fried chicken even though it's not the Fourth of July. You and your friend the preacher's wife will feel as if you've discovered buried treasure because this was so easy and fun.

But we'll let it be our secret. We don't want the young'uns to discover this, the easiest holiday menu ever.