Thursday, October 31, 2013

Let the Wild Rumpus Begin

Please excuse the quality of today's photo. It was taken in the airport at approximately no-hours-left-on-the-clock-thirty last night, and that is not my finest hour of the day.

By the time I snapped this shot Husband and I had been at the airport for three and a half hours, and may I say, Kansas City, that I love you and that I am glad that everything is up-to-date here, but your airport is hella boring after 8 p.m. I had to keep kicking the sidewalks out in front of me because they were already rolled up, and the Starbucks signs that was LIT even though the said Starbucks is not OPEN...well, that's just cruel.

Anyway, in spite of the fact that Boy#2 was on one of those flights and this is the sure kiss of disruption for any airline schedules that come through Chicago (seriously, his fellow passengers should pay him to get off the plane because then they would arrive on time and he would have more traveling money) all of the flights arrived! Yay! And we only have to collect one set of luggage from the airport today! Yay-Yay!

(The funniest text of the many, many, many texts exchanged during the evening came from Boy#2, who observed "Dude just got off of the plane I'm waiting to board and he was wearing a lifejacket. Not sure what to make of that.")

Boy#3 has not yet arrived because real job blah blah blah would rather not get fired additional blahs (but his marching band got a I AT CONTEST YESTERDAY! YAY-YAY-YAY!) but three-quarters of the wild rumpus has arrived.

I may be just a smidgeon tired, as I originally typed that previous sentence as "the wild rumps has arrived" and that seemed incredibly funny to me, and incorrect agreement between noun and verb should never, ever be funny. And now everyone else in the La Quinta breakfast room is turning around to see why I'm giggling.

I'm giggling,La Quintians, because I am happy.

Let the wild rump(u)s begin.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

My Favorite Season

It was full dark when I walked around the block this morning. Daylight savings doesn't end for another five days, and the sun isn't even on the horizon at 6:45 a.m. The only light is from the streetlights.

These lights shine through trees that are within days, maybe hours, of losing their leaves. They hold onto their flamboyance for one last moment before a gust of wind comes from the south and swirls a mini-tornado of their brilliance into the air.

This is my favorite season.

I stand for a minute and watch the leaves jump and dance, then walk on.

In three hours I will be packing Pearl and leaving for the big city a full state away from Small Town. Late tonight the Boys and Lovely Girl will step off their flights there, and Husband and I will be waiting to welcome them at the airport. Tomorrow we will be swept up in the final preparations for the Wedding of the Century, and while I am beyond words with joy and excitement, I want to stand here for just a moment and watch the scene unfold.

It is a strange and wondrous feeling to be at the intersection of my ancestors and the first new family among my descendants. These swirling leaves are so individual, so beautiful, and make such a glorious symphony together.

This is my favorite season.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Not the Look I Was Going For

Not me.
Let me tell you about the last time I thought about my make-up habits. It was a few weeks after Boy#2 was born, and I was feeling just a touch unattractive, what with the spit-up on my shoulders and the shower that was three--four? five?--days ago. I went in for a quick trim of my bangs and my hairdresser, who also sells make-up, took one look at my haggard face and suggested I have my make-up done.

Why not? I thought.

Well, here's why not, I thought an hour later as I wrote out a check for $125. I walked out with a bag that contained a three-step nightly skin cleansing routine, some kind of spackling compound "to give you an even palette for your make-up," bronzer (which I still called "rouge" because even then I was 114 years old), and four different shades of eyeshadow depending on whether my eyes were going out in the morning, afternoon, or evening.

It was an extravagant purchase, considering that I was a stay-at-home mom who was pinching pennies until Lincoln yelped. But I felt GORGEOUS. Every time I accidentally looked in the mirror that day my eyes were drawn away from frizzy, unkempt hair and settled on some new and glorious aspect of my new and glorious face--the even skin tones, the sun-kissed cheekbones (cheekbones!), the smoky eyes. Oh, those smoky eyes. Mysterious, come-hither, somehow twice their original size.

So. That was 25 years ago.

Since then my make-up habits have simplified considerably and nowadays I can get my make-up on in 40 seconds flat. A dab of Olay, a little foundation and bronzer, a single color of eyeshadow, and ba-da-boom ba-da-bing, out the door. I even gave up mascara a few years ago when I realized it made my eyes bloodshot. And most of the time I look okay. Thanks to my mother's genes my skin is still good (well, at least fair) and a smile goes a long way toward presentableness.

But presentableness, I believe we can agree, is not enough for the Wedding of the Century. The Mother of the Groom needs to be STUNNING (since, clearly, she is the star of the show). So Sunday before church I tried to recreate the smoky eye. I laid down the foundation color, brushed a bit of color along the browline, painted a thin line against my lashes, slathered on some waterproof mascara. And then, sure that I had recreated the gorgeous, I put on my tri-focals and looked expectantly in the mirror to see this looking back at me:

Well, this with glasses.
I'm sorry, people who were at church with me yesterday. I tried to tone down the gorgeous before I came to early service, but when those labels said the eyeliner and mascara were waterproof, they were not kidding.

I believe I'll wait another 25 years before I try this again.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Friday Orts and a Blurb

Yikes! Not many orts this week--my entire brain is being consumed by the Wedding of the Century. So well consumed is my brain that I tried to get a zombie reference shoe-horned into that sentence (because of the brain eating? Get it?) and I couldn't figure out how to do it. The day I can't come up with the appropriate zombie reference is a sad day indeed.

Boy#2 mentioned in passing this week that he still needs a costume for an upcoming  Halloween party. I, of course, sent him a dozen links to easy, do-it-yourself-with-materials-you-already-have-around-the-home costumes. I also suggested the bunny suit all the boys were required to wear at least twice probably would still fit him.

"Just so you know, you're taking a lot more interest in this than I have," my 25-year-old doctoral student said.

Go figure.

My favorite pair of brown shoes developed a squeak while it was in summer storage, aka the back of my closet, for three months. This makes me terribly sad as they are wonderfully comfortable and professional, but now I can't sneak up on anyone. Any suggestions on how to get rid of a shoe-squeak?

There was a reason I chose today's knitting needles graphic. Really, there was. I just can't remember what that reason was. See also: Zombies are eating my brain.

Finally, the blurb*, which I believe I've gushed about before but this week a regular reader was unaware of the wonderfulness that is this product. So here, Cousin D., this is for you. Auntie A. thinks you may have missed it.
Several years ago I had HAD IT UP TO HERE with the cooking that goes along with having four teenaged sons. Well, not exactly the cooking, but the THINKING about what to cook, and the BUYING of all the food, and the PLANNING that goes along with being the only one in a family of six who could cook anything beyond pancakes and chocolate chip cookies.**

Then Husband heard about eMeals. At the time it was named eMealz, which almost kept me from checking into the online product. The trendy trailing "z" should never be used for anything except the phrase "mad skillz" but I was desperate so I swallowed my indignation and clicked onto the website. Fortunately, the company powers-that-market have come to their senses and the trailing z has been replaced..

People, this product has transformed my life. For a truly tiny fee ($5 a month) you have access to a variety of menus. And not only does eMeals provide menus, it provides the shopping list and the recipes, which can be completed in the hour between when I leave work and when supper needs to be on the table. I am serious when I say that this has transformed the way I think about my main household duty.

Over the course of my membership I have changed our eating plan from the six-person menu to the four-person to the menus for only two (sniff) and the recipes get better and better. There are low-fat options, options for people trying to lose weight, and our current selection, the Mediterranean diet plan. In my opinion, the Mediterranean is by far the best. Easy, good-tasting. Just substitute beef for lamb when it comes up. (So, maybe we're doing the Mediterranean-ish option?)

So, summing it up, eMeals. Two thumbs way, way up.

*As required by the NSA on all my blurbs, I'm informing you that I have never received any kind of compensation from any products mentioned in my Friday postings. Darn it anyway. Why does no one believe I can be bought?
**That was then, this is now, and all four of the Boys are quite the respectable cooks, or at least none of them starved after moving into his own apartment, which as far as I'm concerned is the same thing.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Too Good to be Missed

I admit that I'm kind of a hoarder. (That sad chuckle you heard came from Husband, who also was heard to say "Kind of? Ya think?" as he shook his head.)

Fortunately, I haven't yet reached the level of those poor souls they make television programs about, where the chicken bones are in the fourth stratum up from the floor but still are buried in the newspapers and cat poop that form the layers of trash above. No, you can still walk through my house fairly much on ground level. Every once in a while, though, I can't quite stand to throw something away.

See Exhibit A in today's photo. A couple of weeks ago the pull-cord of the kitchen ceiling fan gave out. And by "gave out," I mean it broke off way up in the innards of the contraption. Because I am prone to excessive glowing while cooking, we knew we could not do without a ceiling fan so it was off to Lowe's and within a couple of days we had a brand new fan. (Complete with REMOTE CONTROL! So clever, these Americans.)

However, the glass globe from the old light fixture still was perfectly good and once the dead bugs were cleaned out of it, had kind of a pretty shape.

"Hmmm...." said the hoarder voice in the back of my head. "That looks like it would be a beautiful fruit bowl, or maybe the base for a Christmas arrangement that has a lot of pinecones and red ornaments, or maybe..."

(The hoarder voice in the back of my head needs to get off of Pinterest.)

And then Husband walked by and said, "Hey, don't throw that away--remember the time we broke the globe from the last fan and had to put in a whole new fixture because they don't sell replacements?"

See? I'm not a hoarder. I'm a compulsive pre-planner of disasters, and the globe is now stashed securely in the cupboard at the bottom of the basement stairs where our heirs will find it some day and shake their heads sadly. As they throw the globe in the trash, they will commiserate about their crazy mother who couldn't throw away anything. It will be a bonding moment.

You're welcome, heirs.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Wedding Checklist Update

The Wedding of the Century is now only 10 days away and I find myself compulsively checking to see how my to-do list is progressing:

1. Make a hat. Check.

2. Procure Mother of the Groom dress. Check, thanks to Much Older Sister who found one so un-beige and covered with bling that I may create my own light source on the big day. I LOVE it.

3. Procure rehearsal dinner duds. Check. Again, probably way too un-beige, but wonderfully festive. I'm only disappointed that the polka-dotted shoes I ordered to go with were not completely comfortable so I returned them. Sad face.

4. Complete special project for Boy#1 and Lovely Girl. Check-ish. I'm not going to spoil the decor plans, but I've been helping on this aspect that is really, really fun, and makes me say "awwwww" every time I work on it. It is not completely done but the end is in sight.

5. Begin pile of stuff that I almost surely will forget if I don't put it on the pile RIGHT NOW. Check-ish. To date includes curling iron, sparkly evening bag, and Kleenexes. And more Kleenexes.

6. Lose 50 pounds before the wedding pictures.

Hmmm. Maybe I need to get started on that last item.

Monday, October 21, 2013

One of the Women Who Made Me

Spin-Off and the Editor's Wife
In a lot of ways, I have lived in a wonderful age to be a woman.

My parents expected me to go to college (and paid for that education), and there were no limitations on what I could choose to study. I was single until I was 29 years old, and had plenty of adventures before I met Husband and knew he was The One. Then we decided, together, that I would stay home with the Boys until they were beyond infancy, and were agreed on when I would go back to work. Then I was in the right place at the right time to become the first long-term woman vice president at Small College.

I have been so, so lucky, and one of the reasons I was lucky is because Christine prepared me to be lucky.

Christine was my first real boss, the one who hired me when I was a junior in college. She and her husband, Tom, ran a small-town weekly newspaper, and they brought me on as a two-days-a-week summer intern to write up county commission reports and club meeting minutes. The first of those two days I would write furiously from the time I arrived at the office until I left at the end of the day. On the second day I proofed pages, made last-minute changes, and became addicted to the combination of adrenaline and questionable coffee that fueled deadline days.

A small-town weekly newspaper, even an award-winning paper like that one, does not have a large staff. Tom and Christine were doing all of the writing, and while I'm sure having another set of hands on the electric typewriter was helpful, I'm still astounded at the breadth of stories they turned over to me. News reports. Features on fascinating people who populated the county. Coverage of politicians (although Tom was really the master at that).

The best moment, though, came the very first week I was there. That was when Christine turned to me and said, "You know, Tom and I both have columns on the editorial page. Wouldn't you like to write one, too?"

And with that, a weekly column was born. For four and a half years, every single week (even the weeks when I was back at school and before I worked for this newspaper full-time) I churned out a page and a half of blather. It was Empty Nest Feathers before there was even a nest. This gift, the space and the responsibility to fill it, were perhaps the defining moment in my professional life. Chris also named the column (Spin-Off) and soon people in the tiny town were calling me by that rather than by my given name.

I slept on the daybed in Tom and Christine's den that summer, and I watched Christine spend a full day at the office then come home to cook supper and do laundry. I saw her juggling the responsibilities and deadlines with the carrying of emotional baggage that comes with being a wife, a mother, a business owner, a boss--a woman.

Please remember that this was just the beginning of the transition of women out of the home and into workplaces that had expanded beyond teaching or nursing. Christine had to push against the unwritten rules that said that women shouldn't work outside of the home, and that women were too emotional to own businesses, and that women were second class citizens. And because she and others like her pushed, I never felt limited by my gender.

Saturday I attended Christine's funeral. Tom died a decade ago, and in the intervening years I had not seen Chris until a year ago when she was a guest of honor at a convention I attended. I stayed an extra day at that convention just so I could see her.  I wanted to tell her how important she had been in my life, that I was still writing, that after my mom and my sisters she was probably the most influential woman I had ever known. Her family and friends had warned me that her once-brilliant mind had been slipping but I wanted to tell her anyway.

She walked in the door and I took her hand.

"Christine!" I said. "I'm so glad to see you! How are you?"

She smiled at me sweetly, but clearly had no memory of me, or at least did not connect me with the girl she had known 30 years ago. She didn't remember me, but that was okay.

I would never forget her.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Friday Orts (No Blurb)

First of all, you all are pretty wonderful. Yesterday you reached through the computer monitor to where I was sitting all ugly-cry-faced, and in spite of the swollen nose and puffy eyes, you gave me a virtual hug. Thank you so much for the comforting words and sympathetic thoughts concerning the passing of Our Dog Pepper. Doing the right thing is always the right thing, but it's not always the easy thing, and you helped make the day not quite so difficult.

The most-asked question of last week was this: What kind of candy are you ordering for the Wedding of the Century?

Well! Sitting in the wedding staging area (aka 'Don't Forget This' Central, aka the front steps landing) are 35 pounds of blue candy (per request of the bride) and Reese's Pieces (per request of the groom) and three really heavy sacks of Hershey's Nuggets (because I did the ordering and I really like chocolate). The organza treat bags also arrived, and are adorable.

Don't ever give me a task and say "Whatever you want is fine" because I will totally run with that.

And in case you were wondering, Orby Wan Kenorby is still hanging in there and has now been all over town with me. I think he's starting to enjoy the exhilaration of a 30-miles-per-hour ride down Ninth Street.  A friend who was walking past Pearl and knows my history of histrionics concerning spiders came thiiiiiis close to knocking the web off for me, but I stopped her in time.

"No! That's Orby!" I shouted at her. 

We've been friends for almost 30 years but I don't believe I'd ever seen the resulting expression on her face before.

Oh, and thanks, too, to all who offered to fix my befuddled double monitor computer system. Boy#3 was first on the spot and had me straightened out in moments. "I learned how to do that in eighth grade," the new high school teacher informed me, which means I'm only nine years behind the curve on this one.

No blurb for this week, but next week, who knows? Maybe I'll go crazy! Double blurb Friday!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

You Were a Good Dog

Eighteen months ago, when Our Dog Pepper had a health crisis, an animal-loving friend who works with veterinarians had wise advice.

"We always promise our pets that they will not suffer. Ever. Luckily, doctors can treat our four-legged family much more humanely than those with two legs," she wrote. "Your pet is a family member and he or she will 'tell you' how far to go and when it's time. You will know."

Yesterday, we knew.

Pepper had turned 15 years old in the spring, and these days she wasn't doing much more than finding a spot in the sun for napping, but she still was eating well and loved to be scratched behind the ears--until Monday of this week. That's when we discovered that the food we had left for her the day before was still in her bowl and her water dish was untouched. We tried giving her some left-over stewed chicken, but even that didn't tempt her to eat.

The vet diagnosed a kidney problem. With aggressive treatment she might live another month, he told Husband, or we could decide it was time to let her go humanely.

I didn't cry until Husband sent me the picture of Pepper he snapped just before her final walk down the hall with the vet. She looked old and gray and sad.

It was time.

Before I left for work yesterday morning I told Pepper that she had been a good dog. I thought of the tiny bundle of black fur that had come home with us from the Wal-Mart parking lot on Palm Sunday in 1988, and of the part she played in our family over the intervening years. I knew it would be a while before I stopped expecting her to greet us when we get home, or watch us through the patio doors as we eat supper.

I'm glad she could be eased out of her old age into whatever is beyond for dogs, but I will miss her. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Now I've Named Him

(Husband and I went downtown to try out the new coffee shop this morning, and we  had a passenger. This is the transcript of our conversation.)

Husband: Wow! That orb weaver spider is still hanging on. Look how the light shines through his web. And it hasn't blown off at 30 miles per hour.

Me: I know! He went to work with me yesterday, he came home with me yesterday, he stuck there through the night, and now he's going downtown with us.

Husband: That's really impressive. I'm surprised you've put up with a spider that big for this long.

Me: I've even named him. I'm calling him Orby Wan Kanorby.

Husband: ....

Me: Pretty clever, huh? Even if he's probably a girl?


Husband: I think maybe Boy#1 is the only one who properly appreciates your sense of humor.

He's right that I'm highly unappreciated. Maybe if I pointed out that the orb weaver spider eats and re-spins his web every day my knowledge database would be more appreciated?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

It Looked Plenty Big

Y'all know how much I love nature, right? Especially our friends, the spiders and snakes?

I'm being sarcastic, folks.* I DO NOT like spiders and snakes, or the Jim Stafford song of the same name, because they are creepy. (Yes, I'm including the song in that description.)

However, I know that some of Mother Nature's creatures are our friends, and the orb-weaver spider that was building a web between Pearl's rear-view mirror and the driver side window is on that friend list. These enormous creatures not only doesn't bite and poison me, they traps mosquitoes and flies so the insects will not bite and poison me either. In fact, the world wide web (not to be confused with a spider's web) describes the risk from an orb-weaver thusly:
Venom toxicity - the bite of Orb-Weaving Spiders is of low risk (not toxic) to humans. They are a non-aggressive group of spiders. Seldom bite. Be careful not to walk into their webs at night - the fright of this spider crawling over one's face can be terrifying and may cause a heart attack, particularly to the susceptible over-40-year-olds.
So since it was broad daylight and I could keep the enormous arachnid in my sights, I gingerly got into the car and drove off. You have to give the spider credit for persistence. Here it is after I got to work:

"Wasn't that fun?" I can imagine her saying. "Can we go for another drive? And this time would you leave the window down because I would love to swing this web over and SIT ON YOUR SHOULDER WHILE YOU DRIVE."

Spiders have really sick senses of humor.

*Once one of the Boys said "Mom, could you let me know when you're being sarcastic? I can't always tell."

Friday, October 11, 2013

Friday Orts and a Blurb

Yesterday's spelling bee winner

Oh, city spelling bee, how I love thee! How I love pronouncing the words for thee every year, as I did yesterday! 

I love the little girl in the sparkly shirt who spelled well and confidently until her final word, which she misspelled so spectacularly that my mouth dropped open before I could say "that is incorrect." I love the microphone that no one can figure out how to turn on. I love the words that are spelled the way they sound (looking at you, "implicit") and the words that I cannot fathom a fourth grader would know (and at you, "succumb"). 

I do not, however, love the Webster's Third New International Dictionary which is so enormously huge and has type so incredibly small that when stalling spellers asked for definitions of the word they got much more stall than they bargained for. Next year, we're looking up definitions on my iPhone. Or I can just make them up. Either of those options works for me.

It's Homecoming weekend at Small College, one of my favorite weekends of the year. The only thing I can't figure out is why all the people I thought graduated just a year or so ago are back for their 10-year reunions. Obviously time is flying again. (And of course, time flies like an arrow, but fruit flies like a banana.)

While Congress is on staycation I'm going to start making some legislative decrees of my own. The first one is going to be that all women's skirts must have pockets. Carrying a cell phone around in my hand is stupid. Also, siestas for everyone! Every day!

Amazon image
I've been reminded again lately how I can love, love, love a book that many of my friends hate, hate, hate. Such is The Book Thief.  I've been reading this as I sweat on the elliptical every morning, and reader(s), looking forward to the next few pages every morning has caused me to (almost) love exercise. My friends, however, were at best "meh" on the book. 

It does worry me that this is a young adult book. It is very dark, and my 12-year-old self would have sobbed and sobbed. But the writing is simple and evocative and I have stopped to read some paragraphs two or three times over. Of course, that might have been because I was sweating on the screen, but it also might have been the narration by Death. Really!

Read this before the movie comes out on Nov. 15. I, myself, no intention of seeing the movie because the only movie I've ever liked as much as the book was To Kill a Mockingbird and I saw that when I was eight. I'm going to store The Book Thief in my mind in its original form.

What's good on your bookshelf this week?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

I'm Making a Hat

Boy#1 wanted YOU in 1995.
We're three weeks away now from the Wedding of the Century, and friends, being the mother of the groom is the best possible role one can have in this kind of production. All I've had to do is find something to wear, which I have done (and no, it is not beige), and voila! Ready to go!

Boy#1, Lovely Girl, and her mother all are so completely efficient and organized that I have been able to bask in the glow of the upcoming nuptials without lifting as much as a pinky finger to help. It's been so much fun, in fact, that I have felt a little guilty so this week I asked One if I was falling down on my responsibilities.

"Is there anything I need to be doing?" I asked him.

A few hours later he had conferred with Lovely Girl, and yes, there was something they needed. Could I order the candy for the candy buffet? Here's the website, he said, just pick out something in our price range. I immediately was transported back exactly 18 years, to when Boy#1 was nine years old.

It was the week before Halloween and all of the Boys knew exactly what they wanted to be on this most wonderful of kid holidays. Boy#2 was Robin Hood, Boy#3 was pirate (or was that a different year?, and I believe Boy #4 was...a bumblebee, maybe? Anyway, Boy#1 wanted to be Uncle Sam, which was the perfect choice for my politics-obsessed third grader.

As I always did, I left the costuming until just a wee bit late but I had a PLAN. I knew exactly which pieces I needed to sew, which elements I would buy at the thrift shop, which accessories I would cannibalize from other years and other closets. I would be cutting it close to get all four kids decked out in time for the costume parades, but I was ON IT. The night before Halloween I was a veritable whirlwind as I cut and sewed and hot-glued and costumed.

And then Husband's parents showed up. As they saw me whirling the first words out of their mouths were "What can we do to help?"

You know how much I loved them, right? I did, honestly. They could not have been better in-laws, and I truly miss them. But at that moment, I felt as if I had acquired the kind of help one acquires when a toddler wants to help. It's the kind of help that starts with the letters U and N and ends with FUL. They were completely well-intentioned, but I had my PLAN. It was a delicately balanced thing, and too much help would be...not so much.

So I grabbed a sheet of posterboard and threw it toward them.

"Here!" I said. "Make an Uncle Sam hat."

Do you know how long it took two fully-grown, completely competent, manually-dextrous adults to turn out one cardboard hat for an eight-year-old? Four hours. Each. A total of eight man-hours to cut out a brim and a hat body, and glue a ribbon around it.

My friends, that hat was a work of art. It was contoured to fit a nine-year-old head, and as of a couple of years ago, it was still in our costume stash in the attic. (Oh, yeah, I'm ready for grandkids.) In that same amount of time, though, I finished Uncle Sam's vest, found the tiny American flag he would wave, made the entire Robin Hood costume (including a quiver of bow and arrows), and kitted out the younger two boys. I had my plan, and it worked to perfection. Including the part of the plan that kept my in-laws out of my hair.

Last night as I perused the bulk candy site, choosing between the delicious and the beautiful, toggling between the chocolate autumn leaves and the whimsical sourballs, pondering which would look most beautiful on the turquoise vanity that will hold the candy buffet, I wondered if I should consult Lovely Girl before I made any final decisions. Then I laughed at myself.

I'm not choosing candy here--I'm making a hat.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

My Synapses Are Inept

Here are two things you may already know about me:

1. I grew up on a farm, surrounded by tractors and pickups and other vehicles that hauled every kind of trailer, and
2. Husband and I have camped in our pop-up camper practically every summer since Boy#4 was an infant.

What you may not know is this:

1. While I am an excellent pretty good adequate driver, I cannot back anything that is attached to whatever I am driving.
2. Not at all.

Really. I have tried, and tried, and tried some more, but I cannot get the logic of the operation through my head. When you back a car and want to steer it in a certain direction, you turn the wheel the opposite direction of the direction you want the rear end of the car to go, right? It's so instinctive you don't even think about it. When you're trying to back a trailer into a camping space, though, you turn the wheel--left to go left? maybe? right to go left? I think?

It takes a retraining of brain synapses to overcome the instincts ingrained by so many decades of driving, and I have not been patient or committed enough to do that retraining. Oh, it wasn't for lack of trying. Every summer, after I had decided this would be the year I'd learn to back the trailer and gotten behind the wheel to steer the camper into its spot under the trees, I would veer it to the right, pull forward, veer to the left, pull forward, stop, take a deep breath, veer whichever direction would be most inconvenient, then give up and huffily hand the steering wheel back to Husband. (It didn't help that every time I would try to get into a camping spot there would be a couple of old farmers sitting on their lawn chairs in the next spot laughing heartily at my inepititude. Or if there weren't, I imagined there were.)

I thought of this inability to back a trailer this morning when the computer guys installed a second monitor on my desk. The Boys and Husband have been urging me to make this upgrade for years. It's going to be FABULOUS!, they tell me. And improve my productivity to an INFINITE DEGREE!, they add. I'll have all my work done by 8:12 a.m. every day!, they promise.

Except that because of a glitch in my operating system, I have to move the cursor to the right to have it show up on the left screen. I can't just drag windows logically from east to west across the gap between the two monitors, I have to drag a window completely around the world and come in from west to east. At least a dozen times I've been reminded why that little white arrow is called a "cursor" as I tried to figure out exactly where the blankety-blank thing disappeared over the Atlantic.

My friends the computer guys are going to fix the glitch within the next couple of days, and then I'll be able to once again navigate using logic and reason. Until then, they're going to be sitting in lawn chairs next to my desk and laughing at me as I try fruitlessly to retrain the navigation synapses in my brain.

I'm pretty sure the camper is laughing, too.

Monday, October 7, 2013

More Comfortable All the Time

Boy#1 and I were having a cyber-discussion about a woman of a Certain Age (which happens to be a couple of years more than my age) and I mentioned that she has gorgeous skin. He's a good boy so he immediately jumped in to quash my insecurities.

One: Your skin is just fine.

MomQueen Bee: I'm fine with my skin, too.

One: You're comfortable in it?

MomQueenBee: I am. It's all soft and loose and baggy, like a really good bathrobe.

You know how happy puppies always look? It's because they have loose skin, too.

I'm going to be the happiest old lady in the retirement home. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

Friday Orts and Blurb

The Friday selected shorts start with a picture unearthed this week. Lovely Girl had asked me to find old pictures to be used for table decorations at the Wedding of the Century (less than a month away! Squeeee!) and I came across this one of Husband, Boy#1, and me taken in the fall of 1986.

Oh, church directory pictures. You are CRUEL in reminding us of the unfortunate growing-out shapeless curliness of 1986 hair and the enormous face-eclipsing of 1986 glasses glasses.You are CRUEL in bringing up the un-saggy 1986 neck that didn't have to be artificially tautened by imagining a string pulling up the top of my head when I see a camera pointed my way.

But those woochy-woochy-smoochy cheeks on that baby, and that snowman sweater that I can feel against my face just by looking at it? Thank you for reminding me how much I loved being the mother of babies. Almost, but not quite, as much as I love being the mother of grown-ups.

And that handsome dude holding that baby? He's still the one.

What is it about someone saying "Now don't get mad about this..." that makes me want to punch that person in the face? Repeatedly?

If I hear this phrase and I am not already mad, I think "Huh--am I supposed to be mad?" If I'm already ticked off I wonder what it is about my personality that makes other people think they can DICTATE MY RIGHTEOUS ANGER and DERAIL IT WITH WORDS?

Because, of course, all my anger is righteous.


And the blurb of the week:

Several months ago (eight, maybe?) I finally acknowledged that the dishwasher we bought when I was pregnant with...well, one of the Boys but I don't remember which one, was no longer cleaning our dishes well. In fact, it was kind of gross and that's not a descriptor I want to use with my eating utensils. So we bought a new dishwasher.

People, it was incredible. This machine practically cleaned the pattern off the plates for the first few months we had it. It was ah-may-zing! But then it stopped cleaning. The oatmeal bowls still had streaks of fiber slime after a full cycle and the peanut butter knives...ick. I knew it was a problem when Boy#4 pointed out there was old food on his dinner plate. Oops.

A visit from the repairman later ("Everything looks fine, ma'am,") I had a d-oh! moment when I realized that I had changed dishwashing soaps somewhere around the time that the dishes started retaining leftovers. I had wanted to use up the bottle of generic brand left over when my mother-in-law moved out of her apartment because I'm cheap frugal. After the repairman left I went out and bought some of the pod-with-rinse tabs I had always used and we're back to having shiny clean dishes in the House on the Corner. They're worth the money, folks.

You may resume visiting during mealtime.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Friends Against All Odds

The government shutdown is having a negative effect on the life of one of my oldest and dearest friends, one of the four classmates who gather every autumn for a couple days of non-stop talk and laughter. She and her husband were spending a few days of autumn relaxation in the Lower 48 before returning to their igloo (they live in Alaska) and I was included in a group e-mail she sent this morning.

"Hey, friends," she wrote, "thanks to the Tea Party and their shenanigans*, my husband and I will be unable to enter and hike in the national parks of Utah this week as planned. We are currently in Colorado and could easily head to Wyoming or places here in this state.   Do any of you have any recommendations for lovely camping and hiking in this general area?"

I had to respond immediately. 

"I'm sorry, but 'lovely' and 'hiking' never occur in the same sentence in my vocabulary," I pointed out. "However, I can send some good knitting patterns to be completed while binge-watching 'Damages' on Netflix and drinking coffee." 

I'm not at all sure why we've been friends for so long. I mean, it's one thing when the most powerful nation in the world shuts down because it's too haaaaaard to govern. But walking around in nature when your car is running just fine? That's just crazy.

*EDITOR'S NOTE: The political viewpoints expressed here are those of the e-mailer and not necessarily those of MomQueenBee, who has friends (and relatives) of many, many political denominations, and loves each and every one of those friends and relatives. We're talking about hiking here, people, so simmer down. I'm equally exasperated with all politicians right now.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Their Real Opponent

The winner of five gold medals
Even discounting the age differences it would not be hard to tell the Senior Olympics in which my father was competing from the Olympics that we watch every four years. There is the crowd, for example, which comprises a handful of spouses and adult children of the competitors rather than a world-wide television audience.

And there are the body markings. Unlike their younger counterparts these swimmers are not tattoed with sharks or Olympic rings or inspirational phrases. Their markings have come from lifetimes of wearing their bodies: At least half of the men bear a thin white line down the center of their chests where their sternums were split for open heart surgery. (My father acquired his scar in 1996.) Others have curving lines where knees were replaced, and one man's stomach obviously has been opened for some kind of repair.

The freestyle was one of the five races in which my father competed, and in this race was a man who was shaped just like Michael Phelps will be shaped when he is 60 years old. A head taller than anyone else, with long arms and broad shoulders, and a nose that plows through the water like a rudder. I learned later than he is the national age-group champion in several of the events, and he conducted himself like a champion--he blasted off the starting platform and didn't come up for air until he was halfway down the 25-meter lane. He finished the 50-yard race in something like 32 seconds.

My 86-year-old dad, on the other hand, starts the race in the water, pushing off from the side of the pool. He breathes with every stroke and his finishing time is somewhere around 1 minute 20 seconds.

But Dad wasn't racing the younger, taller guy. He was racing time. The doctor had told him, back in 1996, that he would need to exercise to overcome his genetic predisposition that had led to quintuple bypass and that if he wanted to extend his lifespan he would need to be conscientious about this commitment. So every day, in a community pool for which he helped raise the funds, my father goes through his five races. The 50-yard freestyle. The 100-yard freestyle. The 50-yard breast stroke. The 50-yard backstroke. The 100-yard backstroke. It is hard work; he has never been able to float so if he stops moving forward he sinks like a rock.

Yesterday, I called these senior Olympians valiant liars for their insistence that they are just doing this for fun. In one way they are, because without exception are all competitive enough that winning is fun for them. But they're also doing this because they are racing the clock and when they climb out of the pool to the dry towel that's waiting, they have beaten more than the competitors in the surrounding lanes.

They've beaten the years and the creaky bodies that don't always cooperate, and the crowds are applauding this accomplishment as much as they are marveling at the five gold medals in five races.

They are winners, and they are awesome.