Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Isn't Today Friday?

The day is only a few hours old but already at least half a dozen times I've found myself thinking "Hey! It's Friday!" Having Christmas break begin on Wednesday is about as wonderful as wonderful can be, seeing that it makes for a two-day work week.

And for everyone whose Christmas break begins tomorrow night at midnight and lasts exactly 24 hours, well, I'm really sorry. Truly. Having a 12-month contract in a nine-month work environment makes me appreciate how irritating it is when people around you are all WHOOPEEEE! about leave time that I don't have, but then I go and do it myself when it's time for the extended Christmas break many of us get in academia. It's like driving a Ford when you're surrounded by Cadillac owners, but forgetting that most people in the world drive Kias.

Yup. Most tortured analogy ever.

Anyway, in the spirit of thinking that today's Friday, I have a couple of orts to share. The first concerns the enormous box sitting just inside the front door. Want to know what was in the box pictured above that showed up on our porch a week ago?

Fifteen pint jars. That's what was in this container so large it would not fit through most of the doors in our house.

World Market, you get the 2014 Overpacking Award, although in your defense all of the jars arrived intact.

I leave you today with a Christmas story from Husband, who is still discovering things about me after 31 years of marriage. He was wrapping gifts last night when he mentioned that he had read yesterday's post in which I mentioned he was the gift-wrapper in the family.

"I didn't really intend to become the gift-wrapper in the family," he said, "but you are just so BAD at it." Then he looked at me to see if I had been insulted.

Insulted? I don't think so. Just surprised it took him 31 years to uncover my devious plan to make sure the job of wrapping didn't end up on my to-do list.

Mwahahaha, and merry Christmas Eve Eve!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Now, Not Then

Okay, next year at Thanksgiving dinner, I want someone to walk up to me and say "It doesn't all have to be done now."

That's because every. single. year I go into a Christmas panic on approximately Nov. 27.

I'll never get everything done! There's too too much! This year Christmas will be RUINED by my ineptitude!

What I forget is that as I panic in late November, I have three whole weeks plus four days in which to get the things done that I want done before Christmas. Everything doesn't have to be done before December starts.

In the past several days I've made great progress on my to-do list. Tree up and living room completely covered in festivity? Check. Finish knitting the rice-bag-friendly mitts for the wonderful co-workers in my office? Check. Host office party? Check. Rustle up a white elephant gift for my women's group party? Check. Discuss Christmas shopping with Husband and split up the actual shopping? Check. Shop? Check. Order Christmas cards and write Christmas letter? Check, with the proof that the graphic today is on the letter. The cards themselves will be in the mail before Thursday.

And because Husband is in charge of the wrapping in our family (did I find a rare one one or what?) my to-do's are down to baking peppernuts and weaving in the yarn ends on one final knitting project.

Everything did not need to be done by the time I first panicked about the mountain of tasks that were standing between me and Christmas. Everything had to be done now, and everything pretty much is done. The first wave of Boys arrives tonight, and I'm ready. I've even had enough time to take recuperation soup to a friend who had surgery last week.

It's a Christmas miracle.

Friday, December 19, 2014

No One Is Luckier

I have held jobs and had bosses since I was 14 years old. During these 36 years and dozen or so jobs, I can honestly say I have never had a bad boss. All have been smart, ethical, talented people who have mentored and nurtured me professionally and personally.

For the past 16 years I've had the same boss, and this week he announced he will be leaving Small College for a new challenge. This boss has been particularly fine and has both supported me and pushed me to succeed when I didn't have the self-confidence to push myself. He is smart and funny and likes words, which is the highest compliment I can give. The news that he is leaving makes me terribly sad, but because I have had good bosses all my life, I am hopeful that the person who replaces him also will be inspiring and ethical.

I have been a boss for those 16 years and during that time I have unfailingly had people working for me who inspire and challenge me, and make our school (and our department, and me) look good.

Yesterday we had our staff Christmas party at the House on the Corner. We ate soup and swapped recipes and played the most raucous game of Apples to Apples ever--I laughed until my ribs hurt. I really like these people I work with.

Lots of us love our families and spend our personal hours with folks who fill our hearts. But how many of us also spend our professional hours with folks who make us better at our jobs and (even more important) make us better human beings? Only the very lucky do this.

No one is luckier than I.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Cross This One Off the List

The very last post I made here talked about hooow muuuuuch I had to do in the next few weeks, and how very buuuuuusy I am, and how tooooo muuuuuch my life is right now. So what did I do the next day? I let someone tag me with the black-and-white Facebook photo challenge.

I know! I'm an idiot, because have I mentioned I'm busy? (Also kind of in denial that Christmas is happening, but that's an entirely different problem.)

And there is the issue with photography, namely that I am really, really bad at it. Around my office I'm the designated Photo Nazi because I'm just dandy at arranging large groups of people so that everyone can be seen, and you in the red sweater, please make sure you can see the photographer or you will not be in the photo. Also, young lady, whoever told you that sticking out your butt and bust and putting your hand on your hip is super-sexy? That person lied to you, and cut it out right now.

So I'm pretty good at arranging photo shots mostly because I'm mean. But when it comes to taking pictures? Not so much. The only C I ever received in a class IN MY ENTIRE LIFE came in my college photography class. It wrecked both my grade point average and my ego, and made me hate photography.

But with today's new point-and-shoot cameras (also known as my phone) I always believe I am a photographer, and when friend M. challenged me to post five black-and-white photos on my Facebook page, I though "What fun! I'm so artistic! I'm a photographer!"

Yup. Wrong on all three counts.

This morning as I left for work I tried to figure out what artsy-looking subject I could shoot in black and white. Last night we had a big wind and all the autumn leaves finally dropped off the trees (I guess fall is over). The sweetgum tree in the back yard was left with only its gumballs clinging to the branches.

Ooooh! Artistic!

I switched on the black-and-white app on my phone, shot a few of the lonely-looking gumballs, looked at the results, and realized that for me the challenge was over. The lighting is wonky, the gumballs are out of focus, there is no real point of attention, and the whole thing is kind of a muddy-looking mess. I'm out of my talent depth, and this is me throwing in the towel on worrying about shooting artsy photograph.

Sorry to bail on you, M., but it's Christmas. I have 99 things to do and black-and-white photography just stopped being one of them.

I feel merrier already.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Friday Orts and a Blurb

Not much new around the House on the Corner this week (except, of course, for the sewer line, which probably doesn't need a post of its own). I've been preoccupied sending the Boys and Husband photo texts with the caption "CHRISTMAS IS HERE!" or "READY FOR SANTA!"

Even while I'm trying not to think about how much I have yet to do in the next (ohmigosh) 13 days I'm loving the season this year. Last weekend Husband was at a conference so I did my gussying up of the living room, which is the one room in the house I decorate. To those of you who have trees in every room and special holiday Kleenex box covers, I have only one warning: Santa hates overachievers. Just sayin'.

Anyway, it's fun to put the wooden soldiers and Annoying Rudolph under the tree. The wooden soldiers are a set we found in a Mexican market for $3 when Boy#4 was an infant, and I am absolutely patting myself on the back that they are all still with us. It's probably because I'm suspicious they're painted with toxic paint so every time a child went near them I shrieked. It was quite effective as aversion therapy. The Annoying Rudolph, on the other hand, was practically loved to death. He was a Christmas gift from grandparents, as most completely annoying toys are, and when batteries are inserted he "walks" and bobs his head and plays "Jingle Bells" in the most grating e-music imaginable. Fortunately, we rarely had batteries in the house so he survived to become a tradition.

My list of items that must be done before Christmas is down to, well, just about everything that was originally on it. I still have peppernuts to bake, Christmas letter to write (in case there is anyone in the world on whom I have not yet inflicted this blog ), 14 knitting projects to finish, a party to host, and all of the presents in the world to buy.

I am surprisingly sanguine about trying to fit this ton of work into the 10-pound sack of time I have left.

These only have five ingredients
And for today's blurb:

My Free Space group had a cookie exchange Wednesday, and I used the occasion to make a recipe from my favorite cooking blog, Gimme Some Oven. Ali promised that her chocolate chip meringue cookies were "simple to make, super delicious, and only 35 calories each!"

She did not lie: They are, indeed, simple to make and super delicious. I'm going to take her word on the 35 calories part, because she is a Small College graduate and truthiness is something we stress here. The best part about this recipe is that you put the entire batch in the oven at once, then walk away and let them cook for half an hour and cool for half an hour in the oven, rather than being at the beck and call of the timer while you're scurrying around trying to find the beautiful Christmas sweater you wear to this party every year.

Be aware, though, that if you try to sneak-eat a cookie before the exchange and you are in a hurry, it may explode and you might end up with cookie crumbs IN YOUR HAIR that someone will have to pull out when you get to the meeting, and instead of looking like a sophisticated Christmas-sweater-bedecked party-goer you will look like a monkey being groomed.

Not that this would ever happen to me.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Downside of Being Grown Up

Photo courtesy of Husband
Sometimes being a grown-up is not all that wonderful.

Today, for example, I am sitting at my desk at work getting ready to proofread while out back of the House on the Corner there are machines! And digging! And piles of dirt!

Twenty years ago I would have been parked on a blanket just west of the scene above, surrounded by four little boys bundled into their winter parkas and gloves and with hats pulled clear down to their excited blue eyes.

We loved machines and digging, and excavation of the nearly century-old sewer lines next to the garage would have called for a day of sidewalk supervision from the Boys while I reiterated the blanket boundaries and tried to keep them corralled. I would have been irritated at the tree roots that threatened the smooth operation of our plumbing, but (much like a good kindergarten Christmas party) the disruption would be a small price to pay for the thrilling spectacle.

But the Boys have grown up and are scattered around four states and instead of seeing the work being done in person, we're all getting text photos updates from Husband every few minutes--they've discovered an old gas line! And now city workers are coming by to make sure it isn't active! Such excitement!

I miss seeing the world through the eyes of little Boys. I'm glad I still have a big Boy on the scene.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Universe Loves Me!

This is the time of the year when I schedule all of my routine maintenance physicals. I am checked and questioned, poked and prodded, my tires kicked and my fluid levels checked to ensure that I am roadworthy for another year.

This morning I had a fasting blood draw to make sure my tendency toward low thyroid levels is being adequately medicated.

I do not like fasting blood draws. Not at all. And it is not because they're painful (my doctor's aide kicks all sorts of butt when it comes to painless procedures), it's because of cofffffeeeeee.

My name is MomQueenBee and I am a coffee addict. By 8 a.m., when the draw was scheduled, my brain already has been waiting for its triple shot cappuccino for 90 minutes (no, I'm not kidding) and is beginning to nudge my forehead with its give-me-caffeine-NOW sledgehammer.

Within seconds of when I checked out of the doctor's office I was on the way to McDonald's where I ordered a senior coffee (two creams) and a healthy bowl of oatmeal. When I got back to the office, though, I opened the to-go sack to find my order had apparently been switched with the order of the oilfield roughneck in the truck behind me.

It's way too far to drive clear back to McDonald's to correct the mistake (19 blocks, which in Small Town metrics means you practically need a passport to get there) so I laid the Sausage McGriddles and hashbrowns out on my desk to make a decision on whether I should go ahead and eat the roughneck's breakfast or go across the street to the House on the Corner to make my own bowl of oatmeal.

The decision-making process lasted less than a second, then I laughed heartily and tucked in because McGriddles are delicious.

Obviously the Universe loves me today, and who am I to turn down this kind of gift, even if this coffee was lacking its two creams?

Thanks, Universe. It was yummy.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Friday Orts and a Blurb

I start off today with a picture of the culinary centerpiece of the Best Day of the Year to remind myself it was only one week ago today that we were more stuffed than this turkey and hoping to never eat again, and yet...and yet...this morning Husband asked me if I remembered the last time I cooked a meal.

It was Tuesday. Okay? Tuesday. And I'm not ashamed to admit it. It's a busy time, okay?


But hey, here you are, Christmas! I'm decked out in a new Christmas sweater and candy cane earrings, wearing these age-appropriate seasonal indicators proudly and unironically.

Look for it here
And speaking of Christmas, this nifty gift suggestion came across my Amazon deal feed yesterday. It is a Smart Toothbrush.

You did not misunderstand me. This toothbrush, which is used to brush your teeth, is "the world's first toothbrush of its kind with Bluetooth communication between brush and smartphone."

I don't want to be cast as the Luddite of oral care, but really? I need my phone to tell me if I'm brushing my teeth right? I can just channel my old mother-of-young-boys voice for that.

It's here
Instead of buying that toothbrush, save your money for this gizmo. Of all the Friday blurbs I have written, this is perhaps the most enthusiastic and thumbs-uppy.

While the Boys were home they muscled the Christmas decorations down from the attic and Monday night I put on John Rutter's Christmas album and began to decorate. I was all wishing-me-a-merry-Christmas until I plugged in our pre-lit tree and it did not. Of the multiple strands of lights on the tree, only two actually lit. The rest mocked me as I checked each individual bulb for nearly two hours, then mocked Husband for about the same amount of time as he took over the task. I may or may not have done a fair amount of cousin cussin' ("DADGUMMIT! CRAPOLA!")" during this time, which does not add to the sacred spirit of the season.

It was then that we turned the great knower of all things for help. Google "how to get a pre-lit tree to light" and you will find a YouTube video on the LightKeeper Pro. This gun-shaped thingamajig plugs into a bulb socket of a strand that is kaputt and magically bypasses the dead bulbs that are kaputt-ing the strand. Then the strand lights up and it's easy to find and replace the dead bulbs.

Husband dashed to Big Box Store, plunked down his $20, brought the nifty red gun back to the House on the Corner and plugged it into one of the dark stripes on the tree.

And lo, the skies opened and the angels sang.

Within half an hour the entire tree was glowing, even the strand that never worked last year. Thanks to the LightKeeper Pro, we will have Christmas.

God bless us, every one.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

My New Tagline

Husband is always on the look-out for ways to make visits to his office more appealing, even though I've told him over and over "Honey, that's really not necessary--people just LOVE to visit their accountant."

Nonetheless, he persists. The magazines in his waiting room are never more than a few weeks old, his assistant has standing instructions to keep every speck of dust at bay, and kids know exactly where wooden puzzles are kept. He has lovingly assembled his office furniture from antique and family pieces that offer a warm welcome to the receipt-bearers.

Husband's newest find is an antique candy vending machine. He'll put it out with a bowl of pennies for clients who need to sweeten financial verdicts with a handful of M&M's. It arrived at the House on the Corner this week and while my CPA was delighted with the old-timey look it will add to his workspace, he was not so pleased with the condition of the eBay-ed find: The paint is slightly chipped on the back and the green undercoat shows through just a little.

"But it's vintage!" I told him. "It's not supposed to be perfect. You did want vintage, didn't you?"

He gave me his best we've-been-married-31-years-and-you-still-don't-know-me look.

"Of course I wanted vintage, but I wanted it to be perfect."

Oh, people. Is that not the sweetest thing you've ever heard? I can read his mind perfectly, and obviously he was thinking of his wife when he put those two descriptors together: Vintage but perfect.

All you single ladies, take note. Accountants not only make the best husbands, they write your blog taglines for you.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Thanksgiving by the Numbers

My dad and one of his newest and greatest great- granddaughters
For every successful holiday gathering, you need a number of things. In fact, you need numbers of things. Here's a run-down of our numbers:

Ages: Oldest  (almost 88) to remind us where our family came from, and youngest (almost four months) to remind us where it's heading. The future is pure cuteness.

Temperature: A Thanksgiving-ish 40s. Poor Baby's First Thanksgiving already is a tough kid, but her little tootsies were chilly by the time we finished taking pictures.

Dinner rolls: I've done the math several times, and it appears I baked (caution: math ahead) [(recipe x 4) + recipe x 3)] x 64 rolls per recipe =  448 rolls between Wednesday and Friday. As of last night, there are none left.

Turkeys: The human kind, of which we had 28.

Turkeys: The fowl kind, of which we had three.

Pies (pumpkin and pecan): One dozen. For 28 people. I believe you can do the math here. Much Older Sister is the pie maven of the family and spent Best Day of the Year Eve in the kitchen, bless her.

Potatoes: 20 pounds (Yukon gold) mashed; 12 pounds (sweet) casseroled.

Kinds of dressing: Two, giblet-ed and non-giblet-ed.

Number of people eating giblet-ed dressing: One! It's MINE! ALL MINE! MWAHAHAHA!

People missing who should have been here: Seven (nephew with temperature of 103 plus his not-yet-ill family). Also a brother and other nieces and nephews we don't count in the missing because they knew in advance they weren't coming, but we missed them anyway.

Dearly missed: My mom, the original and still the best roll-maker of the family. My mother-in-law, who would have made short work of decorating the tables.

Days until the next Best Day of the Year: Too many.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Ye Thankful People

Lovely Girl, #1, #4, #2, #3.
I've adapted pretty well to the empty nest, wouldn't you say? You don't see me being all boo-hoo-I-miss-my-babies very often, do you?

But last week, when it looked as if Boy#4's work schedule was going to keep him in Texas for the Best Day of the Year rather than in the House on the Corner, I suddenly realized I was homesick. I missed the general chaos that defines the home of four boys. I missed the Friends of Boys who ring the doorbell at all hours of the day and night. (Well, not the morning hours, but all the rest of the hours.) I missed the piles of shoes everywhere, and the total inability to keep milk and Diet Dr. Pepper in sufficient supply. I missed the talk about football and politics, and the arguments over whether Two is still taller than Four.

I missed my Boys and Lovely Girl.

I missed them so much that you may have seen me wiping away a couple of errant tears during my morning walk, all the while telling myself how blessed we are that they are all in good places, even if those places aren't Small Town.

Then, when Four unexpectedly was able to get the holiday off and drove seven hours to surprise his brothers Wednesday afternoon, you may have seen another teardrop or two fall during the bear hugs and shouts. (What? I am not made of stone.)

During the days when the Boys were little I remember occasionally being tempted to swing my arms, just to clear a space around me where no one was touching or clinging and keeping me immobile. I didn't clear out that space, of course, because being within touching distance is part of being a mother. But the memory made me laugh last week as I found myself reaching out for a quick hug or to touch an arm. I had come full circle; now I was the one needing physical reassurance that my loved ones were within arm's length.

For three full days the nest was full again, and it was lovely.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

House Hunting Under the Influence of a Migraine

Yesterday was the day I was supposed to be frantically cleaning the House on the Corner in gleeful anticipation of the arrival of four generations of family and friends for Best Day of the Year festivities. Instead, I spent the day shuffling between the bed and the couch and the recliner battling The Bear.

But that's okay! Because as long as there are four generations of family and friends around I don't care if the house is clean, and the Boys tell me that as long as there are homemade rolls and green bean casserole it's a great holiday dinner. (Did I raise them right or what?)

Being incapacitated meant I could spend the ENTIRE DAY in the company of House Hunters. This HGTV show is the perfect companion to a migraine, since it has enough plot to keep me mildly interested but so little plot, really, that if I slept for an hour or two I could pick up where I left off  uninterrupted.  Oddly enough, after eight solid hours of listening to entitled young professionals criticize perfectly lovely houses as if they were manure-daub huts, I have Opinions.

Allow me to share those Opinions:

1. If you are going to live somewhere, you may express your thoughts about certain aspects of a property, but your opinion does not have actual weight unless that aspect is in your bucket of responsibilities. For example, you may really really want a huge back yard with lots of trees and you may look up at your mate with puppy dog eyes and wax eloquent about the childhood memories you wish you could have made in a back yard but couldn't because you lived in a high-rise apartment, but you know good and well that your mate HATES yardwork and is seeing every one of those millions of leaves as a tiny little link in a chain that will bind his weekends in drudgery. If this is the case, back off. This is his call. On the other hand, if you have always dreamed of a kitchen so efficient you can touch both sides of it just by stretching out your arms, but you aren't actually the cook who will be preparing Thanksgiving dinner for four generations of friends and family and trying to figure out where to put the dadgummed turkey because the one tiny square of counter space has been claimed by the potato masher, it is your turn to back off.

2. If you are 22 years old and are starting a business in a foreign country, even if you have ALWAYS DREAMED of having a perfect view of The Arches in Los Cabos, do not exceed your budgeted $1,500 monthly rent by $400 to ensure you get those views. Really. Do not. Because not only are you a jerk (seriously, give those extra $400 to a Mexican family that could live on it for a month), you are an expat jerk who is giving all of the rest of us who live up north a terrible reputation, and I hate you.

3. In the grand scheme of things, really? You are staking your happiness on Italian Carrera marble countertops, and are willing to go over budget to have those countertops? Even though you didn't even have a house inspection that would have revealed criminally dangerous wiring and that a previous remodeler had CUT THE CEILING SUPPORT JOISTS to install (not up-to-code) plumbing? You would rather have those countertops than fix that support joist? Well, huh.

Seeing the picky and the whiny and the unpleasant who haunted my migraine-plagued day yesterday made me look around at our creaky old House on the Corner with new eyes. It doesn't have marble countertops or travertine tile, but today it has Boys sleeping in the upstairs bedrooms and roll dough rising on the Formica countertops.

Best house ever.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Friday Orts and a Blurb

Just a few leftovers this week while I'm working on today's deadline, the meeting of which will free me to concentrate on anticipation of the Best Day of the Year! Yay! The turkey is already defrosting in the House on the Corner.

So, what is that in the trunk of the car we rented during our North Carolina vacation? It is every single disposable grocery bag Boy#2 had collected since he moved into his apartment there more than three years ago.

No, I am not kidding.

His place seemed twice as large once we took them all to the Kroger recycling bin.

Husband's big question of the week was whether I'm going to change the paragraph on my blog template that describes me as "fifty-something." Sad trombone accompanies my decision that I probably will.

Then this morning, after I had sent a sheetcake to his meeting last night, one of the participants texted him that it was delicious--"it's one of my favorites and always reminds me of my beloved aunt."

That description has talcum powder sprinkled all over it.

Finally a blurb worth blurbing!

In my Dessert Disasterpalooza over the last few weeks, I needed egg yolks for the chocolate filling of the German Chocolate pies. I'm kind of a klutz when it comes to separating eggs, so I tried this method:

Oh, my gosh! The heavens parted and the angels sang. So easy, so mess-free, so wonderful.

I wasn't brave enough to try the six-eggs-in-ten-seconds brag from the video, but maybe next time I will.

A dozen eggwhite-free thumbs way, way up.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

I Am Her Biggest Fan

Thank you, SB, for the picture. 
Ann Lamott doesn't know who I am. 

I know pretty much every detail about her life: That she's 60 years old. That she has dreadlocks. That she was a self-described mess of an alcoholic when she converted to Christianity 29 years ago. That she gained her sobriety 28 years ago. That she writes about the life of the soul so beautifully and simply I must weep while I read her books. 

She knows nothing about me, so last night when I heard her talk I wanted to tell her about me. That she is the person I want to be when I grow up, except without the alcoholism and single parenthood (and, frankly, the dreads). 

My friend who loves Ann's books as much as I do sat beside me and I glanced over at her often as Ann talked about grace and grief and joy and our broken world. This friend had the perfect description for the Ann's talk--cranky, quirky, lovely, honest and earnest. The author is in the middle of her book tour, and she was sick, hates the cold, and had just come from Denver where the altitude gave her headaches. And still, she radiated the holiness she has touched. Wearing a t-shirt and jeans, she teased that she had put on make-up and her cute glasses for us.

She repeated her most famous belief about grace--“I do not understand the mystery of grace -- only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us.” She told her own story, of how she was welcomed into a tiny congregation when she was still a mess, and that the congregants didn't try to fix her, they simply said "Me, too." She talked about her writing process, and how she never, ever wants to sit down and write but she does sit down and write every single day and that in that habit the creative pull ("or the Holy Spirit") sparks ideas that make their way into her books. 

After an hour, talking without notes, she took questions. The final question was "What do you think God is going to say when you meet face to face?"

She straightened the sweater she had thrown over her shoulders and paused. Then she leaned into the microphone. "I think God's going to say to me, 'You. Are. Amazing.'" Then she grinned. "Then He'll say, 'Now there are a few things we need to talk about...but you. are. amazing.'"

When it was my turn to have my book signed I wanted to say something that would let Ann Lamott know how inspirational her work has been to me. I wanted to tell her that I've repeated her method for discerning the will of God to each of my Boys. I want her to know that I've muttered "bird by bird" hundreds of times as I've sat down to write a story that isn't working. Instead I stammered like a tween at a One Direction meet-up. 

"Would you...thank...favorite...an honor to meet you." 

Ann Lamott smiled at me with her tired eyes, and signed my book, then posed for a snapshot.

She knows nothing about me but I'm her biggest fan. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

As a Cook I'm Self-Delusional

A Family Feast is a better cook than MomQueenBee.
A week ago today I was scheduled to be the co-hostess for one of the women's groups I belong to. This means that I don't have to clean house or stress over whether the coffee is strong enough, all I have to do is bring a dessert to keep the natives from getting restless during the business meeting.

I don't make many desserts, now that it's just Husband and me splitting up all of those extra calories, but I am incapable of passing up food porn so I pin the recipes instead. Pumpkin Cheesecake, Peanut Butter Torte, Chocolate Lasagne, an embarrassment of richness all waiting for me on Pinterest when my turn to co-hostess comes around. It's just a matter of choosing which delectable treat to put out on the little plates.

Last Tuesday I decided on the German Chocolate Pie. A tantalizing picture of this had been posted by several of my friends, and who doesn't like Germans and chocolate and pie?


Except that the crust was terrible, and the chocolate layer was hard and the coconut layer was sticky and I was hugely relieved when the speaker cancelled and the meeting was postponed a week and I could dump both pies into the trash.

So for tonight's meeting I chose a different recipe, this one a Toffee Pecan Bundt Cake that its inventor (a food blogger) described as foolproof and delicious. Surely even I couldn't mess up this droolworthy confection.

Judge for yourself:

 Are you drooling?


Monday, November 17, 2014

Standing on Another Step

I had a birthday Saturday, and it was a big one.

I know, I know, once you stop counting age in months (and that should occur at approximately 18 months of age) every birthday is a big one, but this was a really big one in that my new age ends in a zero. That makes everyone do a nudge-nudge/wink-wink when they talk about the day, as if life is is measured on a series of seven or eight or nine huge steps, rather than seventy or eighty or ninety smaller steps that really look more like a slope.

This was the year that I hoisted myself up onto the 60 step, and full disclosure, I was taken a little aback by that ginormous leap.

Doesn't 60 sound old? It does. And while I'm in full agreement that 60 is the new 39, it still is...60. That's the age my middle school math teacher was when we called her "Old Miss Matheis" and thought we were being charitable by not calling her "Dead Miss Matheis." That's the age at which female movie stars have officially had so much work done that their faces don't resemble their names any more.

It is 60, and it is old.

In fact I went to bed Friday night sporting a little bit of an attitude. Husband and I had planned to meet Much Older Sister and her husband for lunch on Saturday but the snow that was forecast at the meeting place exactly halfway between where we each live scuttled that idea. None of the Boys would be home, and while that wasn't unexpected, I knew that Husband was fretting that he wasn't doing enough to CELEBRATE. (For my 40th birthday he arranged the biggest surprise party ever pulled off, and for my 50th he took me to Costa Rica for the weekend. Oh, yeah, the bar was high for decade celebrations.)

But in the wee hours of Saturday morning I woke up with the clarity of thought that only comes in the wee hours: This could very well be the best decade of my life. I have amazing family who love me, and friends who absolutely pickle me in joy. The Boys and Lovely Girl all are in good spots, which is a rare thing to be able to say for such a diverse herd. (Usually there's at least one who is underemployed or under-romanced or whatever.) Husband and I, thank you God, have each other and good health.

A few hours later I crawled out of my warm bed and made my morning cappuccino. Then I sat, in my ratty chenille robe, with an afghan over my lap in my favorite recliner, alternately reading a good book and drifting off to sleep for the next four hours. Over the course of the weekend Husband and I had meals with two of our very favorite sets of friends, I bought yarn, and I heard from dozens and dozens of people who love me to varying degrees, each of whom I cherish. As an eye-roller who had always thought Facebook birthday wishes were hokey, I found myself getting misty as I read through the lovely/funny/touching comments, some from people I've known pretty much for all 60 years of my life and some whom I've met in this very space.

The Boys called on a conference call and I remembered how much fun it is when they're all being idiots and talking over each other and we made plans for The Best Day of the Year which is coming up in less than two weeks.

And then, to put the maraschino cherry on top of this birthday Sunday of brilliance, I WORE A GIANT SOMBRERO! Oh, yes, I did. And the Mexican restaurant's wait staff "sang" a song to me in Spanish, a song of which I understood not a word even though I speak that language. (I believe I was distracted by the guitar, which until moments earlier had been wall decor and had not been tuned since...ever.)

I had never before worn a giant sombrero and been "sung" to on my birthday, even though I've had a whole passel of birthdays. It was lovely, and symbolic of other milestones that are still to be conquered.

I'm pretty sure--being old is going to be okay. I'm going to like standing on this new step.

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Wind's in the East

The view just outside my office when I got to work this morning. Ahhhh, Kansas.

I have a well-documented and too-often expressed hatred of Daylight Stupid Time because it is stupid and makes me feel logy and unproductive for several months of the year. There is, however, one lovely advantage of this atrocity: The skies over Kansas, which normally are lovely, elevate their status to breath-taking just during the hours I'm most apt to be in transit.

Sunrises and sunsets painted from an extravagant palette, bracketing blue skies filled with clouds so perfect they look as if they were painted by Bob Ross.

Okay, hold up just a second, MomQueenBee. What the heck kind of sentence was that? It's the kind of sentence that makes perfect sense when you're walking around the block in the morning, a sentence so wonderfully descriptive that surely the angels will sing when they read it.

It's the kind of sentence that accompanies the fleeting thought "The wind's in the east, there's a mist coming in, like something is brewin', about to begin," and makes me wonder whether this evocative sentiment was versed by Longfellow or by Keats or by Robert Burns.

But then I remember that I actually know all the words to this verse so it couldn't be an actual poet who said them, and it strikes me: This verse was intoned by the well-known philosopher Bert the Chimney Sweep in Mary Poppins.

So, I'll just say that it's a beautiful day in Kansas with the wind from the east.

Bert and I wish you a wonderful Friday, with whatever's brewin' being a lovely cup of tea and good book to go with the blizzard that's forecast for tonight.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Cooling Off Period With Interruption

The weather in Small Town went from 70 to (almost) 0 in less than a couple of hours a few days ago. It was like a Lamborghini drag racing backwards into a freezer, and it has left me with a hitch in my get-along. I'm usually a pretty good walker, thanks to my morning obsession routine of exercise. But now? I have this painful click in my left hip that makes me walk like Grandpa McCoy (see video above).

It is not at all an attractive look, which as I watched that intro was exactly the opposite of what Richard Krenna had during the McCoys's glory years. That would have been, according to IMDB, in 1957, which means....

Holy cow!

We interrupt this blog post for an earthquake! In case anyone from California is reading this, I won't complain too much because really, it was just a little tremor in the grand scheme of things. But it doesn't seem quite fair that now Kansas is having tornadoes AND earthquakes.

Compared to the one that rolled Husband and me out of bed in Costa Rica a decade ago, this was pretty tame, but earthquake! In Kansas!

How can we blame this on Oklahoma?

Friday, November 7, 2014

Friday Orts and a Blurb

I would like to promise that this will be the final picture from our October vacation, but I cannot make promises I know in advance I will break. Still, how sweet is this shot of Boy#2 being kissed by a bear? And not just any bear, a Bearfootin' Bear of Hendersonville. We happened to be in town the day they auctioned off these ursine adorabilities, and naturally that reminded me of the question that has plagued mankind since the beginning of time: What good is having a blog if you can't use it to embarrass your children?

Speaking of the vacation, lovely reader Viviane had a question following one of the countless We Rode a Train! entries. I quote: "American trains have showers????" Yes! Yes, they do, although the showers are only open to the sleeper car folks, because when you have a ROOMETTE you are exceedingly special. The showers were surprisingly spacious and there was plenty of hot water and lots of towels, so A+ for Amtrak showers in spite of the whoops! moment that occurs when the train goes around a curve unexpectedly.

I haven't figured out how to adequately annotate the word ROOMETTE. Is all caps enough? Or should I figure out some kind of fancy hieroglyph to indicate my appreciation of the mirth that word produces in me? Every single time I write it I'm pretty much this:
The blurb this week is for a recipe that is from a Betty Crocker cookbook I received as a wedding present. (Well, I guess it was actually to both Husband and me, but I am the one who has spilled ingredients all over its pages for 30 years.)

Two had a couple of culinary requests in return for his giving up his bed to aging parents and sleeping on the couch for a solid week--bierocks and molasses crinkles. So while he was at work one day I made use of every pan in his bachelor kitchen and filled his freezer.

I was reminded again that molasses crinkles are pretty darned good, especially if you undercook them just a tad and have a glass of cold milk standing by when they are (barely) cool enough to eat.

If you only have one recipe in your repertoire, make it this one--so easy, so delicious.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

A Rose in November

Please forgive the blurry picture. It was early.

Living in this country is an amazing privilege, isn't it? 

Tuesday's election has caused about as much anguish in Kansas as any I can remember. We Sunflower Staters were deeply divided, and I've never seen so much dirt being flung. Nearly all of the races that counted were close so about half of the voters were terribly sad on Wednesday morning.

But as I made my cool-down lap around the block after my pre-dawn exercise bike time, I noticed this remarkable sight: Growing out of the honeysuckle bush that's diagonally across the block from the House on the Corner is a rose.

It is November in Kansas, and that rose is still blooming. 

In spite of the chilly weather, in spite of what is obviously the wrong season for roses, in spite of, well, EVERYTHING, this rose has defiantly survived and bloomed. 

Democracy is a funny thing. We vote, then either we rejoice or we despair. It's woo! or woe! every time we leave the ballot box. But (as our dining companions on The Great Train Ride pointed out), we are Americans, and Americans adapt. 

We do our best, and we listen to each other, and we support our views with fervor, and then no matter what the outcome we adapt and thrive.

We are roses in November. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

At Home in North Carolina

Lest you think that all we did on vacation was ride on the train, let me assure you that is not true: We also stayed in a house. I promise that I will not take you through the same kind of minute-by-minute commentary on our three nights in this house that I dragged you through behind our train, but this experience also was a first for us.

No, no, no. We have stayed in a house before (and if you thought we were yurt-dwelling Kazakhs, you may be new to this blog). This was the first time, though, that we have rented a house sight unseen from a vacation rental company and you may be wondering what this is like.

Well, first of all, if you end up renting this particular house, be sure you have Boy#2 available to drive you up the mountain. He is an unerring navigator, unlike his mother who was safely stashed in the back seat of the rental car where she could do the least harm to chances of arriving at our actual destination instead of in another state.

You will hit the road for the four-hour trip after Two gets off work, and drive for miles and miles in the dark, but then you will arrive at a red house clinging to the side of a mountain and the porch light will be on and the key will be in the mailbox:
Photo taken in daylight. The porch light was not this bright.
You will be very, very tired and will drag your heavy suitcases into the house prepared for almost any kind of disrepair and/or nastiness, but instead of disrepair and nastiness you will find this:
Fresh flowers and books everywhere, plus quirky decorating choices that will make your face smile and your heart sing. 

When it turns out that the house owners live right next door and that he was a college professor (in computer science) and she was one of the very first Peace Corps volunteers (in Colombia, in 1964) and that they love a country diner breakfast almost as much as you do, you will know you have found your people here in the mountains.

So you spend three days tooling around the area and come back  each night to World Series baseball and cheering on the Royals (we still love you!) with these guys, 
and you will know that there is no place like home, and that home is where your heart is, and that for these three days, your heart is right here. 

It's good to be home.

Monday, November 3, 2014

We Rode a Train! (Part 3)

So, when we left off I was whining about the Amtrak roomette being tooooo tiiiiny and tooooo hooooottttt and you would have thought that I hated the whole experience because you do know me. But in point of fact, I loved our 30 hours on the train. Loved them. And here is why:

1. The Scenery. I have very little photographic documentation of how beautiful it was to ride through the northeast in mid-October because in addition to being a terrible photographer I am a slow photographer, and the train waits for no one to frame that one flame-colored tree just perfectly. Plus much of what you see is the backside of America. You are, after all, on the wrong side of the tracks from Main Street, but this is very much the more interesting side. And when you're on the train for 30 hours, you also get to see the outside during all hours of the day and night, which leads me to my next favorite aspect...

2. The Rock-a-bye Baby Effect. Want to sleep more soundly than you have slept since you first heard the word "deadline"? Place yourself in a comfy bed, with darkness and stars just outside that window where you can wake up to see more darkness and stars, then add a swaying train car and the rhythm of the wheels for white noise and you will sleep oh, so soundly. You will, that is, if you have glommed onto the roomette's bottom bunk. The Boys placed bets on who would have the lower bunk and who would have the upper, and quite wisely not one single penny was on Husband for the comfy spot. Husband got the fold-down bed, and his sleeping experience was less than ideal. (His description of "like an MRI without sedation" spoke to both the size and windowless aspect of the coffin-like upper berth.) I, however, woke up to blue skies rushing by outside after some of the best zzzzzzz's I can remember. I did manage to bestir myself in time for breakfast, where we met the third best part of the trip...

3. The People. When you have a sleeper car on Amtrak, all of your meals are included in the (not inconsequential) cost of the trip. However, seating is community style so we had different dining companions at each meal. ("You WILL make a friend" the seating announcement ominously ordered us.) And guess what? We did! The delightful young lady above is Mary, who is a professional storyteller from England. I know! Is that the person you would have thought you would chat with over a Western omelet and sausage? We shared life stories and giggled with her about the biscuits on the breakfast menu (that word means something different entirely in England) and I made her promise she will at least consider visiting Small Town on her grant-funded swing around the colonies. At another meal we shared our booth with newly-met retired companions traveling back to Florida from California. They had accidentally been booked into a roometiny instead of larger accommodations "but we're Americans and Americans adapt so we'll be fine," one said. (I'm making "We're Americans and Americans adapt" my mantra during this election season, by the way.) But the very best part of being on the train was...

4. Nothing at All. What did I like the most? Nothing at all. When you are making airline connections or driving, there are constant decisions. Should we stop here? Is this the right route? Where do you want to eat? When you are on a train these decisions are in someone else's hands, so for hours on end I knit and listened to Madeline L'Engle on an audiobook, with breaks for catnaps and looking out the window. I didn't have to feel guilty about not working (limited internet access) and the most pressing decision I made was whether to shower now or after another nap. Enforced nothingness can get old, but a few days of it was delightful.

So there you have it. We had an uncommonly wonderful trip, with no derailments in spite of my boss's dire predictions. And we had connections scheduled loosely enough that a two-hour delay for heavy freight traffic didn't bother us at all.

Our train trip was heavenly. I can't wait to do it again.

The End

Friday, October 31, 2014

We Rode a Train! (Part 2)

Oh, gosh! I'm so sorry to cause angst by using the horrible To be continued conclusion yesterday. I agree--I HATE cliffhanger blog posts, because they're lazy and manipulative, and while I am definitely the former I do try to not be the latter. But re-entry chaos excuses date night more excuses too rushed to write a short post even more excuses blah blah blah.

When we left off I was discussing my fascination with train travel, which was formed of equal parts 1950s movie musicals and Harry Potter. (I very much hoped we would be taking off from Platform 9 3/4 but we did not.) So imagine my surprise when we had schlepped our (three) suitcases up the tiny winding staircase to Roomette #8 in the upper deck of the sleeping car and found...this.

I shot the photo above from the hallway of the sleeper car. That shiny bar in the lower left corner is the door jamb. I then removed my knitting bag and purse from the recliner and sat down to photographically document the opposite side of the roomette.(Also, is "roomette" the worst made-up word you've ever read? Yes, I thought so.)

This is the interior view of the roomette:
That little floweredy patch at the bottom? Those are my knees, which demonstrates how close the recliners are.

People, this was not a roomette. This was a roometiny. Want to know how not-big it was? Call your significant other into your dining room. That significant other should be at least adult sized. Now climb up on one end of your dining room table, and have your adult significant other climb up on the other end of the table. Be sure your legs are fully inside the boundaries of the table. Now, assuming that your name is not Crawley and that you do not live in Downton Abbey, you are beginning to appreciate how small a roomette actually is.

It is miniscule. And in our case, it was hot, because Chicago had just experienced its first cold day of the year and although the day had warmed up nicely the furnaces were working fine and could not be persuaded to just STOP THAT ALREADY.

So there we were, Husband and I, on my dream trip and already being subjected to things I hate with purple passion--too much small and too much heat. But because I have already made this post way too long and more blah blah excuses for not writing more concisely, I will skip to the end and tell you (spoiler alert):

I loved it. Loved. It.

It was one of my favorite trips I've ever taken, and I've logged a few miles. Rather than make you read any more today, though, I'll just say to come back Monday to find out what was so very cool about this very hot train. And I will leave you with the dreaded

To be continued.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

We Rode a Train! (Part 1)

When the last of the Boys flew the nest Husband and I realized we had entered a new stage of our lives--a stage in which vacations were not planned around school calendars or campus visits, one in which taking time off wasn't geared toward researching how many persons a hotel would allow in a single room and whether a swimming pool was available for working off excess car energy times four.

"So, what would your dream vacation be?" Husband asked me. "A cruise? Europe?"

What popped out of my mouth surprised even me.

"I want to take a train ride to Seattle," I told him.

My imaginary life is populated by my voracious reading and viewing habits, which means that the word "train" conjures up thoughts of Ma Ingalls packing a lunch of fried chicken for Mary to eat as she clickety-clacked her way back to school, or (as I got older) Rock Hudson and Doris Day bouncing all madcap and delightful between sleeper cars. I see train accommodations behind my eyelids and they look something like this:
(Dang it, I cannot figure out how to embed a clip from a YouTube video. Please fast-forward to the 1:00 mark to see what I had anticipated our train car would be.)

So when Husband suggested we take a train to North Carolina to visit Boy#2, I was practically giddy with excitement. Never mind that passenger trains barely come through Kansas, much less through Small Town, so we had to fly to Chicago to catch the Amtrak. Never mind that it would take us 30 hours from Chicago to our destination, which was still an hour-long car ride from Two's apartment. Forget that we would spend the lion's share of the rail time in the dark, which pretty much negates the advantage of being able to watch scenery without worrying about traffic. And disregard the ominous e-mail Amtrak sent us days before our departure warning that heavy freight traffic was delaying arrivals by hours and hours and hey, we hope you don't miss your connecting train!

As we followed the attendant down the Chicago platform to our sleeper car to start our vacation I was grinning like a jack-o-lantern and I turned to share the moment with Husband.

"I'm so excited!" I burbled. "We're going on a TRAIN!"

(To be continued.)

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A New Me

Allow me to introduce the smiling woman in the photo above who should have tucked her shirt in better as she leaned groggily against a handsome man.

That woman is MomQueenBee 1.1.  This version has just returned from an 11-day vacation that included planes, trains, and automobiles. The vacation also included Husband and Boy#2, and astoundingly beautiful scenery and unscheduled days.

You know the vacuous saying that someone is too blessed to be stressed? At the risk of ruining my Pollyanna cred, let me tell you that this is a pile of hooey. I am the most blessed woman in the world, but I still was on the edge of brittle before we left for North Carolina. It had been a very long time since I had a vacation that did not involve moving a son into or out of an apartment, or scrubbing a nasty bathroom in (usually fruitless) hope of a returned cleaning deposit.

MomQueenBee 1.0 was getting just a tetch cranky, as evidenced by the past few posts which were one rant after another.

MomQueenBee 1.0 was worn out, as Husband can attest to by the fact that the words "I'm so tiiiiiiired" have etched permanent scars on his auditory passages. (You have to imagine those words repeated ad infinitum in a grating whine in order to appreciate their corrosive power.)

MomQueenBee 1.0 was sanded down by everyone and everything, to the point that she was waking up in the week hours of the night with gritted teeth having shouted in her dreams at clients who were irritating the bejesus out of her by making reasonable requests.

After a full week and a half of wonderful nothingness except sleep and pampering by Husband and Two, this version of me feels rested for the first time in recent memory. And I came back with stories to tell.

We rode a train! We ate grits! We avoided the Small Town electioneering that has set our teeth on edge!

And the cherry on the top of this sundae of wonderful nothingness has been baseball in October. Take the crown, Royals!

I could get to like MomQueenBee 1.1.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Words Words Words, But Not Here

Look! Cute kids in Halloween costumes!

Are you distracted from the radio silence that has been this blog in the past couple of weeks? Amused by the mad bunny? Tickled by the angelic smile on the bee to the left?

I hope so, because I am chagrined that I have not been fulfilling my blog-ly duties. A wild and wacky couple of weeks have been followed by an adrenaline crash and subsequent multi-day drooling stupor that left me with no words for this space. No words at all.

That does not mean I have not had any words, because in the past two days I have been visited by not one, not two, but THREE of my favorite past students and we have gabbed and cackled like chickens. Then today I have caught up with not one but TWO of my favorite past colleagues and we have talked so quickly and intensely that my tonsils are tired.

Before that I was spending time with one of my dearest friends from childhood, who is experiencing that exquisitely painful moment of transition when an ailing and suffering parent concludes this part of life. Tomorrow I will be thinking of that mom, who helped raise me, trying to find the words that comfort her daughter.

I love words, and I'm glad I've had them for my friends and dear ones, but do please come back when I have a few left over for this space.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Friday Orts and a Blurb

Happy Friday, everyone!

I'm assuming you all want to see what $613 sunglasses look like. Surprisingly, pretty much like the ones on the $11.95 clearance rack at WalMart, although in fairness, they do see better than the WalMart version. I really was hoping I'd look a lot more like this...
...but I guess even for $613 you don't get everything.

So, MomQueenBee, what is the creepiest thing you've seen this week? I'm glad you asked! It's this:

Ah, for the days when $5 in a thrift store was all that was necessary for a kick-butt costume.

But wash your eyes out with this, which is an absolutely wonderful idea from Attic 24.  
Husband is pretty sure my yarn stash is out of control and this week, as I searched through boxes in three different rooms to find black worsted ("I know I have some in here somewhere...") I was afraid he might be correct. But no! I will corral this addiction through organization!

Blurb of the Week
Remember a couple of weeks  months ago when I was extolling the virtues of Scribd? It's a subscription e-book service that gives unlimited access to its offering. I loved it through a 90-day free trial and have been paying for it since, but in my never-ending quest to be the cheapest person in the world (more money left for yarn!) I signed up for a 30-day trial of Amazon's Kindle Unlimited. I will let you Google that for yourself because when I do the link goes directly to my account and I don't want everyone buying books on my One-Click.

Anyway, so far, not so impressed. The selection is not what I had hoped it would be, given that Amazon sells every book in the universe, and the HUGE SELECTION OF AUDIOBOOKS that was the tie-breaker has been a no-show. So I'll be cancelling after my free trial, and sticking with Scribd. If your experience has been different, let me know what I'm doing wrong. 

Let's be safe out there, everyone! 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Spelling Makes Everything Better

You will not believe me when I say that sometimes I censor what I write in this spot. I know! The person who has written about pantyhose and her eyebrows so many times they show up in Google searches leaves something unpublished?

Yes. Once in a great while I look at what I've just written and say to myself, "Hey, how about you hold off for just a second and think about this? Is that really the tone of voice you want to use, Missy?"

Yesterday was such a day. I wrote a page-long rant about elections, which actually was a page-long rant about the people who are making me CRAZY calling me about elections. I mean, normally I am a good citizen and want to do the good citizen-y thing by participating in all things election related. But this year? We are getting four to six calls EVERY NIGHT asking whether we plan to vote, and for whom we will be voting, and would you please listen to the following statement and say whether you strongly agree, somewhat agree, neither agree nor disagree, somewhat disagree, or strongly disagree? I know the pollsters have a job to do and are way underpaid to do it, but we do not continue to pay for a land line in the House on the Corner just so I can mess up the poll results because I get confused between 7 (somewhat strongly agree) and 2 (would never in a million years wear stretch pants).

I even had a picture of cranky Uncle Sam queued up and pointing directly at you, the voting reader, to indicate my displeasure with the hundreds of calls from pollsters and the mega-hundreds of robocalls from elected officials who are endorsing candidates, which in my opinion is a pretty poor way to solicit my vote since I think every current office-holder should be thrown out and we should re-start government with a clean slate. I mean, didn't they seem to do this better back when Washington was president?

Anyway, I'm not going to write about that. Instead I'm going to say that this morning I was pronouncer at the city spelling bee, and I pretty much love that job to an incoherent degree except that I spent two hours staring at the backsides of the winners' trophies while I pronounced words and I now want one desperately.

Are those not the cutest things you've ever seen in your life? They are Spelling Queen Bees!

Queen bees who spell, and who are either holding torches or making a rude gesture toward the i-before-e-except-after-c rule. I seriously thought about slipping one into my purse then looking around with big innocent eyes when the fourth-place winner wondered where his trophy had gone.

If I had one of these trophies I could not be irritated, not even when the eighth call from UNKNOWN NUMBER shows up as we're finishing dinner. No, I would stay calm and answer it, and say "Friend, we have a land line because the stucco walls of the House on the Corner make cell phone reception sketchy and I'm pretty sure someone I love is going to call, but you are not that someone. So unless you are calling to offer me a Spelling Queen Been trophy, good-bye."


Monday, October 6, 2014

How to Fix Flying

Well, hey, everyone! I'm back!

I thought of you often in the past week, as I was struck by the eccentricities and foibles of the traveling public and wished I had you buckled in right beside me so we could discuss those eccentricities and foibles. Six flights, only one of them delayed, meant I had an unusually fortuitous trip to Minneapolis (where everyone talks like they're right out of my favorite television series), but airline travel is not without it's whaaaaa...? moments, including the following:

1. Has everyone lost their senses in the boarding of the airplane process? What is up with the boarding first of everyone with seats in the FRONT OF THE PLANE? I know, I know, they're all members of the Super Duper Platinum Zirconium club, but that doesn't mean they know how to put a carry-on into the overhead bin wheels first, and that does mean all of us who are in seat 26F (oh, yes, I was) are stacked up in the jetway like dominoes waiting to fall and hoping we land in our seats. This is not pleasant, American Airlines.

2. Of course, wrestling carry-on luggage appears to be optional these days. Each of my flights was full so "courtesy checked luggage" was offered, nay, was URGED on us. I didn't take advantage of this on the way to my fancy meeting, where I would have been embarrassed to meet people wearing yesterday's underwear and no make-up had the airline misplaced my bag. On the way home, though, when the gate agent pleaded for us to let them stow our luggage for free, I was all heck-yeah. Later I congratulated myself endlessly for not having to wrestle that bag in the airport during a six-hour wait after that delayed first leg meant I missed my connection.

3. Is there anything better than wireless access in an airport? I will answer that question. No. There is nothing better than wireless access in an airport. After I had been rebooked into the final flight of the day out of the hub city, instead of fretting about the hour at which I would be arriving and how much sleep I would not be getting before trustees arrived at Small College the next day, I pulled out my iPad and spent those six hours watching Inspector Barnaby solve Midsomer Murders whilst I knit an entire sock. It's a combination that's better than Prozac. Also, an overdose of Inspector Barnaby makes me use words such as "whilst."

4. Finally, you may be wondering why I illustrate this post with a can of Bloody Mary Mix. That's because my sole flying superstition is that I drink Bloody Mary Mix on flights. Always. No vodka, just the spicy tomato juice that says "Hey! You're on an airplane! But you're not going to crash!" better than anything else. The very day I got home I ran across an internet article that explained why BMM is so delicious on planes. It had to do with increased cabin pressure and salt sensitivity and blah blah blah and now I cannot find it, in spite of Google's best efforts. But take my word for it--science.

So to summarize: If I were queen of the airlines, I would check everyone's bags, board travelers in a civilized and rational manner, and hand each person a can of Bloody Mary Mix right there on the jetway, where Midsomer Murders would be playing on a continuous loop.

Who says flying can't be fun?

Monday, September 29, 2014


Boy#1 had the first emailed reply after the update to him and his brothers Friday afternoon.

"Whooooooo! I haven't been this relieved about something I didn't know was a potential crisis in quite a while. Excellent news". 

I couldn't have said it better myself. 

And now I'm traveling and meeting with trustees and greeting alumni until I collapse in an exhausted heap Saturday night. Behave yourself until I see you again next week.