Wednesday, July 30, 2014

My Role in the Process

This week and next week are going to be packed with things that keep me away from my computer so don't be alarmed if I go several days without posting. However, I couldn't leave the topic of Boy#3's new piano without a few words about my role in the procurement process of said piano.

Here is what I did:
1. Went to the auction and said how beautiful the piano was, and how much I thought Three would love it.

Here is what Husband did:
1. Successfully bid on the piano.
2. Gulped really, really hard when he realized it had to be loaded into the pickup.
3. Visited the ATM machine to get some cash.

Here is what I did:
1. Walked around the auction assessing the muscles of young men who might be strong enough to lift a piano into a pickup.
2. Said something to each one along the lines of "Hey, sailor, want to make some quick cash?"

Here is what Husband said:
1. You asked them WHAT?

Here is what the four strong young men did:
1. Lifted the piano into the pickup.
2. Groaned loudly.
3. Bent over with their hands on their knees, subtly assessing any new hernias.

Here is what Husband did:
1. Gave each helper twice as much cash as he had originally intended, because he has had a hernia, and it is not actually as much fun as it sounds as if it should be.
2. Drove us home, carefully avoiding any potholes or sharp turns because the piano was floating unsecured in the back of the pickup and we had been warned that pianos have a tendency to tip over backwards if they are unsecured in the back of a pickup.

Here is what I did:
1.  Silently helped steer the truck using only my sphincter muscles and subtle body English, ensuring that we arrived at home without the piano tipping over backward in a crash of broken strings and dashed dreams.

Here is what Husband did:
1. Quickly screwed together a frame of 2x4's that wedged the instrument into the back of the pickup so securely that if we had dropped into a giant Guatemalan sinkhole the piano would have not budged an inch.

Here is what I did:
1. Made sandwiches.

Here is what Husband did:
1. Drove us the two hours to Boy#3's hometown, where Three was waiting with a team of weight-lifters and young muscles.
2. Strategized the journey up the five steps into the house.
3. Took the hinges off the door so the piano would fit through.
4. Hefted the back right corner.
5. Banged his knuckles on the hingeless door and didn't cry.
6. Made sure the piano was aligned with the wall, because non-parallel alignment must not be tolerated.

Here's what I did:

There is a lesson in this division of labor, and I believe the lesson is this: My sphincter muscles and subtle body English saved the day.

Three, you are welcome.

Monday, July 28, 2014

He Loves It

Dear Margaret,

Of all the treasures you decided couldn't go with you when you downsized from house to apartment, I'm going to guess that this was the one that hurt the most. You were a music teacher; you had played for most of your 80-some years. Your daughter is my friend, and she has told me of how when she was a child you would play Clair de Lune after all your children were in bed--it was your way to wind down, a settling of the day's dust. 

You may not have played much in more recent years. I know arthritis had settled into your knuckles and the pain in my own 20-plus-years-younger-than-yours knobbly fingers reminds me that my piano days are not unlimited. But I can't imagine that you ever walked by this beautiful instrument without thinking how much pleasure it had brought you.

We were the ones bidding on that piano during your auction Saturday. Boy#3 is a music teacher now, and he has both wanted and needed a piano. For a musician a piano is as necessary as a Bible is for a preacher--it's the basic instrument you rely on to do your work, as well as being a source of joy and restoration.

And this is such a beautiful piano. I sat down at the auction to try it out, and I hadn't played three chords before I knew how easily I could fall in love with it. The action was perfect, not too stiff or too loose. The cabinetry was immaculate.

This piano has been loved.

But I want you to know that it has passed to someone who will also loves it, and will appreciate it. This was not purchased for a kid starting out in music who might not persevere through the years between learning Heart and Soul and learning, well, Clair de Lune. Those years can be tough; it's hard to train fingers and brain to work together and your piano might have taken some frustration abuse in the form of hands slammed on the keyboard, or stomps on the pedals.Three recognizes the gift of having a really fine instrument and he will treat it with the respect it deserves.

I'm glad you weren't at the auction Saturday. My mother-in-law never forgot how difficult it was at her downsizing auction to see how little the buyers appreciated her wonderful antiques. But know that your piano has gone to a good home.

Your piano went to my son, and he will love it.

All my best,

Friday, July 25, 2014

Out Of Here

Once again it's Friday, and once again no one has brought me any popcorn. I would be terribly sad and probably a little miffed if not for the fact that I just looked up and saw the horrification that is in the photo above.

Oh my gosh!

We have seen these bugs in our office before. We call them feather bugs because of their many, many feathery legs which propel them across the floor at the speed of sound which is a good thing because the sound in my office when I saw that bug was not one even a bug would want to hear.The previous bugs have been on the floor, within easy reach of a size 9 1/2 clodhopper. I would have had to be a karate black belt for my shoe to reach this one.

Then I saw this:
That position put the bug six inches closer to my actual face, almost within jumping-upon-and-eating-my-eyeballs distance. We have no actual evidence of eyeball appetites in the feather bugs, but doesn't this look like an eyeball-eating creature?

And then I saw this:
Which is even closer, being the bulletin board immediately behind my monitor where I keep important stuff (such as contact information for our postal representative, a daunting list of deadlines, and my pink styrofoam birthday crown).

So I'm sorry that this picture is out of focus. I was a little distracted as I shoved back my chair and headed for the HR office to quit my job.

Feather bugs. Shudder.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Not Fit for YouTube

There are two things that God in His infinite wisdom intended for young people to wrangle. The first, of course, is toddlers. Who has the patience for marker experimentation on white walls, or endless repetitions of "why?" Not us old geezers, with our lawns off of which young'uns must get.

The second thing reserved for youngsters is low-slung cars. When we're young, we women assume that we look like the lovely Marion Cotillard as we slide lithely out of the back seat. We don't have those legs or that hair or those shoes and our purse is a quilted diaper bag instead of a black clutch, but we have that grace! That poise!

Or at least we have the panache of the guy getting out of this car:

This week Pearl is having some cosmetic surgery done. (A hailstorm did a number on her roof some time ago so it's being lovingly ironed and painted.) I'm driving Boy#1's car which we've been car-sitting while he and Lovely Girl are living in the nation's capital. The grandcar is much lower slung than Pearl and I remember now why I wanted an Escape rather than a Taurus when we were downsizing from the Suburban.

When I exit One's car, I look like this:

I apologize, people who have been seen me arrive at work this week. Please don't film it for YouTube--some things are just not fit to be seen.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Not Ansel Adams

I am not a good photographer. I am a pretty good judge of photographs and I can usually tell you why a picture works or does not work (for the record, "move in closer" covers a multitude of sins) so my general policy is to hire good photographers and leave my camera in my purse.

There is something about nature, though, that makes me think I am Ansel Adams and my trusty point-and-shoot's memory card now includes several dozen shots taken during our twilight tram ride through the nature park.

Oooh! It's a waterfall! Oooh! It's a school of trout! Oooh! It's a covered bridge!

And those highly photogenic sites were spotted before we even got to the most interesting subjects, which were the animals. Dogwood Canyon has herds of elk, buffalo, and longhorns. All of these herds are so accustomed to the trams riding through their domain that they pretty much pose like starlets on the red carpet as the paparazzi glide by. I compulsively clicked off shot after shot, although I did not go so far as to shoot video, which the girl in the next seat was doing. (Why? Who wants to watch that?)

Later I was bragging about my photographic prowess to Husband when I noticed something. That picture of the elk+longhorn above? This is what the longhorn actually is doing:

Okay, so it has its tongue up its nose. I got a good picture of the elk herd....
Except that...
Am I sensing a theme here?
Why, yes. Yes, I am.
I'm not sure whether the animals are judging our not-from-Where-Eagles-Dare tram or commenting on my photographic abilities. In either case, wash your eyes out with this fuzzy shot of a buffalo calf born earlier that morning.
Ooooh, fuzzy buffalo calf. The mama was too tired to even stick her tongue out, and sister, I've been there. As someone who does not understand delivery room photography AT ALL and would have smashed any cameras that might have appeared before I had my make-up back on post-birthing, I apologize.

On your behalf, I'm sticking my tongue out at myself.

Monday, July 21, 2014


Here's the thing about the four-day vacation Husband and I just had: We really didn't do anything that we couldn't do at home.

The billboards leading into town reminded us that you practically can't turn around in this place without knocking over some world-class entertainer (and if you were one of the world-class entertainers I knocked over, whoops! Sorry!) and if you wanted to spend your children's inheritance you can see two shows a day and applaud until your palms calloused. But we don't lack for entertainment at home. There are concerts a'plenty within walking distance of the House on the Corner, and most of those are free.

There were nice places to relax in the fresh air. Our cabin had a little sitting area outside the door that was just right for drinking morning coffee or listening to the frogs at night and the main building had rocking chairs on the porch that overlooked the lake. But we have a nice deck with comfortable chairs that the feral cats keep warm for us. We even have rocking chairs in our living room.

There were books to read and paths to explore. We also have books and paths in Small Town.

The difference with being on vacation is that when you are on vacation, you don't just have these things, you do these things. We saw a show, and took a tram ride through a gorgeous canyon. (When we signed up for this event Husband was envisioning the tram in Where Eagles Dare and he was a little disappointed the tram wasn't one of these:

but our pickup-pulling-a-trailer tram was probably a better vantage point for seeing the newborn buffalo calf than an aerial car filled with Nazis would have been.)

We slept late, ate our breakfast on the patio and dawdled over coffee, then strolled over to the main building to sit on the porch and read our books. I finished two (this and this). Then we walked around for a while, and I forced Husband to pose for a selfie with me.

At home there are concerts and fresh air and books, but there are also windows to paint and floors to scrub and closets to clean out and while I'm not usually doing those things (because Netflix and knitting) I know I should be .

We didn't do anything we couldn't do at home, but on the best vacations we do these things we love, and this vacation was perfection.

Friday, July 18, 2014

How the Other Half Lives

This is the view that greeted me when I opened my eyes this morning, before I even put on my glasses. There is so much win in this photo that I don't even know where to begin.

Should I begin with the time, the glorious 9:06 that normally would follow an hour of sweating on the exercise bike and elliptical, and an hour of showering/grooming/breakfast/Sudoku, and an hour of dealing with e-mails and phone calls at work?

Or should I begin with the little green light at the back, where the folks who laid out this place  strategically placed a coffeemaker that produces the best-smelling brew since Juan Valdez?

Or should I point out the brown paper envelope that contains two gingersnaps, treats the cookie lady left on my pillow last night while we were still out? Or the fireplace with the kindling already laid and ready to be lit?

I've mentioned before that Husband is a CPA. What I have neglected to mention is that he is a darned good CPA and he works with some of the nicest people in the world. This year those two facts had a fortuitous alignment, and in gratitude for his good work two of the very nicest of these clients insisted we should get away for the weekend at one of their favorite places. (Don't worry--because he's a darned good CPA and also scrupulously honest, this will be reported as income on our taxes next year.)

We arrived yesterday to find a place so very different from our usual $50-limit-on-Priceline accommodations that we barely knew how to react. We're just assuming that all of this--the view, the sounds of birds in the day and frogs at night, the 74-degree predicted high in the middle of July--has been arranged just for us.

But how did they know the perfect spot to put the coffeemaker so that I could flip it on before I even crawled out from between the glorious  eight million thread count sheets? Obviously before we even arrived THEY KNEW WHICH SIDE OF THE BED I SLEEP ON.

We are not people who routinely stay in places like this (see also: four children/braces/college/cars/expensive yarn habit) but I could get used to it.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Food Blogger

One of my smart-alecky sons told me a few weeks ago that I no longer eat food, I eat blog fodder. He had noticed that the progression for our food these days is to cook it (or order it), then bless it, then photograph it, then consume it, so he's not entirely wrong.

But, people! Don't you want to know what I'm eating these days? Especially when it is a caprese pizza? So delicious! Made with tomatoes and basil from my own little plants in my own little backyard, crispy whole wheat crust, and oozy mozarella?

Well, maybe you'd rather hear about the Super Spud that was my lunch following the blueberry picking excursion a few weeks ago. That baked potato was the size of a newborn's head, and almost equally delicious. (Not that I've ever actually eaten a newborn's head, but they smell sooooo good...)

Don't believe me? I have photographic proof:

Can't you imagine that with eyes and a nose and a precious little knitted cap? No? Huh. This may have just taken a turn for the creepy.

But that's why I document my food--so you can share both my delicious meals and my weird thoughts. Now that the Boys are no longer around, Husband needs you-all to witness the weird or no one would believe him.

Monday, July 14, 2014

De-Stuff-Ifying: Progress Report

Well, we're more than halfway done with the year. (I know! Time flies like an arrow! And if you add "but fruit flies like a banana," you have just told my all-time favorite joke.) That means it's time for a progress report.

Do any of you remember that I started out the year determined to de-stuff-ify? I did. I was going to rid the House on the Corner of 100 bags/boxes of stuff during 2014, making my life 100 bags/boxes less cluttered. I started out gangbusters, and in the month of January took out 18 units of old clothes, books, unused dishes, tchotchkes and dust-catchers. Woo! This was going swimmingly!

But then spring hit and with it the unremitting schedule of weekend activities. During February, March, April, May, and June the total of additional bags/boxes of stuff out was 14 and that included a vigorous cleaning of the basement during which I unloaded the raw materials for several projects that would have earned me a spot on the Pinterest Fail page. (That's not my fail, but I'm right there with you in spirit, fellow spraypainter.)

Anyway, we finally had an uncommitted Saturday so I decided the entryway closet was going to be my next target. That oddly-shaped little hidey-hole at the top of the basement steps outside the kitchen door had become the depository for our recycling bins, the paperboys' canvas bags, bone meal for the roses, pretty much anything we didn't want in the actual house. It was long overdue for a thorough toss-out.

I learned something about myself as I dug stuff out of that closet on Saturday, and that thing was that apparently I think I can conjure up a clean house by purchasing cleaning supplies. (This is a fallacy; I am incapable of resisting a new-fangled mop, but my kitchen floors are still sticky.)

When I lined up all the mops, there were seven. Seven mops. Plus two bottles of ammonia, two gallons of Windex, two brooms, a bucket of sponges, and a gallon of white vinegar.


Also three recycling bins (no longer used, since Small Town went to single-stream recycling), several thousand rubber bands for newspapers (the final Boy went out on the final paper route eight years ago),  three gardening gloves, a box of plant fertilizer that had burst, and the ceramic container that held a plant sent to me to celebrate Boy#4's birth. Plus other stuff.

When I finished ruthlessly disposing of bone meal and flea dip (awww, we miss Our Dog Pepper) the trash can was full (three bags out! yay!), and I had cleared enough enough room for the vacuum cleaner and other cleaning supplies to be moved out of the sewing room and consolidated in what I have designated as the new cleaning closet.

So how about those mops? Was I able to get rid of them? Well, no. Hope springs eternal that I will actually begin to clean some day and will need the scrubby mop, the Magic Eraser mop, and the plain sponge mop. Plus the two brooms (one for inside, one for outside).

It's not perfection but it's progress.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Friday Orts and a Blurb

Well, hey there! It's Friday again and so far, no one has brought me popcorn. (Insert sad emoji.) I would be depressed about this if not for the fact that I just ran across this picture of Much Older Sister and me that was taken at the convention both of us attended a few weeks ago. It made me smile. Except that it also reminded me that my summer sweaty-face does a number on my bangs. Also that I'm really tall, and I forget that until I see a picture of myself cuddling up to MOS, who has much more normal human verticality. But MOS! Oooooh!

And speaking of relatives, thank you all so much for your concern for my brother after the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. He is doing splendidly and back at work. This demonstrates a basic difference between him and me. If I'd had four out of five doctors who saw me the day before tell me how lucky I was (and the other too busy keeping me from DYING ON THE WAY TO THE EMERGENCY ROOM to point out my luckiness), I would have milked this situation for a few more days at home. He, on the other hand, was looking up his company sick leave policy to see how he needed to turn in the days he was hospitalized because after a quarter century with the company, he had been too healthy to know what that policy was. Sheesh.

I have a new favorite video, and this is it. I dedicate it out to all my jiggly, chicken-necked, divine, older lady friends.
And the ort of the day is a recipe. As we were leaving mah bay-bee in his new apartment last week, this mom had to do what this mom has to do: I cooked. I left him with a freezer stocked with bierocks, but wanted him to have something sweet as well so I tried a new recipe from Gimme Some Oven which is a terrific food blog written by someone I knew when she was a student at Small College. (Hi, Ali!)

The recipe has coconut oil in it, which I understand has magical properties of some kind but I had never used before. I'm not sure if it was that ingredient or the couple of teaspoons of cornstarch that made the cookies soft and just exactly the right degree of crumbly, but they were the perfect antidote for distraction from upcoming tearful leave-taking.

People, these are pretty darned spectacular. Don't say I didn't warn you if you end up eating two or three or a dozen.
The recipe is here.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

In the Meantime...

Are you tired of Boy#4's move to Texas yet? No? Then I present this picture of what we did for the 20 minutes of the four moving days that we weren't shopping or (in my case) needlessly commemorating the transition.

Yes. The Boys played checkers. At Cracker Barrel. While Husband and I rocked in the Cracker Barrel rockers.

Because it was July 4 and apparently we are 104 years old.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Regional Tastes

Just so you know, not all of last week's moving process was tears and leave-taking. Most of it was not. Most of it was shopping. When one moves into an apartment with not much more than 73 college t-shirts and a set of hand-me-down dishes, there is much to be bought. And if you know me at all, you know that I would rather do almost anything up to and possibly including tearful leave-taking than go shopping.

I am a traitor to my gender in that I HATE shopping. I hate walking around stores not finding what I want to find. I hate finding what I want to find and discovering that I have really really really expensive tastes. I hate finding what I want in my price range and finding a "sold" tag on it. I hate...well, usually I hate all of it except that Husband is a good sport about carrying my purse while I whine shop.

There were a few things that made the moving-to-Texas shopping an exception to my mercantile aversion. The first was that I was accompanied by three handsome men, including the one reclining on the couch above (Boy#4) and another (Boy#3) who was stretched out on the up-and-down-adjustable bed in the corner reading his Kindle. (Best quote from that corner: "I could sit up, but why use my own muscles when the bed will do it for me?")

The second thing that made the three days (THREE!) of shopping kind of fun was that I was not paying for anything, thanks to the perks of working for a big corporation (otherwise known as a signing bonus).

And finally, it was fun because it was like shopping in a whole 'nother country, which I understand Texas claims to be. In the country I come from, we decorate with themes that could be found in pretty much any state in the union. That is to say, we use some themes pulled from nature, some from geometric shapes, some from our imaginations.

In Texas, they decorate with Texas. Period. Notice the rug in the picture above? Cacti, boots, stars, and hats. That pretty much sums up what you will find in every furniture store, everywhere. I have never seen so many statues of horse heads or plaster casts of cowboy boots.

"Hey, look!" Three said of one of the lifelike-horse statues. "You could play ring-toss on this one's ears."

Three was not particularly helpful in the shopping arena, except as comic relief. But you know what? If you're going to shop for three days, you'd better take along someone for comic relief.

It may be Texas, but it's still shopping.

Monday, July 7, 2014

No More Cartwheels

There are milestones all through my life that I didn't recognize at the moment. When I was a kid I loved to do cartwheels--when was the final time I did a cartwheel? As a young woman I wore four-inch heels when I wanted to feel especially glamorous--when was the last time I put on a pair of high heels?

Oh, once in a while I stop and think "This is the very last time I will ride a roller-coaster--I hate this, and I am never going to do it again," but mostly I have just aged out of things, always thinking I'll run across the grass and pop a cartwheel or wear one some sexy stilettos. But I don't--I can't.

I've done the same thing as a mother. We mark the big milestones--the first tooth lost, the training wheels off the bike, the high school graduation--but I've often missed the little steps that are just as meaningful. When was the last time I lifted a child into a grocery cart? When did I stop carrying little cars in my purse to occupy kids during church? I don't remember.

Last week I made sure I remembered.

"This is the last time I will unpack dishes into a kid's apartment," I thought as crumpled newspaper piled up around me.

We were moving Boy#4 into his first non-student apartment, a four-day process that is the grown-up equivalent of taking the training wheels off the bicycle. Husband and I were hovering in the background, but it was Four signing lease papers and taking possession of mailbox keys. He was the one deciding which couch was most comfortable, and whether he'd rather have a recliner of a loveseat. It wasn't our call on whether a king or a queen mattress would be more comfortable for his 6'3" frame--we could advise, but we weren't buying.

So while Four and his father assembled the desk, I unwrapped dishes and washed silverware. Every few minutes I reminded myself "This is the last time I'll do this." As the guys found Washer A to go on Screw B to hold the television stand together, I put away dishtowels and thought "Last time." While they were discussing whether the bicycle would fit into the storage closet and cutting a security board for the deck door, I was arranging the pantry. For the last time.

No more cartwheels, I thought to myself sadly. No more fancy shoes.

No more Boys. 

After all this remembering of what I was leaving behind it was no wonder I cried when we pulled out of the apartment parking lot yesterday. In fact, I cried quite a lot. I was a blubbery mess, blowing my nose into a bandana all the way out of town and through the parking lot that stretches 100 miles between Boy's new hometown and Dallas. I was still snuffly and sad when we arrived home after 10 hours on the road.

But this morning I woke up remembering something: I don't particularly miss doing cartwheels. I still remember that THUD! of my palms hitting the grass, and the dizzy freedom of the instant my feet are in the air before a perfect landing, and I remember the experience without the instant of fear that always accompanied leaving my feet. I can remember the feeling of giddy sleekness of four-inch heels without the toe-numbing pain of wearing them.

I can't do a cartwheel any more. However, I can buy adult beverages without being carded. (I don't actually buy adult beverages, but I COULD.) I can't wear high heels, but I can decide to watch a House of Cards marathon, and no one tells me I have to clean my room instead.

For all the milestones I pass, both marked and unmarked, there are new discoveries and joys and I still have the pre-transition memories imprinted on those parts of my soul that don't disappear with a new age or address.

I can still feel the raucous joy of having Boys filling the House on the Corner, and it was really, really stupid to keep reminding myself of the pain of transition. I can't be the mom of kids any more, but I love being the mom of grown-ups.

No more cartwheels. And that's okay.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014


Yesterday was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

It began with a crisis at work that involved both personalities and issues, and was a cluster (to clean-quote youthspeak) of massive proportions. One of those crises in which someone else's mistake turned into my problem, but was all wound up with long-term ramifications for me and my staff. It was mentally and emotionally draining, and I got home at the end of the day feeling shell-shocked.

But nobody died.

Then I watched the very end of the U.S.-Belgium World Cup game. Our guys played so hard, with so much heart, and still lost. I turned off the television feeling sad.

But nobody died.

After supper I checked my e-mail and there was a message from my brother, who had just gotten home from vacation. He went to the doctor for a quick look to see why he had been coughing and short of breath, and without passing go or collecting $200 my brother ended up in the hospital being treated for a serious condition that no one had even suspected. I was beside myself with worry.

But nobody died.

I know that many, perhaps most, who visit this space do not share my religious convictions. I was raised going to church, though, and discovered as a teenager the reality that "this world is not my home, I'm only passing through." (Going to church and being religious are not the same thing, you know, but for me one followed the other.)

After I went to bed last night, shell-shocked and sad and worried, I turned my day over to the Creator, and trusted that the ups and downs in my life from the small (World Cup) to the enormous (brother) were in His hands.

I could do this because Somebody died.

All will be well.