Thursday, December 29, 2011

An Honest Mistake

Christmas is a crazy busy time for lots of us.  With so much going on, we can sometimes get a little frazzled.  Because Christmas fell on a Sunday this year, it was a little more hectic than usual for our minister friends.  They held five services and delivered two different sermons within twenty-four hours.  Back-to-back Christmas Eve and Sunday services are a lot of preparation and a lot of talking, too.

Although our friend Gary is a healthy guy, his dog is taking antibiotics with his meals.  By Christmas morning, Gary was distracted and rushed as well as a little sleep-deprived.  He put the dog's pills on the counter, got out his own vitamins - and then took the dog's meds by mistake.

Ministers are human, too.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Our Computer Saavy Toddler

I used  to think that anyone under ten was a genius at technology.  Since I've been observing our grandson over the holidays, I've had to lower that age bracket significantly.  Brody has just started to take his first tentative steps but he's already a whiz kid at electronics.   

So it would seem that fourteen-months is the new age ten and my grandson can already do complicated things that I don't know how to do.  He's changed the screen saver on my computer twice since I've been here.  He does like to type a lot - so I chalked that up to chance.

Then I gave him my phone to play with.  The screen was locked and the phone was off.  I handed it to him upside down.  He turned it right-side up.  He turned it on.  He pushed a button to unlock it.  He slid open the screen.  He tapped the right icon to make a call.  Then he called his father. 

After that, he made a bunch of other phone calls.  Most of the time I was able to stop him before they went through, but he was pretty persistent.  Since it was December 24th, I figured any of the callees would just assume I wanted to wish them "Merry Christmas."

His other grandparents bought Brody a toy cell phone.  He looked at it carefully then tossed it aside and screamed.  His grandpa gave him an old flip phone.  That didn't cut it, either.  It was clear to me he knew the difference.

Jerry brought his new iPad with him but he hasn't been able to use it much because every time he flips open the cover, Brody crawls over and grabs it.  Katie had the presence of mind to take a video of him.  Watch it and decide for yourself if his actions are random or if they are calculated.

Even as I type this, my telephone is ringing and I hear my daughter laughing. "It's Brody calling Mom," she says.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Tough Choices

I got my hair cut short in late August.  I've had it trimmed again twice since then and already hair is just sticking out every which way. Some days it looks like I'm sprouting feathers and other days I appear to be molting.  Neither of these are the chic look that I was going for but I just can't bring myself to go back and get another trim so soon.  That simply seems like too much personal primping and I don't want to turn into a narcissist (although daffodils are one of my favorite flowers.) 

I bought myself a quality witch's hat back in October and I've only worn it the one time.  It really is a thing of beauty and Mom always said black goes with everything so I'm toying with the idea of wearing the hat until my hair grows out a bit and becomes more manageable.  Thank God I didn't buy a white one, which, obviously, could only be worn between Memorial Day and Labor Day.  Come to think of it, I've never even seen a white witch's hat available for purchase.  Truth be told, I'd actually prefer a purple velvet one because purple is my favorite color and velvet is the classiest of all fabrics known to man.  This is fact, not opinion, and therefore it is not open to debate. 

On the other hand, maybe I'd prefer to wear a tiara.  After all, it is the holiday season and a twinkly tiara might just distract the eye from a disastrous hair day.

I used to have a tiny tiara that I rescued from Kate's room after she'd finished wearing it to one prom or another.  It was so small that it could fit in the palm of my hand and it glittered when light hit it.  The thing was darling.  It enchanted me.  I liked it so much that ultimately I gave it to a special friend who was turning thirteen.  Of course it was the coolest gift she received (duh.)  Every teenage girl wants to be a princess, right?  Wearing this exquisite tiara is certainly the first step in perfecting the appropriate attitude to achieve that dream.

The problem was now I no longer owned a tiara to wear when I was feeling the need to be queenly.  My husband came to my rescue though when he presented me with a new (much larger) one for our anniversary.  It is perfect!  Since I am also the proud owner of a most excellent Harry Potter wand, I can now grant wishes on the spur of the moment if I want to, which befits a benevolent queen such as myself.

Witch's hat or tiara?  Tough choice.  The hat will give me added height which is a plus, but I wore the tiara to the Home Depot the other night and I felt they treated me with just a little more respect than usual. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Bailey the Wonderdog

Have you ever made a broad, sweeping statement that was so ridiculous that people who heard it brought it up again for years and laughed every time?

Here’s mine:  “Okay.  You can get a dog, but I will never love it.”

And that’s how the canine love of my life entered the picture.  She was supposed to be Jessica’s dog, but she had other ideas.  I can’t remember if it was love-at- first-sight or if it happened gradually, but somehow that mutt squirmed into my heart and taught me a thing or two about love in the process.  By the time Jerry told me that whenever I left the house Bailey would sit by the door and cry, I was totally hooked.  Truth be told, I didn’t like to be separated from her, either.

I learned about true optimism from this animal, too.  Every meal that we ate at home, Bailey would sit by Jerry's chair and watch each bite he ate with longing.  Although Jerry never once fed her a table scrap - not once - every meal, there she'd sit with this look on her face that seemed to say, "Maybe today will be the day!  I'm gonna sit right here just in case." 

When she was a pup we kennel trained her, but after she grew up and the girls were gone, she slept at the foot of our bed.  Jerry traveled a lot and having her there gave me a feeling of security.  My life was improved because Bailey was in it.

She lived a healthy life and when her time came to leave this earth, she died in my arms.  Sometimes though, when I'm distracted, something catches my eye in my peripheral vision and I think, just for a moment, that I see her sitting beside the door.

Recently, my friend Lee asked me why I don't get a dog?  The truth is that in my heart, I already have one.
My Dog Bailey

Friday, December 16, 2011

Winter in the South

The first picture came from Kate in Ohio.  It showed her parking lot full of snow and the caption was a frowny face.  No words were necessary.

Five minutes later Jessica texted me a picture from Michigan of the controls on her dashboard.  It said 29°.

It's official.  Up north, winter 2011 has begun.

Down south it's still tee-shirt weather.  Flowers are blooming and today I went for a walk without even wearing a sweater.  To see blue skies and sunshine in December is an added plus. 

In the summer, I called this place east of Hell.  In the winter, it's more like two degrees south of Wonderful.  No wonder people want to retire here.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Perfect Dentist

For some people, a trip to the dentist is like tripping over a poisonous snake sunning on the sidewalk - or looking in the rear view mirror and seeing a giant spider sitting on your shoulder.  In other words, going to the dentist doesn't top the list of fun things to do.  My friend Kelly is like that. 

Kelly knew she had an aversion to dentists, so she took the bull by the horns and started searching for a dentist who'd be right for her.  Persistence pays off and she eventually found the perfect guy.  She used him for several years without incident until one day, she stepped through his door into the Dental Twilight Zone.

The first thing she noticed was that they were expanding the office.  Turns out Dr. Perfect's son was going to UCLA Dental School and would be joining the practice.  "Father and son working together.  Isn't that nice?" she thought.  

Turns out there was a second father-and-son team in the practice now, too.  Dr. Perfect's elderly father was also a dentist and had also been added to the staff.  He suffered from senile dementia so he was not allowed to do the drilling but he was able to make molds for teeth whitening and impressions for crowns.  To round out the family affair, there was the developmentally disabled daughter who was acting as sort of a dental hostess in the waiting room.

Shortly after that cleaning, Kelly swallowed half of one of her crowns.  "When I called the dental office, they didn't believe me," she said.  "They said, 'Are you sure it wasn't just a filling?'"  She was sure. That is how she ended up in the chair with the elderly father walking toward her, holding a gigantic dental plate that was obviously way too big to fit inside her mouth.  Already a bit skittish, Kelly was getting more and more frightened as he advanced toward her.  He had a bit of a tremor and the thing was clattering as he walked which did not add to her sense of well-being. Finally she burst out in nervous laughter which startled the old man, causing him to drop the plate on the floor.  "Don't you think that plate is a little too big for my mouth?" she asked when she had recovered herself.  As fortune would have it, Dr. Perfect was alerted by the ruckus, came in to investigate and remedied the problem.  Although the crisis was averted, the fear lingered.

The next visit she was to have the crown seated.  Kelly got situated in the dental chair and realized that the developmentally disabled daughter had been promoted to assistant.  She was now in the room, helping by handing Dad the instruments.  "It's wonderful," thought Kelly, "that she gets to spend the day helping her father." 

The crown was set in place and then the dentist left the room, leaving Kelly alone with his daughter.  Immediately Kelly's comfort level plummeted but she controlled herself and when she was told to tap-tap-tap on a piece of special paper, she did. Tap-tap-tap.  Thank God!  The crown was perfect.  No adjustments were necessary. 

Apparently "the assistant" had never seen a crown that fit perfectly before because the next thing that happened was that she took the crown out of Kelly's mouth anyway and started fiddling with it, drilling and sanding and doing other dental stuff to it.  When she re-inserted the crown, it no longer fit.  Now when Kelly closed her mouth, her teeth didn't even touch.  The crown was a quarter of an inch higher than the rest of her teeth. 

The daughter was confused.  She had Kelly tap-tap-tap again.  The girl was mystified.  Tap-tap-tap.  Tap-tap-tap.  Every time Kelly tapped, there was the same result.  The crown was so high that you could see sunshine between the top and bottom sets of teeth.  Tap-tap-tap.  Tap-tap-tap.  Our patient was getting a fatigued jaw just tapping on the special paper.  Each time, the results were the same.  Something was clearly wrong. 

"Is the crown on backwards?" Kelly finally asked.  The girl was indignant.  "No!" she responded but she yanked the crown off anyway and found that a piece of dental debris had lodged itself on top of the original tooth, causing the problem.  When it was removed,the crown fit perfectly again.  Kelly heaved a sigh of relief and went on her way.

A couple of months later, Kelly went to have her routine cleaning. There was a new hygienist and she was very rough, poking and prodding with sharp instruments, making her gums bleed and generally causing Kelly's limited dental tolerance to vanish completely. She felt like the lady was using a jackhammer in there. By the time the ordeal was over, Kelly couldn't stand another minute in the chair and practically bolted out of the room. As she was leaving, she told the ladies at the front desk emphatically that she never wanted to have that hygienist again.

Back at home, she told her husband about her horrible dental experience. "What was the hygienist's name?" he asked. "Sally." she said. "That was the dentist's wife."


There's no trump in poker.  Who knew?

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Poker Run

My neighbors are sponsoring a poker run tomorrow and they invited me!  At first I thought it was a mistake.  They don't really know me and my first name is Chris, so they probably figured I am the guy of the couple.  (It happens. I get plenty of mail addressed to "Mr. Chris" and the draft board actually thought I should register when I turned eighteen for the very same reason.)  A quick email verified that ladies are welcome too.  Jer's not interested but I am.

Here's how it works:  everybody piles in their golf carts and zooms to a pre-determined house.  When they get there, they jump out, rush inside and play a round of poker.  Then it's back to the carts, on to the next house where they do it all again.  It's kind of like a progressive dinner only with cards instead of food.  Sounds fun, right? 

I don't have a golf cart and I've never played poker but why quibble about details?  I am counting on beginner's luck to guide me right smack into the center of the winner's circle.  Won't Jerry will be so jealous when I come back with a fistful of fat cash?

I'll let ya know how that turns out.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Movie Night

Although we don't own a tv, once or twice a week we get a movie, take it to our friend Mary Ann's and watch it there.  We could just as easily stay home and pop it into our computer but all three of us enjoy movie night. It's a social thing, which is lucky because we've watched a run of bad movies lately, all chosen by me.

The worst one came from our neighbor Doug.  One morning I saw him painting his garage floor and went over to check it out.  He said he was doing half in Michigan blue and half in MSU green, that he is an equal opportunity Michigander.  While he was telling me this, I was scanning through a stack of DVDs.  It's a habit that seasoned garage-salers adopt - almost a reflex, really. 

I'm picky about what I watch.  I don't like gore, horror, violence, car chases or sad stories.  I gravitate toward the inspirational, romantic comedies, intrigue or dramas with happy endings.  I want to be entertained, not depressed.

A lot of the films in Doug's movie stash were family classics already but when I picked up a title that I'd never seen, he said, "It's good.  You'll like.  Take it."  It seemed like we had similar taste in movies, so I did.  I figured if it was in his garage, he probably wouldn't be needing it any time soon anyway. 

There was a decapitated body in the movie we watched that night and the head turned up in a cooler, too.  No need to say more.

The next evening we ran into Doug at the grocery store.  I told him he is never, ever allowed to recommend a movie to me again.  "What movie did you watch?" he asked.  "Shipping News."  "Oh.  I never saw that one.  I heard it got good reviews though."  As Mary Ann succinctly put it, "Well, that was an hour and a half of my life that I'll never get back."

For the entire month of December, all we're going to watch is Christmas Classics.  You can't go wrong watching Clark bumbling around trying to untangle his Christmas lights and no matter how many times we see Ralphie walk down the stairs in his bunny suit, we still laugh out loud.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Cleaning Lady

Katie overheard me telling her father that I function best in an ultra-clean environment.  She laughed a long time.  The sound of her laughter is beautiful;  joy bubbles over into the room.  It always lifts my spirits and I enjoyed hearing it, even though I knew she was not laughing with me.  The joke, in her mind, was that she's known me her whole life and has yet to see me achieve anything that could even creatively be described as "ultra clean."  That does not negate, however, the fact that I function best with surroundings that are orderly.

I spend a lot of time cleaning and get very little bang for my buck.  Because of my propensity to get distracted midway, it takes a long time and the threat that one cleaning day will bleed into the next is ever-present.  To be frank, I stink at this.  It's strangely liberating to write those words. Now whenever people just drop by, they will know in advance that they aren't going to find "hotel clean" when they step over our threshold.  I try to get there -- a lot -- I just fail most of the time.  Like right now, for example.  I stopped cleaning to write this post.

Minutes ago, as I was cleaning the house, I thought, "What if when I die, God yells at me?"  What if he says, "Christine, I gave you a gift and you squandered it by spending all your time dusting, cleaning toilets and swiffering?"  Then he might continue, saying,  "Meanwhile you denied someone whose true passion was cleanliness an opportunity to do what she does best.  How do you justify this?"  What will I say?

It is possible that one of my true gifts is rationalizing.  But what if??  Maybe I should consider getting a cleaning lady, just in case.  Covering all your bases, I think that's what the guys call it.

Monday, November 28, 2011


Naughty, Naughty Erik and Me!
I have three children and one of them even reads my blog, thank you very much Miss Kate. Her friend Naughty, Naughty Erik does too, so it was a pleasure to meet him during our last visit.  He's such a cutie but if you look closely, you can see a glint of fire in his eyes. Although he can be a man of mischief -- which we already know from my post aptly entitled "Naughty, Naughty Erik" --mostly he's just a nice guy. The world could use more of those.

Yes, it's true that I will drive (well, technically, ride) for over eight hours just to get a good meal at somebody else's house.  I will even stay with two other families in a one-bedroom apartment, as long as there's at least one grandbaby to play with. (Since at this writing I only have one, that will do for now.)

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite days; eating great food with people you love is right up there at the top of my list of happy things.

Two of my favorite guys
Kate had to work both the day before and the day after Thanksgiving this year so we decided she didn't have enough going on in her life and we'd let her host the holiday.  So we loaded up the car with card table and chairs, air mattresses, sheets, blankets, pillows, games, books, knitting, food, silverware, luggage and the food processor.  By the time we were finished we could have strapped a rocking chair on top and called ourselves the Clampetts we had crammed so much stuff in there. (Too bad I forgot the camera.)

The trip up was mercifully uneventful and it was weird not to be responsible for the cooking.  Weird, but I could get used to it!  Kate bought a fresh turkey, so the thawing business was no issue which simplified the process significantly. She also used her sister's crock pot to cook the green beans which was sheer genius. 

Everything was done at the same time and it was the first year in a decade that we didn't have to eat burned corn.  The food was delicious, the pies were phenomenal (thank you, Wendy!) and when it was over, I went for a walk.  When I got back, the dishes were done.  It was like an adult fairytale.  Not "adult" like porn, "adult" like a grown-up lady's fantasy.  Moms' ideas of happiness often center around having household help....if a man really wants to please a woman, he should try mopping the kitchen floor.  It would certainly work for me!
We played games and talked late into the night.  It was a pleasant, quiet day.  The next morning, it was back to normal and I had brought a spaghetti squash for lunch, knowing that Kate would be at work.  I'd zapped it in the microwave for about ten minutes but it still seemed a little hard, so I was adding a couple more minutes when my son-in-law said, "Won't it blow up in there?"  As I was answering him "no," the squash made a liar out of me by exploding in there.  The force of it caused the door to fly open and the entire inside was sticky with stringy goo hanging from everywhere. 

From this I surmised that the squash was cooked, so I put spaghetti sauce and cheese on what was left of it and served it with left-over green beans.  It wasn't an amazing meal like Thursday's, but every day isn't Thanksgiving either.

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Harvest

My Grandmother could grow anything.  Green thumb?  More like her whole hand was green!  She tended a massive garden, canned and froze their food from it and had exceptional luck with houseplants, too.  How it got there is lost to history, but one spring a banana tree appeared in her living room.  Gran was especially fond of that particular plant and it clearly returned the feeling because it grew so high that eventually the leaves touched the ceiling.  Even then it didn't stop.  Grandpa built a two-story greenhouse onto the front of their house, they moved the tree in there and it just kept on growing, growing and growing. 

I mention this for two reasons:  First, it's fun to remember things about my childhood and my grandparents.  Second, it proves that genetically, I should be endowed with at least a smidgen of gardening ability.  Should be. 

Friday evening Mary Ann brought down a handful of delicious cherry tomatoes and said, "It's the last of the harvest."  Last of the harvest?  You're kidding me, right?  My neighbor had a harvest! 

Last winter, I made Jerry rig me up grow lights because I was determined to grow everything from seed.  Much to my surprise, seeds actually germinated and I planted them in tiny pots and loved them, just like my Grandma used to do. 

After everything but the coleus died, I bought and planted fourteen tomato plants, four green peppers and so much basil that, by rights, I ought to be able to make pesto for our entire county about now.  I even brought three mint plants back from Ohio.  Mint, as you may know, is considered invasive and professional gardeners suggest that you plant it in a pot to contain it.  I did not do that because I was hoping it would spread across the hillside and I would have unlimited mint to cook with.  Well, one plant is still living - barely - and one cup of mint tea would decimate it.  I have never seen such tiny leaves on a grown-up mint plant before.

We do live in the woods and we do have the red clay soil that is so distinctive in the south.  To figure out the sunniest spots, I took golf balls and set them in the sun in the morning.  Every hour I looked out and if a golf ball was in the shade, I picked it up.  At the end of the day, there were only a few golf balls left, but I figured that these were the places with the sunniest places to plant.  That is how I chose our planting sites. 

To counteract the clay soil, when we planted (and by "we" I mean "Jerry") we added a mixture of topsoil, vermiculite and sphagnum moss.  We watered with miracle grow, too.  Throughout the brutal heat of summer, we watered faithfully.  We even hired a neighbor kid to water whenever we went out of town for the weekend.

And now it's fall, harvest time.  So far our loving efforts have yielded:  zero green peppers, one early tomato (from a blossom that was on the plant when we bought it) and  a week's worth of really good caprese salads, featuring tomatoes we bought and basil from our yard. 

Two of the basil plants actually grew!  Herb lore says that herbs prefer crummy soil so it's poetic that the ones that did well here were the ones I put in a container of potting soil.  The others look like dwarfs they are so small.  The bottom leaves have turned yellow and the top leaves are holey.

Things are looking up though.  About the time that it started to frost, one of the tomato plants decided to bear fruit, which I immediately picked.  We have nine small green tomatoes in our kitchen. 

So maybe our "harvest" this year will be in the form of fried green tomatoes.  If you want to be cruel, you could calculate the cost of the plants, the soil amendments, the teenager's watering fees, the time and the effort invested in that side-dish of (organic) fried green tomatoes.  You would tell me that next year I ought to save that money and buy the tomatoes at the farmer's market down the street.

I can't do that though. That Grandma gardening gene will tell me that next year will be different.  Or maybe it's not the gardening gene talking at all.  I inherited a pretty strong optimistic streak, too.


Monday, November 21, 2011

Things aren't always what they seem

I was vacuuming in our basement when out of the corner of my eye, I saw what appeared to be a four-inch-long string bean.  That seemed oddly out of place, especially since now there are but two people living in this house and one of them is me.  The other is Felix Unger, so there's no way that bean came from him.  I admit to being a mess-maker (I have to because it's obvious now that the children are grown and the place is still messy) but I generally do follow my own rule about dining at the table.  That is to say, I don't wander around the house eating off a dainty plate like I'm the only guest at a cocktail party.  Has this green bean been on the floor since the last neighborhood barbecue in early October?

Things aren't always what they seem.  As I bend down to pick it up I can see that it's not a green bean at all.   It's a slender leaf from an aloe plant which lives happily on a nearby window sill.  I'm still not sure how it got here, but it doesn't disturb me like the thought of a green bean on the floor.  My day has improved -  I'm not a bigger slob than I imagine myself to be and I am remembering another time I bent to pick up something that wasn't what I thought it was either. 

I was a wedding coordinator at the Romeo United Methodist Church in Michigan, a job that I relished - in part because it was tons of fun and I was good at it and in part because the church was a half a block away so I could walk there.  This historic church was not air conditioned and summers can be scorchers, even in Michigan.  To remedy this, I'd go over at night, open all the windows in the sanctuary and then return at dawn to close them again in an effort to keep the building as cool as possible.  It was never truly cool, but it also wasn't as hot as it might have been, at least that's what I told myself.

Now I'm not a morning person, but this was a small sacrifice and I was willing to make it.   Not having an attendant faint from the heat was the goal here, so I'd do my part by dragging myself out of bed, sleep-walking next door, closing the windows, returning home and crawling back into bed again.  The whole process was maybe 15 minutes from opening my eyes to closing them again.  It was a minor thing, no big deal.

This particular wedding was in August and in the middle of a brutal heat wave.  I opened all the windows that night, just like normal.  At the break of dawn I went over to close them. Since this was far from my first rodeo, I didn't even bother to turn the lights on.  The sanctuary was in semi-darkness but I was just closing the windows and I wanted to stay in that drowsy state so I could go back to sleep easily.  As I was turning to leave, I saw what appeared to be a black washcloth on the floor, directly in front of the altar.  I was thinking evil thoughts about who might have left it as I bent over to pick it up and realized that it wasn't a washcloth at all, but sleeping bat. 

Since removing rodents with wings wasn't in my job description, I called Reverend Gary and asked him to do it.  He said he would be over shortly and hung up.  He lived next door, so I expected him in a flash but when he didn't arrive quickly I sat down to wait.  I looked over and  saw a second bat snoozing in the pew beside me.  That creeped me out - and woke me up. 

Now fully awake, I assessed the situation and as I looked around the bat count grew.  Bats were lying on pews, on the carpet under pews, one was even on the organ bench. There were seven in all.  The heat must have driven them to search for somewhere cool and the sanctuary must have seemed like a refrigerator in comparison to the attic where they probably normally hung out.  

Time ticked by and still no Gary.  I toyed with the idea of turning on the lights, but discarded the notion because I felt sleeping bats would be easier to address than flying ones.  Finally I heard someone fumbling around in the dark downstairs and then coming slowly up the back staircase.  I knew it wasn't the minister (because he was used to coming up that way) but lots of other people had keys to the building.  Then one person I didn't expect -- my husband Jerry -- stepped into the room, carrying a pool skimmer.  He had been called for back-up but he is a man of action so he scooped up one bat at a time and took each and every one outside. 

Just as he was finishing up, in walks Gary - wearing long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, giant quilted kitchen mitts and, to top off his ensemble, he had on a pith helmet with netting over it.  Jerry and I both laughed out loud, which was the reaction he was going for.  Even though he'd given significant  thought to the question of what constituted proper bat-removal attire, I think he secretly was pleased that the bats, all seven of them, had already been removed by a man wearing nothing but pajama bottoms.  I know I sure was.

I've always wondered though, where do you get a netted pith helmet on such short notice?

Friday, November 18, 2011

That Awkward Stage

Whenever anyone says, "I'm having a bad hair day." I feel a twinge of envy - not because I wish to look worse than I do but because they are able to quantify their bad hair into days.  To say "I'm having a bad hair week ...or month ...or year" just doesn't sound as cute.  If I were honest, I'd have to say "I'm having a bad hair decade" which knocks me into the realm of the whiny now, doesn't it?  Whiny for sure but honest, too.

I first became aware of hair issues when I looked at my sixth-grade class picture.  Sixth grade is an awkward age anyway and this picture is painful to see.  My bangs sort of made this horrifying swoop across my forehead (and beyond) that caused me to want to swear off bangs forever.  (And the sparkly blue glasses?  Let's not go there either.)

I am blessed with thick, heavy hair.  The only time it looks good is on the day when I have it professionally cut.  When beauticians see me come through their door, they all either go on break or scurry to the back to try to look busy, hoping to avoid being the unlucky one to give me my haircut.  It is painfully obvious to them that this is going to be more than just a mere haircut - it's going to be a project.  It will take far too long for what they are going to be able to charge me.  (By simply glancing at me, they can see I'm the kind of patron who is carrying that $7.95 coupon wadded up in the pocket of my ratty blue jeans.) 

When I was a newlywed, my mother-in-law said, "I prefer your hair short, Chris." Because she was my mother-in-law, I ignored her and started growing my hair out.  It was the era of frazzled or stringy hair days.  Sometimes frazzled and stringy hair days.  Not my best look. 

Somewhere along the way to my 50s, I learned of Locks of Love, an organization that takes donated hair and makes wigs, primarily for children stricken with cancer or alopecia.  You grow your hair out to nine inches below the nape of your neck, put it in a pony tail, cut it off, put it in an envelope and mail it.  Simple.  Elegant.  Worthwhile.  I did that.  It felt really good, so I decided to start growing it again.  My hair grows really fast and it got to be mid-back length in only a couple of years. 

Around this time, our daughter Katie was a senior in high schol.  On her spring break all her friends went on exotic vacations and she was stuck at home, bored.  I have mentioned before in this blog that she has a Svengali-like effect on me and I am therefore powerless to exert my own will when under her spell (see the post entitled "I'm Being Dressed by Barbie" for further proof.)  When she suggested that she dye my hair red, I said, "Why not?"  Off to the drug store we went. 

There was an amazing array of products to choose from but our goal was specific.  We were not going for clown hair here, just something to add a little pizazz to my natural mouse brown.  We skipped burgundy and even auburn and settled "medium reddish brown." 

At home, we were giddy with excitement. Kate started working in the coloring foam when she realized that I had way too much hair or not enough dye, same diff.  She left me sitting there and went back to the store to get more.  Now I'm no Einstein but I do understand basic chemistry (not really) enough to know this was a recipe for disaster.  I ended up with circles of hair that didn't take the color and other parts that were super-saturated.  This was permanent hair coloring. What was I thinking? 

And so it was that I decided to cut my long hair again, only to find out that Locks of Love does not accept color-treated hair. I was disappointed but hair grows and in the blink of an eye it was shoulder length again but now there were strands of silver in it.  Locks of Love does not want gray hair, either.  Both colored and gray hair do not accept color the same as hair with natural coloring in it and, after all, they are making wigs for children.  I don't even want gray hair, why would they

This summer I was on my way to my class reunion and stopped in Cleveland to visit Kate, who took one look at me and dragged me off the the closest Cut and Curl.  She hovered over the stylist, telling her every hair to cut, how long to cut it and basically micromanaging the experience in every way she could.  They got to the front and I put my foot down.  "No bangs." I declared.  Katie thought I'd look good in bangs. "No."  I insisted.  She insisted.  I left with bangs.

Whenever I look in the mirror now, the awkward sixth-grade me peeks out through the wrinkles in the form of a weird swoop of bangs.  "I can kind of see what you mean." Katie admits.  The funny thing is, I don't mind it as much as I did the first time.  I think I've finally grown into being comfortable with who I am, no matter what I look like on the outside.  Considering that time is speeding by at an alarming rate, this is probably a very,very good thing.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Red Doors

In times of economic uncertainty, women's magazines change the flavor of their articles from "Designing your New Home" to "Fixing up Your Current Home."  It was one of these "Add Pizazz to your Place" type articles that Mary Ann was reading when she stumbled upon the idea to add punch to her house by painting her front door.  Paint the front door?  Hmmm.... How hard can that be?  So she went off to Home Depot, brought back paint chips and chose one.

When she had the paint mixed, the color was electric pink, not the raspberry she'd been expecting.  "Don't worry," said the paint clerk, "It will dry darker."  So she went home and painted three coats on her door.  Of course, it didn't dry darker and now she had a hot pink door.  Electric pink.  So pink that it almost vibrates.  "It's like a big kiss." said our friend Dee.  Yeah - a big kiss by a girl whose color-blind boyfriend chose her shade of lipstick! 

Mary Ann asked me my opinion and I said, "Yick."  She so totally agreed that she took her paint back to have the clerk darken it.  He cheerfully did so which, I might add, was a nice surprise -  and she came back home and painted two more coats of the new color.  She still thought it was too pinky so she went back again and the clerk mixed her a new, darker color - gratis.  I think he knew how horrible that first color truly was and didn't want his conscience to bother him.  Back at home, she painted two more coats of the third color, then just stopped.  The thrill of a new colored door was gone.

One of her closest friends popped over and said, "I'm going to be blunt with you, this door needs another coat of paint."  I guess when they took the VOCs out of paint, they took some of the effectiveness out of it too because after seven coats, you can still see the original door color.  Mary Ann says she's finished for now and maybe she'll just buy a new door all together.

Meanwhile, Jerry was looking for a small project and I said, "Has this door ever been painted?" and that's how we ended up at Home Depot buying paint for our front door.  I wanted a royal purple because I love that color and also because I thought it would look good with our beige siding.  Jerry, whose mother always had a fire-engine red front door, wanted cranberry.  I deferred to him because a rich, dark cranberry sounded mighty appealing too.  I went off to look at bushes while Jer had the paint mixed.

When he met up with me he said, "The paint color looked almost fuchsia, but the clerk said not to worry because it will dry darker."  He could feel my nervousness so he whipped out the paint chip and showed me where the guy had painted part of it to prove it was the same color.  It was.  I still was a little antsy -- because, as we all know by now, paint is not refundable.

Back at home, Jerry had already painted two coats on the door when I looked at it.  It seemed strangely familiar.  While he was putting on coat number three, I snuck up the hill with the paint can lid.  Yep.  We have painted our front door the exact same color as our next-door-neighbor's.  Our cranberry door is actually the same as Mary Ann's raspberry door.  It's a cheerful color though and, like Mary Ann, I'm so done with it.

Choosing a paint color from a chip the size of a postage stamp - or even of an index card for that matter - is a risky business and it is not an activity I would recommend for the faint of heart.  On the other hand, I heartily recommend choosing a community, like ours, where you can paint your door any color you want, even if that color's raspberry.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Jimmy Buffett and Me

Who doesn't like Jimmy Buffett?  His distinctive sound is happy and his lyrics are whimsical.  I've been a vegetarian for thirty-five years now and even I salivate when I listen to "Cheeseburger in Paradise."  Ya gotta love an artist who is able to make a song about a hamburger with a slice of cheese on it into a catchy tune.

Most of the time, I have an internal radio playing inside my head.  I don't know who makes the song selections, but generally I enjoy the playlist and when I wake up humming Jimmy Buffett, all's right with the world.  (The morning our dog died, I woke up hearing "Happy Trails to You" then got the phone call from the animal hospital.  Creepy, right?)

Yesterday I had a couple of guys about our son's age here putting down wood flooring, so I popped on "Songs you Know by Heart."  They turned up their noses and groaned.  Turns out that Jimmy Buffett is old people music.  Who'd a guessed?  They wanted to hear a band called Gogol Bordello. 

This group includes a violin and an accordion and Jimmy Buffett is old people music?  People stopped taking accordion lessons before I was in junior high.  (No offense Dianne.)  I had never heard of this band before -- now there's a shocker! -- but I discovered that the lead singer, Eugene Hütz, has a fun energy and I couldn't help humming along the third time I played "Start Wearing Purple."  Eugene wears colorful clothes and has decorated his guitar in collage, so he's got that going for him, too.  Plus I saw a video with Madonna singing "La Isla Bonita, Lela Pala Tute" which was a blend of her song and one of theirs, so clearly they have achieved commercial success and good for them on that one; it's a difficult business to break into.  Their sound is distinctive and brooding - gypsy music is how Wikipedia aptly describes it.

Gypsy music is fun for a change, but I still prefer island music.  Josh used to sing along with "Volcano" when he was a little guy and I guess our family all just grew up listening to it. 

Maybe it isn't really old people music at all -- maybe Jimmy just has strong regional appeal.  We live in the south now and people take sunny days for granted here.  Maybe southerners, not having lived in climates where snow shovels outnumber golf clubs, just can't get the appeal of mentally going somewhere where you don't have to dress in layers -- as Jimmy says, "I gotta go where it's WARM."

Or, it could just be old people music.  Jimmy would probably be okay with that.  Guess what?  There are more of US than there are of THEM.  And, now that the last kid has moved out, we are finally in charge of our own music selections.  

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Random thoughts

When I woke up this morning, my first thought was, "Rocky road ice cream sounds good."  Is it any wonder I have a weight problem?  Connect the dots here, Chris.  Connect the dots.

My next two thoughts were, "I could buy some unfinished bookshelves and paint them to match our room" followed closely by "When I go for my walk, I should collect some beautiful maple leaves, dip them in wax and make a stunning fall table arrangement out of them."

Who do I think I am, Martha Stewart?

I need to exercise a little tough love here, metaphorically slapping myself back onto the straight and narrow.  Scare myself silly, perhaps.  When I was shopping last Thursday, I picked up a bra that was a size 36H. That memory alone ought to be frightening enough to make me eat nothing but oatmeal and Melba toast for a season or two.

The highway of my life is littered with half-finished craft projects.  If I'd invested the money I've spent on those supplies, I could be wintering in Aruba.  I don't want to kick Creativity in the teeth, but I need to re-channel my urges from big, wild projects that have limited potential of success to activities with a higher likelihood of achieving full fruition. 

How about just eating an egg for breakfast then digging out my knitting needles and whipping up a quick dishcloth?  Maybe that would squelch these bizarre creative urges I'm feeling.  On second thought, an omelet sounds good - and a little hat with a huge pom pom on top would be easy enough. A fruit salad would be yummy, too - and I remember the cute pattern I ran across for  hand-knitted socks. Knocking out a couple pair of them would be satisfying.  Sliced avocados on the side and perhaps a cable knit sweater for Brody?

 Now I hear a little voice in my head saying, "Chris.  You are not Sigmund Freud.  What makes you think you are qualified to analyze your thoughts?  You are not a Victoria's Secret model-in-training either.  Eat the egg, then have the Rocky road ice cream and get on with your day!"

All parents know that scare tactics are ineffective and also that compromises can be so satisfying! What about painting unfinished bookshelves?  That thought must have migrated from Jerry's side of the bed to mine by accident because it belongs in his brain, not mine.  I've decided to skip the goofy leaf idea too.  Either creativity withers in the cold, hard light of day or dipping things in hot wax has disaster written all over it - you can ponder that one for yourself.

It's never wise for me to give too much weight to my random thoughts. By the way, does anybody know if you can eat ornamental kale?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Sixth Sense

That animals have a sixth sense is well documented.  Everybody has at least one friend whose pet pot-bellied pig has saved her life and the story of the dog that jumps between the family baby and the enormous rattlesnake is legendary.  This is why when I see something going on in the pet community, I take notice.

Since Halloween night, neighbors with indoor cats have been complaining that they are trying, and succeeding, to sneak outside.  Open the front door even a crack and the black cat will somehow jet between your legs and leap out into the great outdoors. Approach your house with armloads of groceries, you will enter while the cat simultaneously exits. You are packing up your family to go on vacation – and you plan to take the cat – when she jumps out of your arms and heads directly for the woods behind the house.  The scenarios are as varied as the animals themselves but they carry that common thread, feline freedom. 

What is behind these phenomena?  Clearly these kitties are sensing evil and trying to escape.  What are they attuned to that I’m missing?  Earthquakes?  Fires?  Floods?

Perhaps the answer is obvious.  Daylight savings time ends this weekend and here, on the edge of the Eastern Standard Zone, twilight already is occurring around 5:30. When we set our clocks back an hour, dark will speed at us like a freight train coming out of a tunnel.  Late afternoon will transition into early evening and then turn into night so fast that naptime will seamlessly blend into bedtime.  By 7:30 it will have been dark for so long that we will think it’s time for bed.  Nobody, not me, not a child, not even a cat likes to be tricked into going to bed early.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Candy, Dogs and Grandma

Usually I refuse to turn the heat on until November 1st, half as a matter of pride and half because I'm cheap and don't like to pay money to utilities.  This year though I broke down and cranked up the thermostat last night after we got in from passing out Halloween candies.

The number of little kids in costume was depressingly low and we had bought three bags of candy, two of chocolate candy bars and one of Nerds which all kids like but I don't.  The first bag of mini-Snickers didn't even make it to last weekend - willpower not being my strong suit.  The second and third bags, candy choices I would never pick for myself, made it into the pumpkin and up the hill.  The lack of munchkins created an excess of candy though so I ended up visiting my neighbors and trading my candy for good (chocolate) stuff, which I felt compelled to eat before Jerry found out.  He's the candy consumption police at our house.

After the end of official trick-or-treat, I pretty-well collapsed on my bed in a sugar coma.  When I woke up, I was chilly so I flipped on the heat.   One night more or less is no big deal, is it?  And I did turn the heat down to 60 this morning. 

I also don't normally wear my shoes inside but since the floor was still a little chilly, I slipped on my trusty crocs.  As I sat down to type this story, I smelled the telltale whiff of doggie dew.  Nice.  I've been walking all over the house in these things the entire morning.

Funny how the memory gets triggered -- as I sat thinking about what to do, I remembered my little dog Betsey which my parents got us when we were kids.  Truth be told, Mom didn't like animals all that much and to add to her joy, she starting sneezing about a second after the dog came into the house.  Betsey became an outdoor dog, which in our world meant she was chained to a doghouse in the back yard.  She grew to be somewhat snippy (who could blame her?) and ultimately bit a kid who was cutting through our yard on the way home from school so the parents shipped my dog off to my grandparents' farm.

This was okay by me because I spent a lot of my weekends at that farm.  My grands had a huge garden which contained unlimited strawberries, tomatoes and corn on the cob in season.  Good eating!  My grandma made not only world's best molasses cookies but also the best sugar cookies on earth, both without the benefit of recipes.  My grandpa hid pink candies in his night stand and every night before bed we'd both have a big bowl of vanilla ice cream with Vernor's ginger ale poured all over it.  Who wouldn't want to stay at a place like that?  Sugar heaven plus my own little dog! I'm there.

My grandpa was a true jack-of-all-trades and as well as being a carpenter and a farmer, kept a chicken coop.  My grandma made soft, soft pillows and mile-high feather mattresses that you'd sink into forever.  It was dreamy to sleep there!  (I didn't connect the dots with the Sunday fried chicken dinners until I was older.) I got to help collect the eggs too.  This sounds more fun than it was because sometimes you had to slide your hand under a very irate hen to steal her egg.  I understand the phrase "madder than a wet hen" from personal experience.

Grandma, too, had a rule about no shoes in the house which I generally observed.   This day though I went out by the chicken coop to play with the dog, rushed right inside, went upstairs and dived into the bed, coat, shoes and all.  I heaved a sigh of pure pleasure.  A few minutes later though my grandma was looming above me and to say she was unhappy was a dramatic understatement. 

Normally I could do no wrong in her eyes - which is a trait to be admired in a grandparent - but even she had her limits.  Tracking dog poop into her house, up the stairs and into her feather bed was too much for even her to bear.

She didn't even have to yell at me though because as soon as I saw her I burst into tears.  I'm sensitive like that.  Today, having just tracked poop through my own house, I am able to understand a bit better how my grandma must have felt that day so many years ago.

Crocs are washable though and my house has hardwood floors.  I think I got off easy.

Sorry Gran!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Jerry the Good Witch

We have a neighborhood Halloween party tonight and Jerry has selfishly declared that he is going to be Glinda the Good Witch yet again. 

This story starts the summer three years ago on a Saturday morning.  I love to go saling (yard saling) and that is where I found THE DRESS.  I stumbled across this fabulous costume at a school fundraising sale and it was priced to sell, too.  I was sooooo excited!  All little girls dream of being beautiful princesses, don't they?  I certainly did and still do, so a pink dress made of thousands of yards of tulle with silver sparkles and puffy sleeves really spoke to me.  The tag inside said "one size fits all" and that clinched it for me.  I bought my prize and brought it home.

The thrill was short-lived because when I tried on Glinda's gown, I couldn't zip it all the way.  Now this brought up a disturbing question.  If "one size" truly "fits all" then where does that leave me?  I will be the first to admit that I could use to lose a few pounds, but I've never shopped at the big girls' shops, either.  Truth is, I consider myself mildly overweight, not morbidly obese.  Clearly the Chinese factory worker didn't agree - and compared to her I probably am pretty danged big - but this outfit had English writing on the tag, so obviously it was meant for an American audience.  The dress was about a foot too long for me so I know it wasn't made for a child either.

Halloween rolled around.  Our daughter Jessica and her new husband Brent came to help pass out candy.  I dressed Brent up as a flashy pimp.  He wore a bright red vest with sequins and a huge blue hat with an ostrich feather.  He wasn't too enthused about getting dressed up but after he saw how cool he looked, he kind of got into it.  I made Jessica "his girl" with a mink stole and a long sexy gown.  Since I couldn't wear my outfit because it wouldn't zip, I wore my default costume, Little Red Riding Hood holding the basket full of candy.  It's cute but been there, done that. We were scrounging around for something for Jerry to wear when I had one of those light bulb moments.  He could put on Glinda's outfit and I'd sew the back shut for him.  That is exactly what I did, so I only have myself to blame.

It was about then that the fun started.  When he got outside, our neighbor saw him and brought over a blond wig and a sash like Miss America wears.  His costume was the hit of the evening.  Everyone commented on it, several moms got their picture taken with him and he was having a blast getting all the attention.  Red riding hood, the pimp and his girl could have been invisible for all that anybody noticed us. 

Some of the littlest kids wouldn't even come up our sidewalk to get candy because the sight of Glinda/Jerry so disturbed them. One little girl said, "Mommy, why is that man dressed like a lady?"  She replied, "It's Halloween, honey.  You can be whoever you want to be on Halloween!" 

I'm all for moments in the sun and we certainly got our money's worth out of that outfit, wringing out every ounce of fun we could.  Everyone enjoyed that Halloween and the pictures I took of Jerry as Glinda have surfaced all over facebook and even popped up as part of a presentation his boss did at work. When people see them, they laugh.

The problem is this:  I have lost ten pounds this year and now I can actually wear THE DRESS myself and zip it up.  This is a big deal for me so I feel I should get to be Glinda.  Jerry claims squatter's rights though and his trump card is that nobody in our new town has seen him in this costume yet.

One of us has to be the big man here and, in all honesty, he does look charming dressed in pink tulle.  Who could resist him?  He can wear the outfit one more time and I'll try not to begrudge him his fun.  He doesn't know it yet but I have even borrowed a wig, found a pink tiara (with marabou) and gotten a glittery silver wand for him to carry.  He will be the hit of the party, that's a given.

 As for me, I toyed with going as a munchkin - I've got that shortness thing going for me - but then I found myself the coolest witches' hat ever, made with velvet and feathers so I'm going as Elphaba (better known as the Wicked Witch of the West.)  As an added bonus, I have a wand that shoots blue lasers around the room so I will be able to cast real spells. As a final plus, everyone knows that dressing totally in black is slimming.

Happy Halloween.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Brody is ONE!!

Time does fly and our beautiful grandson Brody celebrated his first birthday last week.  I have been lucky to spend so much time with him during this year and two weeks ago he came to visit, bringing his mom and lots of baby paraphernalia with him.   What a joy to have him here!  We're all crazy in love with him.

He's got three little teeth now, pulls up on things, stands alone briefly, is clearly thinking about stepping out on his own but for now seems content to crawl like he's in the Army - rapidly and with purpose.  He also has a great personality, smiles a lot and laughs with abandon when he finds something funny which is often. 

His Grampy taught him to crawl up the stairs and as soon as he learned this trick he spent a lot of time going up and being carried down.  They both genuinely seemed to enjoy this activity and neither his mom nor I objected because it kept them busy for rather large chunks of time. 

The next day Grampy had to go to work and Brody started to crawl toward the staircase, stopped and looked to be sure that I was following him then went up one stair to the landing, turned and looked at me again and waited.  I had not started up behind him yet so he was sitting level to my face.  Just for a second, the most impish, mischievous expression crossed his face then he smiled his angelic smile and leaned over to me.

I swear in that moment while waiting for a kiss from my first grandchild, I thought he was absolutely perfect in every way.  Then, he leaned in further and.....

.....bit my cheek. 

That cheek chomping hurt but I couldn't stop myself from laughing even though my daughter scolded me that it was an inappropriate response.  Men!  You can never truly know what they are thinking and that goes for cute little one-year-old men-in-training, too.

Happy Birthday, Brody!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Lists

Jerry was telling our friend Mary Ann about how strict his mom was when he was little.  I'd heard this all before - how he got up every single Saturday and helped clean the entire house, not just pick up clutter but do real cleaning like dusting,  vacuuming and stuff involving soapy water.  He used to squirm into his bed dressed in his next-day's school clothes and try not to roll over in the night so his clothes would stay unwrinkled and his bed would always stay made.  This got me to thinking.....hmmm.....maybe I could use some of this early childhood training to my advantage.

We've been married thirty-some years and Jer's been darned good carrying his load (and then some) around the house.  He can fix anything, cheerfully does, can cook, do laundry, vacuum and loves to play with kids, too. We never established a regimented ritual like his mother had during his youth though.  My bad. 

Last Wednesday I remedied this oversight by make lists.  I made myself one and anything that I didn't want to do I put on a list for him.  I will admit I was kind of goofing around; I never intended to do anything with these lists. They were still fun to write though.

My list: pay bills, do laundry, bring down winter clothes from storage, straighten bookshelves, put away left-over junk from our move, hem two pair of pants, alter another two, clean out fridge, clean upstairs. 

His list:  seal the wardrobe in the laundry room, install a threshold in the basement closet, wash the windows, repair the tub, clean out the garage, hang a picture.

These lists were in no way equitable.  Mine was a powder puff, Barbie list and his was a macho, Stretch Armstrong one.  One was everyday ordinary and one was unusual over the top - requiring skill, specialized knowledge and stamina. Writing them really was just entertainment for me, a way to avoid paying bills for a little while.  (Bill paying was supposed to get easier with the advent of computers and online banking but now it takes me way longer than writing out the checks and mailing them used to.  Convenience?  I think not.) 

Jerry got up Saturday morning way before I did (I'm not going to rehash that stupid early bird vs. night owl thing again), found the lists and started working on his.  By the time I was alert and aware, he'd already removed everything from the wardrobe and had tackled sealing it inside and out.  He was busy trying to fix the closet floor.  Hey, I'm not dumb...I left him to his own devices, rationalizing that it probably felt comforting to him to be productive.  I went on my merry way, squandering more time goofing around online paying bills (or looking at emails and facebook, to be brutally honest.)  Of course I got distracted, well duh, so when lunch time arrived, I realized that Jerry was just finishing up washing the exterior windows.  I stopped what I was doing, went around inside and removed all the screens. 

While I made him caprese salad, he washed all the interior windows.  Let me repeat that for emphasis.  While I was making him a salad, he washed all the interior windows.  All.  How could it take me longer to make a salad which contains only four ingredients than it takes to wash an entire house full of windows?

There is only one explanation.  My mortal husband had somehow morphed into a combination of Wonder Woman, Batman and every other super hero you can name.  Seriously, how can anyone clean that many windows so fast?  We had purchased a soaper dealie and a squeegee on the end of a long pole a couple of weeks ago which might have seemed like a new toy to a bored guy, but still.  He washed seventeen windows inside and out in under an hour.  Like he said, they weren't perfect but they were so much improved that I didn't want to put the screens back on.  It would have lifted my spirits had it not been for the crushing guilt of watching him work like a maniac while knowing I had not crossed one thing off my list yet. Now all the junk from the wardrobe was on the family room floor and all the screens needed to go back in.  They were going to take precedence over my list items and, btw, the bills weren't finished yet.

The rest of Saturday followed suit.  Jerry: work, work, work.  Chris: starting to pay bills, getting distracted.  Sunday came.  In the  early afternoon we went for a lovely kayak ride followed by a relaxing walk.  When we got home, I started to clean the laundry room (not on my list) and Jerry piddled with something in the garage.  Around three o'clock he announced, "I'm finished with my list.  Come see the garage." 

The garage had been totally transformed!  You could actually walk on both sides of the car and he'd installed a little ball on a rope so I could pull in and park perfectly every time without getting out to check to see if the rear of the car was actually inside then pulling up until I hit the wall, which was my habit.  It was a Better Homes and Gardens garage.  Jerry went off to do what people do when they have leisure time and I went back to the bills. 

At 12:15 a.m., I called it a night.  Half my list was crossed off.   The house was (mostly) clean and the laundry room looked terrific.  We got a lot of small projects accomplished too - and the bills are paid.  It was a win for the team.  The idea worked so well (for half of us) that I think we'll do it again.  Next time he can write the lists.

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Perfect Summer Afternoon

Yesterday was a perfect August afternoon, sunny, mid-seventies.  The humidity had dropped slightly and I could finally wear my blue jeans with a light weight tee shirt and feel almost comfortable again. 

We decided to go kayaking to enjoy the wonderful weather.  A slight breeze was blowing, making the waves a little choppy which translates into more kayaking fun.  Lots of speedboats were out and when their wake rolled by, we felt just like we were on the ocean riding on boogie boards.  Life doesn't get better than this!  It seemed odd that not a single person was tubing though - our guess is they think the water is too cold.  Obviously, they never did a "polar bear" swim in any of the Great Lakes.  Your lips wouldn't even turn purple in this water. 

After boating, we went for a walk around the neighborhood.  That's when I noticed all my southern friends were wearing their sweatshirts.  In my mind, it was a perfect August afternoon.  In theirs, it was a chilly October day.  I guess I still have a little more acclimating to do.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Trip to the Ice Cream Parlor

Ice cream season is winding to a close, even here in South Carolina and finally last week I got my husband to take me to "The Village" so I could try the amaretto cherry at their ice cream parlor.  It had chunks of chocolate in it and I anticipated it satisfying me on many levels.

I stepped up to the counter and ordered a scoop of my  new flavor of choice.  I had eaten lunch at this shop earlier in the summer, tried a sample of the amaretto and fantasized about having a serving of it ever since.  (My mom used to say that when you're young, you talk about guys; when you're middle-aged, you talk about food; and when you're elderly, you talk about aches and pains.  It's clear what category I fit into these days!) 

Tonight was my night. Immediately I was handed a generous scoop of pink sweet stuff and I took a teeny tiny white sample spoon to eat it with so I could savor the experience longer.

Meanwhile, Jerry ordered a hot fudge sundae.  The clerk was youngish - maybe in high school, maybe in her early 20s, it's so hard for me to tell these days -but suffice it to say that she was definitely in the "talking about guys" stage of her life.  Still, one would think that she would know what a hot fudge sundae is, especially considering that she works in an ice cream parlor.  An odd look crossed her face though and she sort of fumbled around behind the counter for a couple of minutes.  Then she vanished into the back room and came back holding - and I am not kidding - a recipe card.

A little more uncomfortable silence elapsed while she stared at the card and then she left to go back into the kitchen again.  This time a lady came out and said, "We have a designer menu of sundaes.  Would you like to look at it?  What  options would you like?"  Jerry replied, "Ice cream, hot fudge, whipped cream."  She said, "No nuts?" he shook his head and that was that. 

The girl came back.  She danced nervously behind the counter a little more and then came out from behind it, looked squarely at Jerry and said, "What kind of ice cream do you want?"  Jerry replied, "Vanilla. Vanilla ice cream, hot fudge, whipped cream."  My husband is not known for his patience but sounded  pleasant and calm when he responded to her. For that, I was grateful. 

So I'm standing in front of the counter, taking itsy bitsy bites of my delicious ice cream while we are waiting and waiting and waiting.  We are the only customers in the shop so it would seem like making a simple sundae wouldn't be this time consuming, but it was.  The lady came out from the kitchen again and said, "Y'all take a seat and we'll bring the sundae out to you."

We went outside on their patio and I was eating away while Jerry watched.  Normally I would wait for him to be served too, but it was a warm night and ice cream melts.  A couple more minutes and his sundae arrived.  The whipped cream on it looked delicious and Jerry put a giant spoonful on top of my diminishing cup of ice cream.  He then swirled his whipped cream right into his sundae, mixing everything up making a smooth sweet chocolate dessert of soft serve consistency. 

I put the huge spoonful of the whipped cream in my mouth all at once and instantly regretted it.  This was horrible!  I could feel the globs of fat on the roof of my mouth. Yuck. Thank God there was only one spoonful.  I wasted several bites of my precious ice cream washing that feeling out of my mouth.

I told Jerry that the whipped cream was disgusting, but he'd already stirred it into his sundae so it was a moot point.  "It's fine," he said.  As we sat enjoying our evening, the lady from the kitchen appeared yet again. "How is your sundae?" she asked.  (At first, I thought it was a little odd she singled out his sundae and didn't mention my ice cream but on second thought realized it was obvious to her how my ice cream was, because it was gone.)  "Okay," replied Jerry.

The lady continued, "We make our own whipped cream here and we ran out earlier.  When you ordered your sundae, the cook made more but he forgot to add the sugar.  He's back there making more right now and we'll bring it out for you when it's done."  "Nah," said Jerry, never one to make waves.  "I'm almost done anyway.  This is fine."  "Are you sure?"  "Yeah."

My amaretto cherry ice cream with large chunks of chocolate surpassed my expectations and achieved number one status on my list of favorite flavors.  Jerry's sundae was, to be quite frank, not so stellar.  It cost roughly three times what my single scoop sold for, disproving once and for all that old adage, "You get what you pay for." 

We went back for ice cream again last night.  I got another cup of amaretto cherry but Jerry chose to go a totally different route, this time making himself a little sundae at the yogurt bar.  So, in fact, "you can teach an old dog new tricks."  He skipped the whipped cream too, which confirms it.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Sweet, Sweet Cereal

Brody (the most perfect grandson in the world) is visiting us and is a most mellow, gentle little man.  In addition to being "Mister Congeniality," he must be having a growth spurt because he has been a little Cheerios pig the past couple of days.  He has developed a cute two-fisted eating style and has ploughed through almost the entire box of cereal and not the snack-pack size, either.

The word "snack-pack" sucks me back through time and deposits me smack in the middle of a tour of Kellogg's of Battle Creek.  In my youth our family lived about a half an hour away, so I toured that plant plenty - from annual spring field trips to family vacations, with tours thrown in whenever we had out-of-town guests as well.  Yep I - and most kids who lived in the area - became well-versed in the fast and furious world of funnels filling endless boxes with sugary goodness.

What I remember vividly about the event was that there was a yellow stripe painted on the cement floor with signs everywhere saying, "For your protection, stay to the right of the stripe" which you can bet your Apple Jacks I did and did obsessively too.  Never did one saddle-shoed toe even graze that yellow danger zone, no sirree Bob.  I prided myself on being a model student and model students did what they were told, end of story. The plant was loud and scary and I did my level best to focus all my attention on getting out of there alive - which I clearly succeeded at, I might add.

It did not escape my attention though that the man who was leading the tour was wearing a hardhat but I was not, which seemed like a kind of shabby way to treat a guest in my elementary-school-sized mind.  It was noisy in there, hot and icky but there was an up side to it too which made all the drama worthwhile.  At the end of each and every tour we were ushered to a cafeteria where we received not only a snack pack containing two of my favorite cereals of all time - Sugar Smacks and Sugar Pops - but a scoop of vanilla ice cream with Froot Loops sprinkled all over the top.  Whoever thought of that glorious finishing touch was a genius and it was the highlight of my personal tour every single time I took it, including the last time when I was an adult and took my own son to see cereal being made. 

My daughters never experienced the pleasure of the tour though because somewhere along the way Kellogg's stopped giving it, citing "industrial espionage" as the reason.  Really?  I can understand why  spies wouldn't stoop to asking random kids in the area their nefarious cereal questions because most adults (even spies) aren't that comfortable conversing with children.  In truth, they probably didn't even think of it.  But why the spies didn't take all the pictures they needed in the decades that we all were encouraged to visit, I can't say.  Maybe they were just too busy munching Sugar Pops from their free snack packs to bother.